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Gene Hackman is just one of those performers I never tire of watching- no he isn't Hollywood's idea of a glamorized leading man, instead Hackman is a genuine actor who makes his "everyman" roles totally believable and completely entertaining. In NARROW MARGIN ($25), Hackman portrays Deputy District Attorney Caulfield, a man totally dedicated to his job who sometimes lets his vigorous passion for law enforcement blindside him to his own best interests. When an opportunity arises to put away a shady underworld figure for murder, Caulfield's zeal takes him to the Canadian wilderness in pursuit of an eyewitness.

NARROW MARGIN also stars Anne Archer as Carol Hunnicut, the eyewitness who, fearing for her own life, has gone into hiding. Unfortunately, Caulfield's arrival at Hunnicut's isolated retreat also brings a couple of assassins to her doorstep. Under a hail of bullets, Caulfield and Hunnicut make a hasty escape down a mountain road that leads them to the only sign of civilization- a train station. The two quickly book passage on the arriving train, hoping that will survive till the next morning, when the train delivers them to the relative safety of Vancouver. What follows is a game of "hide and seek" aboard the speeding locomotive, with Caulfield hiding Hunnicut from the assassins who are desperately searching for the pair.

Writer, director (and cinematographer)Peter Hyams based his screenplay for NARROW MARGIN on the 1952 thriller THE NARROW MARGIN. Hyams makes great use of the film's primary setting- a train that neither the hero nor his charge can leave. The claustrophobic environment helps to build tension by limiting the options available to the characters. The film's climatic moments atop the moving train are intense since Hyams uses his actors to perform the stunt work, instead of doubles. Seeing that it is really Gene Hackman and Anne Archer fighting for their lives heightens the peril, plus it brings a sense of reality to the climax that stunt players just doesn’t provide. In addition to Hackman and Archer, the terrific cast of NARROW MARGIN also features James Sikking, J.T. Walsh, M. Emmet Walsh, Susan Hogan and Harris Yulin.

Artisan Entertainment offers NARROW MARGIN on DVD in an anamorphic enhanced wide screen presentation that looks simply terrific. Yeah, there are a couple of mild markings on the film element used for the transfer, but they never become obtrusive. The Letterboxed presentation recreates the film's 2.35:1 theatrical framing quite accurately and offers very good image quality. NARROW MARGIN contains a number of dark sequences that reproduce with surprising detail and clarity. I say surprising because the cinematography is a bit soft, due to the use of smoke and filters that give NARROW MARGIN its intended look. The transfer also boasts solid contrast throughout, including a couple of sequences in which the lighting shifts radically. Color reproduction was very natural, with no over-saturation or bleeding of the warm colors. There were no overt traces of either chroma noise or compression artifacts on the DVD.

The two-channel Dolby Digital soundtrack decodes to a respectable sounding Dolby Surround. When required, the soundtrack puts out a high energy level, but it’s nothing like a 5.1 channel track. Separation was good across the front channels, and the surrounds had a bit of a kick. Sound effects were quite strong, especially the gunshots and train sounds. Of course, this matrixed track lacked the pinpoint precision of sound effect placement that one finds in a discrete mix. Still, the dialogue remained clean, intelligible and pretty much locked into the center channel. Bruce Broughton's haunting musical score had a very strong presence in the mix. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in both English and Spanish.

The interactive menus are fairly simple, but provide the standard scene and language selection features, plus access to a theatrical trailer, production notes and cast biographies/filmographies.




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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