DVD Review HTF DVD Review: Don McKay

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  1. Todd Erwin

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    Don McKay

    Studio: Image Entertainment

    US DVD Release Date: June 29, 2010

    Theatrical Release Year: 2010

    Rated: R (for language and some violence)

    Running Time: 90 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen

    Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)

    Subtitles: English (SDH), Spanish

    Movie: 4 out of 5

    Lonely high school janitor Don McKay (Thomas Haden Church) receives a letter from Sonny (Elisabeth Shue), a long-lost love, asking him to return home to visit her before she dies. But something is definitely off. Sonny never tells Don what she's dying of, but is ready to pick up their romance as soon as Don arrives. Her doctor (James Rebhorn) has some strange sexual attraction to her, so much so that Don winds up killing him in self defense during an unprovoked jealous attack by the doctor.

    Thus sets the stage of Jake Goldberger's directorial debut, Don McKay, a dark comedic thriller reminding me of some of Joel and Ethan Coen's earlier works, such as Blood Simple. Writer-director Goldberger throws twist after twist at the audience, some coming out of nowhere and are of complete nonsense. To his credit, though, most do make sense and are believable, especially upon repeat viewings.

    The film's strong points are in its performances. Church plays McKay as a man with a hidden past, and has chosen his loneliness as his punishment for his past. It is a quiet, understated performance, showing he's a much better actor than most give him credit for. Shue gets to show off her ability to play a sweet, sexy, but often crazy woman who may or may not be all there upstairs. Melissa Leo is wonderful as Sonny's roommate Marie, who is not what she appears to be, slowly revealing her hidden agenda as the story unfolds. Veteran character actors Keith David and M. Emmet Walsh round out the cast.

    Video: 3 out of 5

    Photographed by Phil Parmet (Halloween, The Devil's Rejects), the film has a naturally-lit look to it, never appearing harsh or artificial. Flesh tones are accurate, and color levels are even without becoming over-saturated. Detail is often muddy, giving the image an overall softness.

    Audio: 2.5 out of 5

    The Dolby Digtal 5.1 soundtrack, encoded at an alarmingly low 320 kbps, is front-heavy, befitting of what is mostly a dialogue-driven film. Dialogue is intelligible and centered, with Steve Bramson's score filling out the remaining channels along with ambient sound effects. The low bitrate used gives the soundtrack a compressed, muddy sound to it.

    Special Features: 3.5 out of 5

    Audio Commentary with Director Jake Goldberger and Producer Jim Young: This is one of the better audio commentaries I've had the pleasure of listening to in a long time. Goldberger and Young are old friends, and the two discuss the long road to getting this film made, including upsetting Church's agents and managers when they realized the film had not actually been financed yet, although in the end Church remained attached to the film. This is one of those commentary tracks that just about every film student should listen to.

    Deleted Scenes (4:52): A total of four scenes are presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, all revolving around a deleted subplot on Don losing and regaining his job as a high school janitor, likely cut for pacing.

    Theatrical Trailer (1:51): Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 PCM stereo surround.

    Overall: 3.5 out of 5

    Don McKay is an impressive first film from writer-director Jake Goldberger, with a top-notch cast of Oscar nominated actors who are in top form. Add in the engaging commentary track by Goldberger, and this is a winning disc, if it weren't for the overly compressed soundtrack.


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