directed by Jez Butterworth
UK 2001

 

An unusual film from the UK which tends to polarize critics; some find it predictable and badly directed, others find much to like. I'm firmly in the latter camp. Both Ben Chaplin and Nicole Kidman perfectly capture their roles in an understated manner - the first half hour of the film which plays out with almost not a word spoken is a delight. The pace of the film changes when two Russian friends are introduced (played by talented French actors Vincent Cassel and Matthieu Kassovitz) and the second half of the film is largely a somewhat standard heist thriller; apparently studio-enforced cuts can be blamed for the most trite moments here. Kidman, Cassel and Kassovitz all learnt to speak 'Russian' for their roles, 'Russian' because native Russian speakers will find errors but convincing enough for non-speakers. While Kidman's astonishing versatility (post-Cruise, pre-Moulin Rouge) impresses, the highlight of the film is Chaplin's superb deadpan performance which perfectly captures the introverted British type that he plays, from the placid and level-headed performance at his workplace, the lack of conversational skills, the almost total lack of imagination, the matter-of-factness (he wants to return his Russian mail order bride because she doesn't speak English as promised, even though she looks almost exactly like Nicole Kidman!), to the rationality, the droll humour revealing an underlying intelligence, the perseverance in the face of adversity, and an occasional flash of the seething turmoil within. Most of this is portrayed using only the faintest variations in tone of voice and facial expression, sometimes just the eyes. While the standout feature is the acting of the two leads (Cassel and Kassovitz are underused), the film is also enjoyable for many inspired and subtle elements of humour poking fun at the worst features of ordinary British suburban life (the best scene occurring in a motorway service station). There are several gently erotic scenes, the eroticism being derived from fine acting, naturalism and lack of artifice.

Conrad McDonnell

Theatrical Release: February 2002

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DVD Review: VCI/FilmFour - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Conrad McDonnell for the Review!

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Distribution

VCI/FilmFour

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 89:21 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.19 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

Bitrate:

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Audio DD 5.1 English ('Russian' is also spoken)
Subtitles English HOH; burnt in English subtitles for the 'Russian' passages
Features Release Information:
Studio: VCI/FilmFour

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary from Jez Butterworth and Ben Chaplin
• 'Making of' featurette
• Cast and crew interviews
• Robbie Williams music video
• 5 Trailers

DVD Release Date: March 8, 2004
Amaray ('Keep case')

Chapters 16

Comments The R2 has a satisfying transfer from a good clean print with very accurate colours and a fairly good level of detail in the anamorphic PAL image, although grain and therefore the finest picture details have been slightly filtered out. Some interior night time scenes are very dark with no shadow detail (see capture 2) but this appears to have been the intention of the film-makers. The audio on the main feature is clear and the yellow burnt-in subtitles (see sample below) are attractive and legible. The picture and audio quality on the extras is worse than average - many extras are video source and therefore interlaced as shown in the sample image below.

 - Conrad McDonnell

 





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