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If you like films that fall somewhere outside of the realm of normalcy, CLAY PIGEONS ($30) is a quirky black comic thriller that certainly stands out from the pack. The central character in CLAY PIGEONS is Clay Birdwell (Joaquin Phoenix), a hapless small town auto mechanic who finds himself in the awkward position of having to dispose of a number of dead bodies. No, he didn't kill the parties in question. However, circumstantial evidence would certainly make Clay appear guilty in the eyes of the law. Not wanting to take any chances in being implicated in the deaths, Clay does a terrific job of disposing of the evidence- even better than an actual murderer.

Just when Clay thinks he's seen the last of death, he crosses paths with a smooth talking cowboy named Lester Long (Vince Vaughn) who, unbeknownst to Clay, turns out to be a serial killer. Lester and Clay strike up a friendship, become fishing buddies. Now Lester, the a good ole boy that he is, repays Clay for his friendship by making him the number one suspect in the FBI manhunt for a serial killer. CLAY PIGEONS also stars Janeane Garofalo as FBI special agent Dale Shelby, who shows up in town just after evidence of Lester's handiwork. Joaquin Phoenix is perfectly cast as the schnook who finds himself (time and time again) made the scapegoat for crimes he didn't commit.

Vince Vaughn delivers a great performance as the likable maniac, who just happens to have a few issues with women. Janeane Garofalo appears late in the game, but makes up for lost time with her hilarious deadpan delivery. First time director David Dobkin successfully walks a tightrope- keeping the elements of black comedy from taking the edge off of this thriller. The cast of CLAY PIGEONS also includes Gregory Sporleder, Georgina Cates, Scott Wilson, Vince Vieluf, Wayne Brennan, Joseph D. Reitman, Nikki Arlyn, Jeff Olson, Monica Moench and Phil Morris.

Polygram Video has made CLAY PIGEONS available on DVD in a great looking Letterboxed presentation that includes the 16:9 anamorphic component for wide screen televisions. CLAY PIGEONS is framed at 1.85:1 and contains a nice compositional balance, without any loss at the extreme edges of the image. Like most new film's CLAY PIGEONS has a sharp, highly detailed appearance. Shadow detail is excellent during the darker sequences, plus the transfer sports a solid black level and good contrast. Colors tend to favor the warmer hues, which the DVD reproduces with excellent saturation and no evidence of chroma noise. Digital compression artifacts were well disguised by first rate DVD authoring.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack isn't going to blow anyone out of their seat, but the mix does contain some well placed effects and natural dialogue reproduction. The forward soundstage is open sounding and has some good channel separation. Additionally, the soundtrack track has a nice musicality. Bass reproduction is respectable, and the surround channels provide the proper ambience to create cohesive sonic environments for the film's various venues. A Dolby Surround soundtrack has also been encoded into the DVD, as have English and Spanish subtitles. The interactive menus are simple, but provide access to the standard scene and language selection features. Through the menus, one can also access a theatrical trailer, as well as cast biographies/filmographies.


Clay Pigeons (1998)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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