Plot: What’s it about?
If you work in the hard labor field, and toil away through the week for your paycheck, you expect that check to at least cover the things you need, right? But what if that check couldn’t pay for even the things you needed, like food, clothing, and other necessities? That happens to many people, and that’s the scenario that faces three Detroit auto workers. It seems as though they work as hard as they can, but the paycheck never stretches far enough. And what makes things worse for these men, is that part of that hard earned paycheck is given to the union, which they dislike, but need to belong to in order to work. This money they pour into union seems to have little or no effect on working conditions, standards, or raises of any kind. So it’s as if these men are simply giving away some of the money they earned and need to survive. As such, when circumstances call for extra money in order to make ends meet, the prospect of robbing the union office seems like a good plan. Three men, Jerry, Smokey, and Zeke, all band together to take back from their corrupt union what they and their families need, but they end up getting much more than they bargained for.
This movie might seem like a serious drama, but there is some humor injected from time to time to keep the movie from depressing the hell out of you. The storyline and atmosphere of this film are pretty bleak, but I think that realistic, gritty look and feel is what makes the movie work so well. If we can’t see and understand the desperate surroundings these characters live in, it would be difficult to see why they take action and behave in the manner they do. This film also paints a dark portrait of big industry and unions, making it look like a hard working guy is screwed no matter which way he turns. While this vision might be a little harsh, that idea is correct within the bounds of this movie, since these men have nowhere else to turn. Is this movie dark? Yes. But is it too dark? No. The characters are well developed, the storyline is concise, and the production design is excellent, all forming to create a very powerful movie. I recommend this film to fans of humor laced dramas, as well those who follow any of the three lead actors from the movie. Whether you choose to rent or buy, your money is well spent with this release.
This movie was cowritten and directed by Paul Schrader, who has quite a resume as both a writer and director. In this film, Schrader creates a world of desperation, which really sucks you inside. The characters are regular men, not career criminals or superheroes. Schrader’s other directorial efforts include Affliction, American Gigolo, Hardcore, and Cat People. On the writing side, Schrader has penned Taxi Driver, City Hall, Raging Bull, and he wrote the screenplay for Bringing Out The Dead. According to the commentary on this disc, the three leads signed on because they were each told they would be the star of the film. When they arrived and discovered otherwise, fights and argument were rampant. Despite these events, or perhaps due to them, the performances are excellent. Yaphet Kotto (The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Alien), Harvey Keitel (The Piano, Pulp Fiction), and the comedic genius Richard Pryor (The Toy, Car Wash) all give terrific turns here, even with the tension present on the set. The supporting cast includes Cliff De Young (The Craft, Suicide Kings), Lane Smith (Air America, The Scout), and Ed Begley, Jr. (Batman Forever, I’m Losing You).
Video: How does it look?
Blue Collar is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While the film is of low budget origins, this release looks excellent, with no serious errors showing up to ruin the party. The film has a darker visual style, but the contrast is excellent and no detail gets lost in the shadows. Colors are bright and rich, and even the flesh tones look natural and free from distortion. The transfer shows little print wear or damage, and no compression errors.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release uses the original mono track to replicate the audio. Give the inherent problems of the mono format, this track is quite good, with solid overall tone and no hiss that usually occurs with mono. The dialogue is clear and audible, and the soundtrack sounds great as well.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This release contains talent files, the theatrical trailer, and a commentary track with director Paul Schrader and journalist Maitland McDonagh. This track makes for a wonderful listen, and gives some insight into how difficult the shoot was.