At Home, BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • May 18th, 2015 •

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The credit ‘Screenplay by Dennis Potter’ got my attention. Don’t know if it was the inescapables of the Matin Cruz Smith novel that were the culprits, but the first half hour or so (of two hours and eight minutes) is flat on dialogue and forced on conflict. The good news is, the second half of the film is strong, with good verbal clashes, scenes that move quickly and drag us along, and sympathetic characters – both protags and antags. Here’s a nice quote from Potter, who was predominantly a TV writer: “The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they have been in.”

Three bodies are partially buried under the snow in a popular Russian park, and on closer scrutiny, their faces have been peeled off. Not so sure I ever bought an explanation for this gory MacGuffin, but it does pique our interest.

Joanna Pacula is cold yet still compelling. William Hurt is not quite believable as a Russian cop, though he does acquit himself fairly well, and his character has an arc – going from all business to displaying some emotion. That his and her characters should fall in love by the third act really doesn’t work, but their love-making scene is hot, and I did have enough invested in them to hope they made it out alive.

Hurt was good, but Lee Marvin…Holy Crap!, what a performance. Check out the scene beginning at one hour and sixteen minutes. He doesn’t miss a frame in terms of delivery, both with dialogue and in his facial emotions. I had to watch the scene over again just to savor it. It’s good writing, but it’s what he does with it that distinguishes it. The way he’s shot, he looks pretty damn weird, I might add. But it doesn’t dent the performance. He died four years later, and this is a terrific late career role. Although he shares top billing, it’s a supporting part, so don’t expect too much in terms of screen time, just enjoy him whenever he pops up.

Brian Dennehy is wonderful, easy and on the mark. Supporters like Ian Bannen hit their nails on the head also. By the second half it’s a rewarding pleasure on that level. The ‘great whatsit’ propelling all this intrigue is most bizarre and a head-scratcher. Really? But I guess the research is there.

Tech credits are good. The image isn’t what we think of as exemplary BluRay except in close-ups, but I believe that was the result of the initial visual style chosen. There’s nothing wrong with it. Michael Apted is more than a competent director. While he will always be known for his (ongoing) landmark documentary SEVEN-UP, as a narrative filmmaker he didn’t acquit himself too poorly with projects like THE COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER, winning Sissy her well-deserved Best Actress Academy Award.

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