Muggers (1999)

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Released 20-Aug-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Dean Murphy (Director) & Roger Lanser (DoP)
Featurette-B-Roll
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Making Of Visual Effects
Outtakes
Production Notes
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 92:51 (Case: 97)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Dean Murphy
Studio
Distributor

Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Jason Barry
Matt Day
Petra Yared
Nicola Charles
Case Click
RPI $29.95 Music Frank Strangio


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, and by none other than doctors!
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, a few scenes run after the start of the credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "You heard the story, right? You know, that friend of a friend who went on a business trip, only to wake up one morning in a bathtub full of ice, missing a kidney." This somewhat disturbing "urban myth" surrounding the underground trade in human organs is the basis for the Australian black comedy Muggers. When I say black, I really do mean black, as Muggers thankfully keeps from trying to "redeem" the organ-stealing anti-heroes Brad (Matt Day) and Gregor (Jason Barry). Instead Muggers turns them into legitimate under-dogs trying to make their way in the world.

    The plot revolves around two struggling medical students, Brad Forrest and Gregor O'Leary. Brad has the potential to be one of the finest surgeons ever produced, and Gregor holds dreams of having a practice of his own, a Volvo and "rumpy-pumpy with the busty receptionist." Unfortunately, the two are one more fail from being kicked out of medical school, owe money to a loan shark, and have to deal with a hostile landlord for their hovel of a flat. They need money, and they need good grades, and they need them both fast. What is the fastest way to better grades? Steal the exam paper of course. While in the office of Professor Lawrence (Marshall Napier), they overhear a conversation between Professor Lawrence and Doctor Marcus Browning (Rod Mullinar) that may just be the solution to their monetary problems. It seems that Dr Browning is in need of organs - livers and kidneys to be precise. The remainder of the story is fairly obvious, from the point where the first willing donor falls, quite literally, out of the sky to the finale, Muggers maintains a sharp comic edge. Along the way, the boys get to take on the haughty Nigel Stamford-Street (Simon Bossel), and find their true loves in Sophie (Petra Yared) and Belinda (Nicola Charles) - including two rather interestingly juxtaposed sex scenes.

    While certainly not a movie with a large amount of social commentary, Muggers is one of the best examples of black comedy available. Not only are the thoroughly dastardly lead characters extremely charismatic, but every character in the movie has some level of corruption, and there are no real attempts to justify any of this. While that may seem like a light-weight attitude to approach a story with, for a black comedy it is extremely effective, as the effect of the flaws in the characters are not diluted with any reasoning - they must simply be accepted as flawed. This allows their actions to be carried out in a surreal world that is almost real, but at the same time is most definitely a fantasy land. Often in movies of this nature, a crucial flaw is that the lead characters are not likeable enough, while relying on the audience to really want the heroes to succeed.

    If you are a fan of black comedy, then Muggers contains just the right blend of nefarious action and likeable characters to create a really enjoyable movie. I must issue a warning however, as Muggers is not for those who squirm through the average episode of Good Medicine - there are a fair number of organ removal procedures and sound effects that can be just a little disconcerting for the squeamish.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer presented for Muggers is superb, with only one problem. Aliasing.

    Muggers is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. The lack of enhancement is really a shame, as it would most likely have reduced the aliasing problem, and drawn the video quality to near reference level.

    Magna Pacific have presented us with a very sharp transfer that displays considerable amounts of detail, even despite the significant loss of resolution due to the lack of 16x9 enhancement. Shadow detail is decent throughout, although not spectacular, as deep blacks tend to swallow the majority of detail within them. Where there is a small amount of light however, the transfer is nicely detailed. This is certainly a good thing, as many of the shots rely on a good contrast between light and dark, with most of the action taking place in the light.

    Colours are nicely rendered, with no instances of bleed. Highlights are somewhat muted, giving the transfer somewhat less "range" in terms of colour, but this is not an overly large problem, and frankly, I would rather not look at hot pink in all its glory.

    There is very little in the way of compression artefacting present in this transfer, mainly being confined to some light pixelization of sky during outdoor scenes (and that likely caused by the presence of film grain). Film to video artefacts are where this transfer really falls down, with aliasing appearing considerably more frequently than would be desirable. For the most part, these artefacts are confined to small areas of the screen, but there is one occasion, at 3:35 where it breaks out wholesale across the entire screen. The sources of the aliasing are somewhat interesting, as there are all the usual culprits as well as some not so usual. The aforementioned problem at 3:35 is one of the usuals, being the window slats and grates on the front of a building. More unusual is the aliasing on a hat brim (2:30), on the frown lines on Marshal Napier's forehead (7:52) and on the golf pants worn by Jason Barry. I noticed no film artefacts in the transfer at all.

    There are no subtitles present on this disc.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, but I was unable to locate the layer change despite repeated viewings. I assume this means that the change is very well placed indeed (or the entire feature is placed on a single layer).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This is a brilliant audio transfer, especially considering Muggers is a comedy, and a small Australian comedy at that. The audio transfer only misses reference quality by the margin of a few out-of-sync sequences.

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc, being English movie soundtracks in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 English commentary track.

    Dialogue was clear and understandable at all times during the movie, even during a sequence involving a loud party. There was never a need to go back to work out what had been said. Outdoor scenes, and scenes in large lecture halls were equally impressive in terms of dialogue as those in smaller interiors.

    For the most part, audio sync was perfect, but there were a few scenes where it would slip ever-so-subtly out. Strangely, these seemed to be limited to indoor environments.

    The music for Muggers was composed by Frank Strangio, and is not a typical movie score. It is has a slight jazz feel, being mostly up-tempo material used during scene changes. Little music is used during dialogue sequence, and as such, it provides an interesting viewing experience. The choice is actually quite effective, and works well to focus attention on the dialogue, which is the place where a comedy such as this gains most of its momentum.

    The surround channels are aggressively used for ambience, really serving to immerse the viewer into the action. The few sequences where directional sounds are appropriate display good use of discrete placement across the front and rear soundstages. It is a pity that surround mixes of this quality are not present on many films that would benefit more from it than a comedy.

    Being primarily a dialogue-driven comedy, the subwoofer has little to do for the most part, but when called upon, impacts admirably, adding very aggressive bass to sequences where appropriate.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are a large number of extras presented here. Unfortunately it is almost a case of quantity over quality.

Menu

    The menu is themed around the movie, featuring a cast photo and looping audio of the theme song. The quality of the photographs interspersed throughout the menus is very poor, although this could be a deliberate choice given the consistency of the problem. The menus themselves are easy to navigate, using a highlighted letter in the selected word as the indicator. The only difficulty is that the audio setup is located under the special features section.

B-Roll (4:27)

    This is literally a "behind the scenes" video, featuring short clips from video shot on set without narration. While it is nice to see these included, it would have been nicer had we received a look at some more interesting moments.

Making of Visual Effects (4:27)

    This is a moderately interesting look at how the three principal visual effects sequences in the film were put together. The dialogue quality in this feature is very bad, being extremely distorted, and a strain to listen to.

Outtakes (6:05)

    This is a collection of actor mistakes, deleted scenes and extended scenes. These are all run back to back, and are very heavily compressed.

Production Notes (19 pages)

    These are a mildly interesting read about the process of film making.

Cast & Crew

    This consists of the following notes and interviews:     The notes are not particularly interesting and the video interviews (accessible from the notes pages) show various cast and crew being mostly unenthusiastic about the movie. The only interesting point is the bizarre smile that Petra Yared wears for almost the entire length of her interview, as it is somewhat worrying.

Audio Commentary - Dean Murphy (Director), Roger Lanser (Director of Photography)

    This is a fairly interesting commentary track as Dean Murphy obviously had a strong view of what he wanted the movie to look like. The two play off each other nicely, although they do tend to get stuck on details of setting up a particular shot, and will wax lyrical about said shot for some time. They do, however, also point out some interesting occurrences, such as the presence of unwanted crew in the frame.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Muggers is not available in R1, and being a little-known Australian movie, it most likely will never reach R1 release.

Summary

    Muggers is a top-notch black comedy presented on a fine DVD from Magna Pacific. Pity about the aliasing though.

    The video quality is very good, but is let down by the frequent and noticeable aliasing.

    The audio quality is extremely good.

    The extras are numerous, but most are short or uninteresting. There are enough extras here, however, to act as a bonus for anyone who does pick the movie up.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Saturday, September 08, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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