Plot: What’s it about?
The late 90’s might have signaled the end of the golden era of Hollywood. If you’re rolling your eyes or saying “what is he talking about now?” let me explain. We lost a lot of stars in the latter part of the 20th century. I’m talking about household names like Jimmy Stewart, Frank Sinatra and so on. Probably the best-known and most highly-revered of them all was Paul Newman. Granted, Mr. Newman left us in 2008 but with this passing left a huge gap in the true stars of Hollywood. Twilight, not to be confused with the vampire movie that would come out a decade later, was director Robert Benton’s second collaboration with Paul Newman. The two had worked together on Nobody’s Fool to much critical acclaim just a few years earlier. Newman is joined by some other notable names with Gene Hackman and James Garner as well as a few “fresh faces” like Reese Witherspoon and Liev Schreiber.
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, we meet Harry Ross (Paul Newman) a one-time cop who was fired due to his drinking problem. He also lost his wife and his kids remain alienated from him as well. Harry only manages to survive due to the generosity of his friends: Jack (Gene Hackman) and his wife Catherine (Susan Sarandon), former actors who are on their way out. Jack learns that he has cancer and has been given six months to live. We also meet their teenage daughter, Mel (Reese Witherspoon). Also in the picture is Jeff (Liev Schreiber), someone who mistakenly shot Harry. Harry’s job is simple: deliver an envelope stuffed with money to Lester Ivar (M. Emmett Walsh) with no questions asked. Suffice it to say things don’t go according to plan.
With such a “seasoned” cast, it’s hard to spot a bad performance in the bunch. Taking the lead actors alone, there’s over 100 years of acting experience right there. And it shows. I mean, really, how often have James Garner, Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman failed to deliver? Right. And if you’re a fan of the film noir genre, this is one to check out. Granted, it’s not The Maltese Falcon, but it’s not supposed to be. Simply put, it’s the kind of movie they rarely make anymore and it’s one they should. How many superhero movies do we really need? It’s not perfect, of course, I was able to predict what happened with a fair degree of accuracy, but with such a star-studded cast – it’s hard to go wrong. I’ll put this in the “great movies you’ve probably not seen” list. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Video: How’s it look?
The film is essentially a “modern day” film noir and, as such, exhibits many of the traits that we’ve come to expect from the genre. It’s dark, sometimes a bit too dark in selected scenes, though the 1.78:1 AVC HD image seems to handle it just fine. I caught a little more grain than I’d expected, but it seemed to work with the movie and give it a bit more ‘character’ (for lack of a better word). Detail is sharp, colors (in some scenes) are bold and black levels seem, by and large, to be on the level. If you’ve been waiting for this movie on Blu-ray, it’s been a pretty long wait. The last I remember this was distributed by Paramount on DVD back in the late 90’s. Oh, and if you didn’t know, Reese Witherspoon has a pretty decent topless scene. So…there’s that as well.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio mix is certainly nothing to write home about, rather it’s a pretty by-the-book track that gets the job done. Directional effects are few and far between. Dialogue is clear and crisp, Newman’s deep, powerful voice commands the screen with every scene he’s in. There’s not a lot else to say here, it serves its purpose, but not much else. Viewers should be satisfied with this one.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – The only feature from the Australian Blu-ray to “make the cut” is this track by critics Alain Silver and James Ursini. The two discuss what we’d expect – a film with some major movie legends, the direction of Robert Benton as well as some casting, the plot and so forth. It’s a good track, but it’s a shame that it’s the only feature on the disc.
The Bottom Line
This is the epitome of an “overlooked gem” that has some pretty good performances by some amazing actors, both old and new. This was one of Paul Newman’s last great performances, though he was much better in Road to Perdition. Still, for fans of the genre this one does deliver. Kino’s Blu-ray delivers, though the only extra is a commentary track.