This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - Dolby Digital City
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 120 minutes Other Extras Filmographies
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (60:38)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Oliver Stone

Columbia Tristar
Starring Sean Penn
Jennifer Lopez
Nick Nolte
Powers Boothe
Claire Danes
Joaquin Phoenix
Billy Bob Thornton
Jon Voight
RRP $34.95 Music Ennio Morricone

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 )
English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1    
Macrovision Yes    
Subtitles English

Plot Synopsis

    U-Turn stars Sean Penn as Bobby Cooper, a gambler on his way to Las Vegas to repay a gambling debt whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. This forces him to stop at the town of Superior, Arizona, a country hick town which seems to be stuck in a time warp. This town is inhabited by some very strange characters, such as Darrell the Mechanic (Billy Bob Thornton), a seemingly all-seeing blind man (Jon Voight), Sheriff Potter (Powers Boothe) and the hypersexual Grace McKenna (Jennifer Lopez).

    Through a series of unfortunate incidents, Bobby loses the money he had with him to repay his gambling debt, but a way is presented for him to earn this money back. He can either kill Grace McKenna, or kill her husband Jake (Nick Nolte).

    I felt this movie dragged somewhat, and lacked strong direction. More emphasis appeared to be placed on the cinematic style used to tell this story rather than concentrating on the story itself. Unusual camera techniques can only do so much for a weak story. The movie was filled with characters that were too one-dimensional for my liking.

Transfer Quality


    This transfer is not quite up to Columbia Tristar's usual high standards, but is still quite acceptable.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was variable in its sharpness, from the typical razor sharp Columbia Tristar image to very grainy indeed. This was particularly the case for a lot of the outdoor shots and wide shots. I believe that this is how the original film was, and appears to have been a deliberate cinematic choice by the director, Oliver Stone. This texture gave this film somewhat of a dated appearance, looking almost like a home movie at times. Indeed, I wonder whether or not a lot of this movie may have been shot in either 16mm or 8mm format and then blown up to 35mm to give this effect.

    Most of this movie is shot in the day, in bright light, but what shadow there was was nicely detailed. No low level noise was apparent, even during the deliberately grainy scenes.

    The colours had a very unusual appearance to them. Once again, I believe that this is a deliberate cinematographic choice, since they varied between the grainy shots and the clearer shots. Reds in particular, tended to be on the heavy side. The overall effect of the colour palette used was to give the impression of watching an old home movie.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen, even in the grainy scenes. I noted that the bit rate meter read much higher in these scenes than in the cleaner scenes. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some aliasing here and there, particularly in scenes with venetian blinds. This was minor, but more noticeable than in other recent Columbia Tristar transfers. Film artefacts varied between non-existent during the cleaner scenes to quite noticeable during some of the grainier scenes. I noted that there were a number of credits for archival footage at the end of the movie, and I wondered whether these materials were the ones that exhibited the film artefacts.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at 60:38, between Chapters 13 and 14. It is relatively non-intrusive, causing only a minor disruption to the flow of the movie.


    There are three audio tracks on this DVD - English Dolby Digital 2.0, surround-encoded, English Dolby Digital 5.1, and French Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Like most other Columbia Tristar DVDs, the English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack is the default soundtrack.

    I felt that the level of the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was set quite low, and listened to it at 5dB louder than my usual listening setting.

    Dialogue was mostly clear, though there were a significant number of times that it was hard to make out.

    There were no audio sync problems.

    The score by Ennio Morricone was sparingly used, and was fairly unremarkable. The songs used in this movie tended to be 50s and 60s numbers, all designed to add to the "time-warp" feel of this movie.

     The surround channels were lightly used. Generally, not much was happening in the surrounds, even in the scenes set outside.

    The .1 channel was used sparingly.


    As is the case with most Columbia Tristar DVDs, there are only very limited extras on this disc. The Dolby Digital City trailer and DVCC splash are on this disc. I have been meaning to mention this for some time, but more and more Columbia Tristar discs are beginning to appear with disc artwork on them rather than just the movie title. Godzilla was the first such movie, and most of this batch of releases has proper artwork.


    The menu design is a standard Columbia Tristar menu. Functional, but virtually devoid of features. It is not 16x9 enhanced. Of note is the fact that the Theatrical Trailer and the Filmographies are now tucked away on another menu accessible from the Special Features main menu option, which is a very similar menu arrangement to Warner Brothers DVDs.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.


    This is a list of the most recent films the stars and the director of the movie have been involved in. There are no biographical notes, just the list of films. Whilst it is not great, it is good to see that Columbia Tristar are slowly adding more and more extras to their releases.


    I felt that U-Turn was "just another movie". It neither particularly excited nor particularly bored me.

    The video quality is variable, but this is because of the source material.

    The audio quality is just average, with some dialogue hard to understand.

    The extras present are very limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
11th February 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer