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8 Millions Ways to Die [Blu-ray]
(Hal Ashby, 1986)
Review by Gary Tooze
Theatrical: TriStar Pictures
Video: Kino Lorber
Region: 'A' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)
Disc Size: 36,683,314,677 bytes
Feature Size: 25,842,155,520 bytes
Video Bitrate: 26.38 Mbps
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: June 20th, 2017
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video
DTS-HD Master Audio English 1556 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1556 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio English 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps
• Audio commentary by Film Historians Howard S. Berger and
Description:Jeff Bridges (Blown Away), Rosanna Arquette (Desperately Seeking Susan) and Andy Garcia (Things to Do in Denver When You re Dead) send sparks flying in this electrifying journey into the world of high-priced call girls and million-dollar drug deals. Matt Scudder (Bridges) is an ex-cop with a drinking problem who free-lances on jobs other ex-cops won t touch. When he accepts a fat fee to help a hooker get free of her pimp, Scudder lands in the middle of a savage drug and prostitution ring and given his past failures, there s no guarantee he ll get out alive. 8 Million Ways to Die is a powerful story of personal crisis and riveting police thrillers that will hold you spellbound and leave you breathless. This was the final film credit for the great Hal Ashby (Coming Home, Shampoo) screenplay by Oliver Stone (Scarface) and R. Lance Hill (Road House) under pseudonym David Lee Henry and based on the book by Lawrence Block (A Walk Among the Tombstones). Co-starring Alexandra Paul (Christine) and Randy Brooks (Reservoir Dogs).
Jeff Bridges plays Matthew Scudder, an LA sheriff who loses his job due to his inability to stay away from booze. While attending an AA meeting, Scudder is invited to attend a party, where he meets the beauteous Sunny (Alexandra Paul). Also at the party is druggie Chance (Randy Brooks), an old enemy of Scudder's. It doesn't take long for Scudder to figure out that Chance is a pimp and Sunny is one of his hookers. She begs Scudder to help her break away from Chance. Not long afterward, Sunny is killed, and Scudder crawls back into the bottle. Eventually sobering up, he vows to avenge Sunny's death. Much blood is spilled before the killer is revealed; along the way, Scudder gets a new lease on life when he falls in love with ex-hooker Rosanna Arquette.
Hal Ashby's final film is not a masterpiece - but it's also better than its poor critical reputation suggests. The script for Eight Million Ways To Die angered fans of the novel by taking substantial liberties with the storyline but what is there works as a pseudo-noirish 1980's crime story, even if at times it feels like a particularly seedy two-part episode of Miami Vice. Ashby's direction is solid, with a nice attentiveness toward its performances. It seems he wasn't too interested in the more action-oriented parts of the story (a gunfight finale is handled in a pro-forma way) but he's able to convey the character moments with great skill. For instance, a scene where Jeff Bridges and Rosanna Arquette reflect on the wreckage of their lives has a raw, honest power that is free of cheap melodrama or Method-style showiness. It also helps that the performances are stellar: Bridges is sympathetic as a loser trying to get straight (he really uses his physicality to sell the character's alcoholism), Andy Garcia is scary as an always-grinning but sociopathic dealer and Arquette is steely yet alluring as the quietly wounded soul caught in the middle. The end result isn't perfect but the performances and the sympathetic direction that guides them make Eight Million Ways To Die worth a look.
Still, though the pacing drags in places, and enough so that you're made more aware of the scenes that don't work, there's some jazziness to the staging of the scenes that do work, which, again, is unexpected coming from the usually-undistinguished Ashby. A short car chase, with the hero pursuing with a slashed front tire, boasts clear spatial logistics. The grand finale, involving a shootout on and then underneath a tram bridge, has been engineered for maximum tension. And in the movie's best sequence, in an empty warehouse, with Scudder and Chance on one end with Angel's cocaine cache rigged to incinerate, Angel and his henchmen slowly advancing toward them on the other with a shotgun duct-taped to a blindfolded Sarah's head, and a tactical squad of cops hiding high up in the rafters, is superbly staged and edited -- with its perfectly sustained crazy energy, it's both horrifying and hilarious at the same time. Ashby obviously gave the actors plenty of room to improvise, to feel out their characters and fill them out.Excerpt from eFilmCritic located HERE
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The dual-layered Kino Lorber Blu-ray of 8 Million Ways to Die looks strong and consistent in 1080P. Colors are bright and seem true with some richness. It's quite impressive visually. Contrast is quite strong and there is some pleasing grain textures. The source is clean, and I noticed no noise - not even in the few night sequences. It is in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This Blu-ray gave me a very watchable, and pleasurable, viewing in regards to the picture quality.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Kino Lorber use a DTS-HD Master 2.0 channel track at 1556 kbps (16-bit) in the original English language. There are effects in the film - gunplay and related violence. The original music is by, the iconic, James Newton Howard (2005's King Kong, Batman Begins, The Bourne Legacy, I Am Legend, The Lookout etc.) and the score is supportive. There are optional English subtitles (see sample above) offered and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.
Kino add plenty of extras starting with an audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Nathaniel Thompson who cover much of the production, Ashby, Oliver Stone's screenplay, the 80s, alcoholism and the actors. It's excellent. There is a 20-minute interview with Andy Garcia, a too-brief 5-minutes with Rosanna Arquette, 11-minutes with Star Alexandra Paul and 14-minutes with writer Lawrence Block. There are also a handful of trailers.
June 15th, 2017
About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.
Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD
Gary W. Tooze
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