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DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Brewster McGee (1 Viewer)

Herb Kane

May 7, 2001

Brewster McGee

Studio: Next One Productions
Year: 1998
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 64 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
Audio: DD Monaural
Color/B&W: B&W
Languages: English
Subtitles: None
MSRP: $19.99
Package: Single disc/Keepcase

The Feature:
Brewster McGee is a rather dark - almost ominously dark look at friendships – old and new. The film centers around Brewster McGee (played by Brent Neale) and Malcolm (played by Reid Edwards), who are friends but seem to have no jobs or any real aspirations in life other than quick get-rich schemes. Brewster's most recent venture is a copyright on a phrase that he believes will bring him millions; “son of a f@#&”... The vast majority of the film takes place in their rusted out old Plymouth beater, that’s strangely (and constantly) parked in the lot of the local Chicken Hut.

Brewster is a rather loud and obnoxious fellow who is dangerously possessive of his friendship with Malcolm. He's only too quick to keep reminding Malcolm the meaning of the words trust and friendship. He’s the type of man who can talk all day, yet say nothing at all. Clearly, he has a chip on shoulder, thinking the world owes him everything.

Malcolm, a hippie (and who suspiciously looks like David Koresh), talks like someone you might expect from your local branch of the Chamber of Commerce. He is articulate, always using a broad vocabulary in an interesting vernacular, but seems to lack the intelligence and confidence of a man to simply think for himself. Malcolm is a lost soul who seems caught up in the friendship that Brewster has manufactured, unwilling or unable to function without that safety net.

One day, the pair notices a young Assistant Manager, Oliver (played by Don Ackerman) from the Chicken Hut who’s being reprimanded for his poor work performance and they quickly take him in under their wing (pun obviously intended) and allow him to be one of their friends. Oliver has recently gone through a rather messy break-up and is emotionally fragile, and happily accepts the invitation. Soon after, Oliver meets a young and interested waitress, Corrina (played by Melanie Mitchell) at the restaurant and soon his energy and his attention is focused on his new love interest. After being stood up by Oliver due to a date with Corrina, Brewster becomes enraged and decides to take matters into his own hands, writing a letter which contains confidential information about Corrina resulting in her breaking off the relationship and leaving Oliver without a job.

Oliver eventually discovers who was responsible for the evil deed and declares his contempt for Brewster. Malcolm is also repulsed by Brewster’s actions and winds up learning a thing or two himself, about the word “trust” and what it means.

Brewster McGee is a small independent effort that was the creation of Canadian filmmaker Ross Munro who wrote, produced and directed the low budget film. The movie was produced on a shoestring budget of $50,000 Canadian. Presumably due to the financial constraints, the film’s shorter than usual running time (64 minutes) still permits the storyline to be laid without seeming rushed and allows the characters to be well developed. A very good first effort.

The Feature: 3.5/5

No real surprises here. The B&W film was shot on 16mm and is what you might expect, of mediocre quality – perhaps slightly better than you might expect.

The overall image has its fair share of moderate to heavy film grain resulting in a very coarse looking image. The level of image definition isn’t too bad with a relatively decent and sharp looking image that does appear soft frequently.

The level of contrast and shadow detail is slightly on the darker side of the spectrum. Blacks are moderate in terms of depth and whites were usually murky.

There were scratches and blemishes but, this film shows mostly clean. There were no compression errors or other authoring issues to speak of.

Remember, this film was made for what equates to the catering budget of most major motion pictures. Having said that, the overall image and look of this gritty film is not only good but appropriate.

Video: 3.5/5

The disc is encoded with a monaural track and for the most part, does a pretty decent job.

Dialogue was usually clear although there were times when the track seemed to strain. The overall tonality of the track was on the slightly harsh side. There was only a slight hiss that persisted throughout the film, but it never became bothersome.

There really isn’t much to speak of in terms of dynamics but surprisingly, the music sounds robust with a decent amount of heft to it.

On a special note, I must give credit to Bruce Munro for the scoring, as I was actually quite impressed with the music. The film starts out with snare drum rolls, eliciting a “Presidential” feel, later mixed in with some guitar riffs which I though was pretty effective. Good job.

Audio: 3.5/5

Special Features:
Surprisingly, a few special features have been added. They are:
[*] A Commentary. Filmmaker Ross Munro and the film’s star, Brent Neale are featured for this commentary. The discussion is rather informative and the pair seem to have some fun providing many interesting tidbits as it relates to the film. The track is rather entertaining.

[*] Two Theatrical Trailers are also included, one in English and the other in Spanish. Obviously, the Spanish track is a parody of sorts… Hmmm, a parody of a parody… Duration: 2:51 and 2:01 minutes.
[*] Also included is a promo postcard as an Insert.

Special Features: 2.5/5

**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**

Final Thoughts:
Brewster McGee is an interesting character study from first time writer/director Ross Munro who does a surprisingly good job with his debut effort into the world of filmmaking. The film hosts several better than average performances, solid writing and a score, that for me, was certainly worthy of an honorable mention. It’s difficult to recommend any film blindly, particularly an indie with a dark and quirky feel. Suffice it to say that if you’re familiar with Kevin Smith's Clerks, then this film just might be right up your alley.

Aside from the obvious constraints relating to Munro’s limited budget, the presentation is on par or perhaps even slightly better than you might imagine. And the inclusion of a commentary and trailer is even more appreciated, especially when many of the major studios don’t always get that right. If you’re one to try-on independent films with a dose of peculiarity, check out Brewster McGee.

Those interested, can take a look here at the filmmaker’s website.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 (not an average)

Release Date: Available now

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