Plot: What’s it about?
He may be just another used car salesman right now, but Rudy Russo (Kurt Russell) has plans for his future, big plans indeed. Russo wants to make a run at politics, but in order to stage a campaign for senator, he needs some serious cash. He approaches the owner of the lot Luke (Jack Warden) and as he believes in Russo, Luke agrees to front him ten thousand dollars. But all this gets thrown for a loop when Luke’s brother Roy (also Jack Warden) puts a plan of his own into motion, one which involves taking Luke’s dealership out of the picture. You see, Roy runs a car lot right across the street and wants to overtake Luke’s holdings, by hook or by crook. Roy has even been channeling large amounts of cash to the city’s mayor, who is behind a plan to run an interstate through the area. As this will mean increases sales, Roy wants to close down the competition and rake in the cash, but Russo has no intentions to let that happen. And since Luke has disappeared, it is up to Russo to rally the other works and go head to head with Roy’s dealership, to find out once and for all which one will rule this roost.
I’ve spent many an afternoon watching this movie on cable television, so of course, I am thrilled to see Used Cars finally released on DVD. This is one of those movies I can watch over and again, but it never loses any of its appeal, it is just that good. Not the kind of good that wins critics over, but the kind of good that gives a flick an amazing replay value, which not a lot of pictures have, but Used Cars has it in spades. The story is a basic one at first glance, but as it unfolds, we meet the varied characters within and that is where Used Cars gathers its strength. I love the way the characters here are drawn up, developed, and of course, played to perfection by a terrific cast, which is led by Kurt Russell and Jack Warden. Yes, the movie seems dated when viewed these days, but that never hinders the fun, as you can tell it was supposed to take place in a certain era, so none of the gloss is lost in the least. This is one terrific, hilarious movie and since Columbia has issued a very nice disc, I’m giving this release a very high recommendation.
He is often cast in supporting roles, but even with the smallest of roles, Jack Warden seems to be able to steal the show in most of his films. In Used Cars he takes on two roles and plays both to comedic perfection, very impressive work indeed. Now Warden didn’t dazzle the critics with his performances here, but he does inject a liberal dose of comedy and plays very well off his costars, which is what was needed. He has a number of memorable scenes in Used Cars and while I don’t think this is his finest comic hour, he certainly brings a lot to the table and Used Cars is a better movie for having him involved. Warden can also do dramatic work when he needs to be, but he isn’t on that kind of a path in this movie, of course. You can also see Warden in such films as Dirty Work, 12 Angry Men, The Replacements, Brian’s Song, Heaven Can Wait, and Problem Child. The cast also includes Kurt Russell (Escape From New York, Overboard), Deborah Harmon (Bachelor Party), and Gerrit Graham (Tunnel Vision, Phantom of the Paradise).
Video: How does it look?
Used Cars is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. As expected, the image here is a little worn and shows some grain, but this is easily the finest version of Used Cars ever released to the home video world. The picture is sharper than I had expected, with a cleaner and more refined overall look present. I found colors and contrast to be on the mark, but of course, time has lessened them to an extent. Yes, the grain is still very evident and you can tell this movie is not brand new, but this is a terrific presentation all around.
Audio: How does it sound?
The included mono soundtrack leaves no lasting impression, but more than handles the material, which is what counts. I heard no hiss, distortion, or other age related defects, which means the audio is clean throughout. The music sounds a little restrained, but as good as mono allows in this case, while sound effects are on the mark also. No issues with dialogue either, as vocals remain crisp and easy to understand from start to finish. This disc also includes language options in French and Portuguese, as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai, which is a whole lot of choices.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The real draw here is an audio commentary with director Robert Zemeckis, producer Bob Gale, and star Kurt Russell, which is well worth a listen. As usual, Russell has no problem with being candid and honest, while the others also talk, but not quite as much. Zemeckis does have great tidbits to toss in however, without a doubt. This disc also includes a selection of outtakes, some talent files, a television spot, some radio ads, and a collection of promotional materials.