Kiss of Death (1995)

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Released 3-Oct-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 96:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (62:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Barbet Schroeder
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring David Caruso
Nicolas Cage
Samuel L. Jackson
Helen Hunt
Michael Rapaport
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Trevor Jones


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Czech
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Hebrew
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Kiss of Death is one of those movies that has promise but fails to deliver for the most part. With a cast including David Caruso as Jimmy Kilmartin, Nicholas Cage as Little Junior Brown, and Samuel L. Jackson as Calvin this should have been a memorable movie. Unfortunately, along with a real problem with the video transfer, this isn't the case and the whole thing falls a little flat. The movie does have some good points, it's just that as an action movie it becomes bogged down in trivia and as a dramatic piece it lacks any real punch.

    The major problem for me was the characters. The actors are all very competent but their characters have far too many flaws and it shows in that you never achieve a level of sympathy with any of them, something you need for a good movie. French-born director, Barbet Schroeder places great emphasis on location shooting, which by the way looks excellent, but there are just too many plot holes and unconvincing performances from the cast to call this any more than an adequate movie.

    Jimmy Kilmartin (Caruso) is slowly putting his life back together after spending time in jail. His wife (Helen Hunt in an unfortunately too short role) has been left to tend to their daughter and is slowly getting herself back on track after battling her own personal demon, the booze, when things go awry once again. Jimmy's cousin Ronnie (Michael Rapaport) is in trouble and needs a driver to help deliver a truck full of stolen cars. The driver he'd hired is unconscious, drunk, and Ronnie has to deliver the cars within two hours or he's dead meat. Against his better nature, Jimmy agrees to help and gets roped into committing a crime he desperately wants to avoid.

    During the delivery, the whole convoy is intercepted by the police who were waiting for them at the docks, but the original driver, awakening from a drunken stupor, draws a gun and fires indiscriminately, shooting Jimmy through the hand as he attempts to stop him. In the melee, Calvin (Jackson), a local police office is left clutching the side of his head from the shot, the drunk driver is shot by the police, and everyone, except Jimmy, escapes custody in the ensuing furore. From here on in things begin to go horribly wrong for Jimmy. He receives a 3 year sentence for Grand Theft Auto, his wife slides back onto the booze and Ronnie takes advantage of her. After waking up and realising what she's done, she is killed in a car accident leaving Ronnie's house.

    Correctly assuming Ronnie is responsible, Jimmy takes his revenge by ratting out to the police about a couple of old crimes he committed, leaving Ronnie's name out and casting suspicion on him. Naturally this gets back to Little Junior (Cage) who takes his own retribution. Unfortunately for Jimmy, his snitching brings him to the attention of the local State Prosecutor who wants Little Junior and is willing to do anything to get him, even offering Jimmy parole for his assistance. The problem is that everyone is out for themselves and nobody is playing by the rules..

    Again, a movie that has a good premise, but nothing really comes of it. There is enough in the movie to keep you entertained but also some stuff that had me scratching my head (Cage's Little Junior as an asthmatic bodybuilder? Go figure). I think, to be honest, David Caruso must have regretted leaving NYPD Blue, because he never really seemed to make it in the mainstream movie roles, and you might understand why after seeing this.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    From the very outset this transfer has a major problem. Light, vertical scratches on the print are visible in almost every scene. At first glance it looked like grain, but upon closer inspection it isn't. Either this has occurred during the transfer or, as I believe, it was present on the print prior to transfer and has been exaggerated. It is possible that the interpositive was made on defective stock or has suffered from deterioration due to age. I've seen this effect on old movies from the State Film Library and occasionally on VHS tapes. For the most part they had similar, dark lines that were present throughout each frame. Whatever the cause, I couldn't in all fairness give this transfer a rating of more than a 2 and a half stars in all categories because of this effect. You can form your own opinion on this one, but for me it seriously undermined any quality the movie had to offer.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced, which appears to be in the same ratio as the original theatrical release.

    Ignoring the problem with the scratches, it would be fair to say that the sharpness on offer here is pretty good. There is only a little edge enhancement visible in the transfer, which was helpful. A typical example at 85:21 shows the faint outline of edge enhancement - visible but very lightly applied. The picture looked clean of the normal grit and dirt, and where you could get a clear shot, the shadow and fine detail looked excellent. Sometimes the background got lost in the mire which was unfortunate. Grain was pretty persistent underneath it all and would have been considered a major annoyance except it was totally overshadowed. Still, it wasn't pretty when combining the two in several scenes. Noise didn't appear to be an issue for the most part, with some separation of blacks in evidence from time to time.

    The colour on this disc gives the distinct impression of being washed out. Although utilising a broad palette, there is little vibrancy in the colours on offer apart from the reds, which are over-saturated and there is some colour bleed in evidence (1:48, side of auto shed and the signage). Skin tones are also affected with slight cases of sunburn being the norm for many of the actors.

    No MPEG artefacts were visible, but may have been disguised. I'll give the transfer the benefit of the doubt on this one. There were plenty of moiré effects littered around the film, with some of them visible for periods of several seconds. 29:31 (Venetian blind) and 78:13 (Venetians in judges chamber) were the most obvious. There was also the odd incidence of aliasing, mostly minor eg: 21:02 on step, 35:24 on bumper bar, 39:23 on a fence line and generally the picture stayed together nicely. There was the odd, occasional blemish or fleck, but only the white ones were distinguishable under the scratches and they were few and far between thankfully.

    The subtitles are fairly accurate to what is being said on-screen. There is a nice selection if you are interested and they are placed about the same as usual, near the bottom of the screen. White with a black border, they are easy to read and surprisingly don't interfere with the action on-screen even though they are fairly obvious.

    The layer change occurs at 62:27 during Chapter 10. It's in a decent location when the screen is blanking but it's very noticeable because of a prolonged pause.

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

Audio

    There is only one soundtrack available on this disc; English Dolby Digital 5.1 at the reasonable bitrate of 384 kilobits per second. The sound, for the most part is pretty much centred across the front speakers, as you'd expect, but there was some surround work to add body to the overall feel of the audio.

    Audio sync and dialogue aren't an issue with this transfer.

    The music is credited to Trevor Jones who also composed the music to one of my favourite movies, Dark City. This is another competent job using a lot of earthy sounds and creating a solid undertone. It is dramatic when it needs to be, adding tension, but there are large sections of silence with only the sounds of industry or the noises from the street to complement the action. A good effort overall.

    There's not a whole lot for the surrounds to do in this movie except support the music. There is the odd, occasional sound effect that filters through, but for the most part they are solidly ensconced in support of the soundtrack. Surprisingly enough they do quite a reasonable job, although for the most part you won't be turning sideways to see where the bullet went, but they do add a fullness to the sound and complement nicely the solid sound from the front soundstage.

    Again, as with the surrounds there isn't a whole lot for the subwoofer to do and consequently you won't notice a lot of activity coming from the .1 channel for the most part. What it does do is add an undercurrent when needed. Not the best use I've heard, but given the dialogue-driven plot, it does its job adequately if unspectacularly.

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

Extras

Featurette

    Has a running time of 4:39 with interviews of the director Barbet Schroeder, David Caruso, Samuel L. Jackson, Helen Hunt and Michael Rapaport. Excerpts from the movie are displayed in letterbox format in black and white. The whole thing is like an extended trailer in effect with copious edge enhancement on offer. It is presented in 1.33:1/Full Frame format.

Cast & Crew Interviews

    Soundbites: Various members of the cast and crew offer their opinions on their roles they play, their motivations, and setting up for the character. There is heavy edge enhancement used in these clips and they are all edited from longer versions and have various running times. Again a 1.33:1/Full Frame effort.

Theatrical Trailer

    A running time of 2:45 in 1.33:1 Full Frame. It is blurry but has good colour. There are plenty of minor artefacts on offer.

R4 vs R1

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

    There doesn't appear to be a Region 1 release of this disc at this time, but there are various reviews in Region 2. The biggest problem with these reviews is they are mostly devoid of detail except in the most minimalist form. Unfortunately I cannot tell, therefore, if these also suffer from the same video problem but they do seem to have most of the same extras. Given this lack of information, Caveat Emptor.

Summary

    A decent enough movie but not one you'd put in your top ten. Nothing can make up for a thoroughly miserable video transfer, marred by an ugly effect that severely diminishes the quality of the disc. The audio is decent without being spectacular. The extras are again light-on, but at least there are some on offer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Monday, November 05, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5006DD, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

Other Reviews
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The DVD Bits - Daniel P (If you're really bored, you can read my bio...)

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