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Over the years I have grown to appreciate Clint Eastwood- the director, more than Clint Eastwood- the actor. This is not to slight Eastwood's abilities as an actor, because he has delivered his share of impressive and ever maturing performances. However, his understated visual style as a director becomes more impressive to me with each film. With TRUE CRIME ($25), Eastwood brilliantly, but economically tells the story in visual terms without the artistic flourishes that so many other directors tend to overuse.

In TRUE CRIME Clint Eastwood portrays aging newspaper reporter Steve Everett. While Everett has a genuine nose for the news, he is also a workaholic, alcoholic and womanizer. All of these things have strained his relationship with his wife to the breaking point, as well as costing him more than one newspaper job. Sober for three months and hoping to redeem himself professionally, Everett takes whatever stories come his way. Because of unfortunate circumstances, Everett is given a last minute assignment to interview death row inmate Frank Beachum (Isaiah Washington) on the day of his execution. The newspaper only wants a human-interest story on the final thoughts of a condemned man. However, after Everett does a bit of background research on Beachum, he suspects that something is amiss and begins to do some real investigative journalism. As Everett digs deeper into the story, he finds bigger and bigger discrepancies in the prosecution's case against Beachum. When the time comes for the interview, Everett asks to hear Beachum's side of the story, which only serves confirm Everett's suspicion that an innocent man is about to be executed. With only hours to go, Everett frantically searches for any bit of overlooked evidence that will save Beachum from his appointment with a lethal injection.

The first rate cast of TRUE CRIME also includes Denis Leary, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Diane Venora, Bernard Hill, Michael McKean, Michael Jeter, Mary McCormack, Hattie Winston, Penny Bae Bridges, Francesca Fisher-Eastwood, Frances Fisher, Marissa Ribisi, Christine Ebersole, Anthony Zerbe, William Windom and Lucy Alexis Liu. While the final outcome of the film is easy to guess, Eastwood's taut direction keeps the tension level high throughout. Additionally, TRUE CRIME also features a number of standout performances. Eastwood puts a human face on a very flawed man, making the almost unlikable Everett likable. Isaiah Washington's performance as an innocent man facing death is utterly superb, as well as being the blood and guts of this movie. I certainly hope that Washington receives the appropriate recognition at award time. As for James Woods, he completely steals all of his few brief scenes, as the fast-talking and funny newspaper editor.

Warner Home Video has done an outstanding job transcribing TRUE CRIME to DVD. The film has been given a 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentation that restores the film's 1.85:1 theatrical proportions. Absolutely flawless is the about best way to describe the image, as well as Jack N. Green's terrific cinematography. Everything is crystal clear and razor sharp, with even the darkest portions of the image being rendered with marvelous detail. Color reproduction is top notch- the warm, highly saturated hues are recreated without a hint of chroma noise or distortion, plus flesh tones look perfectly healthy. Blacks are impeccable and the contrast is incredibly smooth. Solid DVD authoring and the use of dual layer technology precluded any traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack features a well-balanced mix that perfectly complements the visual. Channel separation proves to be quite wide across the forward soundstage, giving the track a very open sound. The surrounds are effectively deployed to create a realistic sonic environment filled with ambient sounds and directional effects. Additionally, the surround channels are also utilized to add emphasis to certain musical cues in Lennie Niehaus' score. Dialogue is well reproduced and very natural sounding. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English.

The interactive menus are nicely designed and feature animation, sound and full motion video. Through the menus one can access the standard scene selection feature as well as the disc's extras. Supplements include two behind-the-scenes documentaries: The Scene of The Crime, which features interviews with cast and crewmembers and True Crime: True Stories, which chronicles a real-life reporter's experiences in helping a convicted man to prove his innocence. Additional supplements include a Diana Krall music video for the song "Why Should I Care?", a theatrical trailer and cast 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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