True Crime DVD
A crime has been committed, and once again it’s society that has to pay. Unless of course you read this review, then you can save yourself seven hard-earned dollars by skipping Clint Eastwood’s “True Crime.” Based on the novel by Andrew Klavan, “True Crime” should have been a celluloid page turner.
It’s about a burnt-out reporter who stumbles across evidence that a death row inmate set to die in 12 hours may be innocent. Instead, “True Crime” crawls across the screen with the immediacy of a dead turtle. The real crime is how Eastwood has made such an unsatisfying movie out of all of this. Three high priced scribes took turns trying to make “True Crime” more than it is, including Paul Brickman, whose screenplay for “Risky Business” proved his ability for taking something ordinary and making extraordinary. Instead of coming up with a gut wrenching thriller, the writers settle for a pedestrian walk through the park that leaves no cliche unturned. There is no real suspense, just a need to wrap things up without leaving too many embarrassing plot holes. The weakest link in this chain is Eastwood himself, whose performance is so lifeless he could have phoned it in. You know there’s something wrong when everyone else in the film is more interesting than the lead character. Even extras who utter one word fare better than Eastwood. He’s played this sort of character so many times that perhaps he’s lost interest in adding any new dimensions to the portrayal. As the film’s director, Eastwood is his own worst enemy as a leading man. It’s a paint-by-numbers performance and the only color that came with the set is gray. Eastwood is back in the Bay area of Northern California, this time working as a reporter for the Oakland Tribune. He plays Steve Everett, one of those hard-drinking, hard-living reporters with a nose for news and a fly he can’t keep zipped. He doesn’t seem to mind that he has an understanding wife (the always dependable Diane Venora) or adorable daughter (Francesca Ruth Eastwood) waiting at home for him. Instead, he prefers to stir the hornet’s nest by sleeping with the wife of his publisher. No one said he was smart. As written, Everett is a cliche from the first time we see him in a smoky bar trying to pick up on a young, beautiful reporter. Everett may be on the wagon when it comes to alcohol, but he’s willing to saddle up any sweet young thing that comes his direction. Unfortunately, the sweet young reporter gets killed in a freak auto accident, leaving Everett the Tribune’s only available reporter to complete her side piece on the scheduled execution of a man convicted of murder. The anal retentive city editor (Denis Leary) wants a simple human interest piece, a decision backed up by editor-in-chief Alan Mann (James Woods, the best thing about the film). Instead, Everett stumbles across a discrepancy in the witness reports that kick starts his reporter’s intuition. That means going against the wishes of his editors, and shrugging of his parental duties with his young daughter. Still Everett must follow his nose, which leads him on an exhaustive (and yet not very substantial) goose chase where everything is not what it seems. Or at least that’s what the filmmaker’s want us to believe. Unfortunately, there is nothing in “True Crime” that even slightly resembles suspense of mystery. Everything is telegraphed in a clumsy script that keeps the audience ten minutes ahead of the characters. It also doesn’t help knowing that the film can only have one of two endings, and when it becomes apparent which direction the film is going, it’s all downhill from there. Some of Eastwood’s best work has been done in the Bay area, from his “Dirty Harry” series to “Escape from Alcatraz.” Thanks to the murky cinematography of longtime Eastwood collaborator Jack N. Green, the film looks as bleak and tired as its leading man. Eastwood wisely surrounds himself with some of the best atmosphere people in the business. Woods is sensational as the randy Editor who gives as good as he gets. His little verbal assaults (especially when he’s trying to get some sexual info out of Everett) are priceless. Too bad the writer who fleshed out his dialogue didn’t polish the whole script. Isaiah Washington stands tall as the wrongfully accused, even though his role is limited to little emotional pockets. The always splendid Lisa Gay Hamilton doesn’t have much to do as his wife, but her presence is felt. Bernard Hill is equally appealing as the prison warden, a role that is a step away from becoming a cliche, but thanks to Hill’s beautiful understatement, sidesteps the inevitable. Movies like “True Crime” should sizzle. They should be like that lit use at the beginning of “Mission: Impossible.” Once lit, they should burn bright until the final frame. Someone dipped this wick in water after the first five minutes.
VISION: [ X ] 20/20 [ ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind
Outstanding 1.85:1 widescreen digital transfer enhanced at 16:9 for widescreen televisions. Exceptional color definition and saturation, plus flattering flesh tones and hardcore blacks. Image is sharp and vivid, while depth of field is strong, as is attention to detail. No visible compression artifacts or noise.
HEARING: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf
Lively 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack fills the room with vivid, distinctive noise. Stereo separation is excellent, while the front to rear spatial separation sounds accurate. Great use of booming basses, while middle and high ends are clean. Rear speakers present a exciting mix of ambient noise, music and the occasional dialogue cue. Dialogue mix is strong and to the point. Surround effects are effective, while I didn’t notice any audible distortion or hiss.
ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor
Closed captions in English for the hard of hearing.
COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak
The DVD contains two featurettes, one a behind-the-scenes effort called “The Scene of The Crime,” (it runs about 10 minutes) in which Eastwood takes a few moments to discuss his co-stars, while they in turn fawn all over him. Then there’s “True Crime: True Stories,” a featurette that explores the parallels between a real reporter’s experiences and those depicted in the film. Both are congenial efforts. There’s also a handful of filmographies, a music video of Diane Kraal’s “Why Should I Care?”, and the film’s original theatrical trailer. The main and scene access menus are also pretty nifty.
PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal
While I didn’t particularly care for the film, the DVD is an excellent presentation that should please fans of the film.
VITALS: $24.98/Rated R/127 Minutes/Color/39 Chapter Stops/Snapcase/#16323
ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen
PATIENT: TRUE CRIME
BIRTH DATE: 1999
HMO: Warner Home Video