In Bruges

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Comedy;
$39.95 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for strong bloody violence, pervasive language and some drug use.
Stars Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Thekla Reuten, Zeljko Ivanek, Ciarán Hinds.

Twenty minutes is generally the make-or-break point. If the first reel fails to sink its claws, chances are nothing that follows will compensate for that initial bad impression. Rarely, as in the case of Robert Mulligan’s Bloodbrothers, does a film purposely start on what appears to be unintentionally slippery footing only to turn things around in reel five by artistically justifying the introductory unevenness. As quick as I am to give up hope after a reel, it is even tougher to go for a film that ultimately falls apart in the last 10 minutes. Such is the case with Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges.

After a particularly grueling assignment, hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell), receive stern warning from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes): “Get the f*** out of London.”

Harry sentences the pair to two weeks in a Bruges hotel where they’re ordered to lay low until he calls with further instructions. Infantile Ray instantly starts climbing walls at the mere hint of transforming their room into a jail cell. Playing against his natural dimwitted impulses, Ray uses the threat of culture as inducement and convinces Ken to take an evening constitutional. During their stroll, Ray is instantly smitten by a woman he spies working on a film crew. Chloe (Clémence Poésy) has the most important job on the production: She supplies drugs to the cast and crew.

Films like Midnight Express, Babel and Manda Bala depict nightmare destinations that act as instant deterrents to tourism. It has been a long time since a film gave me the itch to visit the city in which it was filmed. With its canals, cobbled streets and miles of beautifully preserved medieval architecture, the titular locale seems like a perfect storybook destination. What better place for a couple of hoods to hole up in than the picturesque town of Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium?

Ken is somewhat cultured, as assassins go, and actually enjoys taking in the scenic points of interest. Uncouth boor that he is, Ray gets his kicks by harassing obese tourists. In spite of Harry’s orders to stay in the room and await his orders, Ray refuses to break his first date with Chloe. After the first cocktail together his actions are almost justified. Chloe possesses the perfect blend of mystery, beauty and bad behavior to attract any criminal looking for a down-time diversion.

Even if Ray waited for Harry to call, the results would have been the same. His first contract, a priest in mid-confession, ends with a child accidentally getting caught in the crossfire, a fact that haunts Ray and repulses Harry who has a soft spot for children. Ken’s next assignment is to whack his partner. He trails Ray to a local park where no sooner does he draw a bead on his partner than guilt-racked Ray lifts a gun to his temple. Ken could just as easily let nature take its course, but his fondness for the kid causes Ken to put an “Amen” on both hit and suicide and in doing so, pray that Harry goes easy.

Up until now, much of the comedy flowed naturally from Ray’s ignorant, mean-spirited reaction to his idyllic surroundings. This was playwright Martin McDonagh’s debut, his distinctively cadenced ear for gutter- speak apparent from the get-go. The amount of “c” words strung together in one 30 second scene outnumber most features.

Let’s pause for a few words on the most reviled word in the English language. Peter Bogdanovich’s Saint Jack is the first time I remember hearing a man refer to another man as a “c**t.” Compared to Ken and Ray, Jack sounds like a schoolmarm. The Brits have an affinity for the pejorative that’s unsurpassed. Found on The Tailor of Panama commentary track: director John Boorman professess undying adoration and vows to do whatever he can to keep this “lovely” expletive alive in his dialogue. During an interview with Martin’s younger brother, John Michael McDonagh (The Guard, Cavalry), I ask about his fascination with the word. “You see, this is the thing,” he laughs, “In England people use it as a non-purpose word that doesn’t have the weight that it has in America. You come out of the toilet at a bar to find all your friends have left and you say, ‘Where have all those c**ts gone?’” The McDonaghs (and Scorsese and Mamet, etc.) use curse words as a writer could commas to bring a stylistic rhythm to their dialog.

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If you have yet to see the movie it’s best to stop here. The road ahead is paved with spoilers.

Signs of a faltering narrative first appear when Harry’s weakness for children is used as a justification for Ray’s termination. Just because he likes kids shouldn’t automatically render him childlike. Watching Harry self-destruct and rip apart a phone while his family looked on from the dinner table earned a hearty chuckle. But it’s a bit much when, after Ken covers for Ray by telling Harry that his mate is indisposed, the boss’s first reaction is to ask whether he is “making a pee or poo.”

The Boss should have packed lightly; when Harry hits town his excess baggage includes happenstance, convenience, and an unsatisfying climax. A pair of anti-smokers, awkwardly-placed in Act I, return to enact revenge three reels later. Given what we know of him, a pro like Harry would never be so reckless a shot. And either that bell tower had 147 stories or Harry took the 10-steps-down, five-steps-up staircase. Ray has time to jump to his death and deliver a pavement soliloquy while Harry is still running.

In spite of these few gripes, In Bruges is still worth your time if for no other reason than a chance to watch Brendan Gleeson, one of the last great character actors, strut his stuff. Fiennes and Farrell (basically reprising his role from Cassandra’s Dream) are outstanding, but nothing comes close to matching the scene in the tower where Ray, tired of all the double-crossing, simply gives up. In the company of such over-the-top performances, Gleeson wisely underplays at every turn. His maturity and depth of characterization are what engaged and kept me in In Bruges.

The 4K edition includes four featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, interviews with the cast and filmmakers, a gag reel and the film’s trailer.

Kino Lorber Sets Blu-ray Date for Rat Pack Alums Double Feature

Kino Lorber on July 19 will release the British comedy Salt and Pepper along with its sequel, One More Time, on Blu-ray Disc, as part of its Studio Classics line.

The films, directed by Richard Donner and released theatrically in 1968 and 1970, respectively, star Rat Pack alums Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford as Salt and Pepper, the owners of an ultra-cool London nightclub.

In Salt and Pepper, a sexy spy turns up dead in their club. The pair is recruited by the British Secret Service to help solve the crime. But when they discover a plot to overthrow the government — and no one will believe them — they’re forced to go it alone.

In One More Time, Davis and Lawford reprise their roles as nightclub-owners-turned-detectives, this time under the direction of comic genius Jerry Lewis. When his rich twin brother turns up dead, Pepper secretly assumes his identity — only to discover that his twin brother was murdered. This revelation plunges the pair into a wild caper filled with double-crosses and a diabolical crew of diamond smugglers with an evil plot to put them both on ice. The sequel features cameos by horror greats Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Dr. Frankenstein.

1980 Slasher Film ‘New Year’s Evil’ Set for April 12 Blu-ray Disc Release

Kino Lorber on April 12 will release the vintage slasher film New Year’s Evil on Blu-ray Disc.

The film, issued under the indie film distributor’s Studio Classics line, was released theatrically in 1980 by Cannon Films. The film stars Roz Kelly as Diane “Blaze” Sullivan, a Los Angeles punk rock and new wave show host who gets a barrage of phone calls during a televised New Year’s Eve celebration from a killer warning her that he plans to commit a string of murders just as the New Year dawns in each time zone.

Kelly is best known as Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli’s (Henry Winkler) girlfriend Carol “Pinky” Tuscadero in the 1970s TV series “Happy Days.”

New Year’s Evil was written and directed by Emmett Alston and co-written by Leonard Neubauer. Kip Niven and Chris Wallace co-star. 

The film was initially released on Blu-ray Disc in 2015 by Shout! Factory. Kino Lorber’s new edition features a 2K master and a host of extras, including audio commentary by Alston and a making-of documentary.

A 35mm print of New Year’s Evil played at Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles in December 2018.
 

Kino Lorber Sets Jan. 4 Disc Dates for Three 1930s Mysteries

Kino Lorber on Jan. 4 will release three vintage mysteries from the 1930s under its Kino Lorber Studio Classics banner.

Rich and Strange (1931), one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest films, will be available on both DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Also known as East of Shanghai, the film is a product of Hitchcock’s early directorial endeavors in the pre-World War II British film industry. Fred Hill (Henry Kendall) and his wife Emily (Joan Barry) lead a boring existence in the London suburbs. When the Hills come into an inheritance from a wealthy uncle, Fred quits his mundane job and they embark on a world cruise to get a taste of the high life. But all does not go as planned as the couple’s voyage becomes fraught with treacherous romantic duplicities. 

Bonus features include a 4K restoration by Studio Canal, a new audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth, and clips of audio interviews with Hitchcock conducted in the early 1960s by film critic and French New Wave director François Truffaut.

Crime of the Century (1933) gets a Blu-ray Disc-only release on Jan. 4. Directed by William Beaudine, this classic whodunit centers around Dr. Emil Brandt, a hypnotist who bursts into a police station and confesses to a murder. The only problem is, the murder he’s confessed to hasn’t happened yet — although stolen money and dead bodies soon turn up. The film’s star-studded cast includes Jean Hersholt (13 Washington Square, Heidi), Wynne Gibson (Night After Night, Her Bodyguard), Stuart Erwin (Before Dawn, Our Town) and Frances Dee (Little Women, I Walked with a Zombie).

The Kino Lorber Studio Classics Blu-ray features a new commentary by author and film historian Lee Gambin and costume historian Elissa McKechnie.

The third film Kino Lorber is releasing Jan. 4 is another Blu-ray Disc exclusive, Double Door, from 1934. Directed by  Charles Vidor (Gilda, A Farewell to Arms), this gothic chiller has Mary Morris reprising her acclaimed Broadway role as one of the most dastardly villains of all time, Victoria Van Brett. In a spooky New York City mansion, the Van Brett matriarch rules her clan with an iron hand. The sinister spinster schemes to ruin any chance her siblings might have for happiness. Evil lurks around every corner of this old dark house, and especially in a secret room behind a certain double door.

Bonus features include two new audio commentary tracks, one by film historian Tom Weaver and the other by film historians David Del Valle and Stan Shaffer.

Kino Lorber Sets Blu-ray Disc Release Dates for Two Alan Alda Movies

Two movies starring Alan Alda of television’s “M*A*S*H” fame will be released on Blu-ray Disc on Dec. 14 under the Kino Lorber Studio Classics banner.

Both find the veteran actor starring opposite iconic female actresses.

The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979) has Alda co-star with Meryl Streep and Barbara Harris in an acclaimed drama about a senator with presidential ambitions — and the price he has to pay. Alda, who also wrote the screenplay, portrays the title character, a decent, hardworking senator whose job in Washington keeps him away from his wife (Harris) and family. Matters become even more complicated when he begins to develop a relationship with a civil rights activist (Streep). Directed by Jerry Schatzberg and produced by Martin Bregman, the film also features Rip Torn, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Kimbrough and Carrie Nye. 

The Four Seasons (1981) has Alda sharing top billing with Carol Burnett, about three 40-something couples whose camaraderie is forever changed when one friend leaves his wife for a much younger woman. The lines are drawn when they are forced to take sides regarding the new couple. Alda also wrote and directed the romantic comedy, whose cast also includes Len Cariou, Sandy Dennis, Rita Moreno, Jack Weston and Bess Armstrong.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray Disc releases of both films feature new audio commentary tracks by entertainment journalist and author Bryan Reesman, along with the original theatrical trailers.

 

Van Damme Starrer ‘Hard Target’ Getting 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Edition From Kino Lorber

Kino Lorber is giving the 1993 Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner Hard Target the royal treatment, with a two-disc 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray edition arriving at retail on Dec. 7.

Retailer orders for the film, part of the Kino Lorber Studio Classics line, are due Nov. 9. The set will carry a suggested retail price (SRP) of $39.95.

Directed by John Woo and executive produced by Sam Raimi, the film also stars Lance Henriksen, Yancy Butler, Arnold Vosloo, Wilford Brimley and Kasi Lemmons.

Van Damme portrays Chance Boudreaux, the target of an evil mercenary (Henriksen) who recruits combat veterans for the “amusement” of his clients — bored tycoons who will pay half a million dollars to stalk and kill them. When beautiful Natasha Binder (Butler) hires Chance to search for her missing father, she gets more than she bargained for.

The new Kino Lorber Studio Classics edition of Hard Target features a new 4K restoration of the unrated international cut, from a 4K scan of the original camera negative.

Bonus content includes new interviews with director Woo, actors Henriksen and Butler, and stunt coordinator  Billy Burton. The package also comes with a new audio commentary from action film historians Brandon Bentley and Mike Leeder, a newly restored HD trailer, 5.1 Surround Sound and 2.0 lossless stereo, and English subtitles.