STANDER Production Date: 2003 (Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia - TriStar) Worldwide Premiere: September 6, 2003 (Toronto) US Premiere: January 16, 2004 (Sundance) US Theatrical Release: August 6, 2004 DVD Release: December 21, 2004 Running Time: 1:52:10 (23 chapter stops) Rating: R (Violence, Language, Sexuality & Nudity) Video: 1.78:1 Anamorphic (Note that the box does not state anamorphic widescreen, but it is indeed anamorphic.) Audio: English DD5.1, English DD2.0 (Extra features, including director’s commentary: English DD2.0) Subtitles: English, Spanish (Extra Features: none) (Occasionally, the player-generated subtitles will overlap burned-in subtitles when characters speak Afrikaans or Zulu. This is annoying, but easily fixable with a quick tap of the rewind button.) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None) Menus: Animated with shots from the film, and not skippable. A few trailers play automatically when the disc is inserted, but they may be fast-forwarded or skipped by pressing the Menu button. Packaging: Single-disc keep case; single-sheet insert containing only cover images from other titles. MSRP: $24.96 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 4/5 A grim true-life twist on the Robin Hood legend, Stander tells the story of an Apartheid-era South African cop who snaps after experiencing a violent riot in a Black township in 1976. Andre Stander (Thomas Jane, of Boogie Nights and Punisher fame) hasn’t led a perfect life, but as the film opens, things are looking up for him. He’s the youngest Captain of Detectives on the force, and his beautiful ex-wife (Deborah Kara Unger) is giving him another chance. However, his life is about to take a dramatic turn. Unrest looms over the country as mobs form and riots break out in the Black townships. All policemen are called to riot duty, from freckle-faced rookies to grizzled military veterans. Stander finds himself in the middle of a standoff between a chanting mob and a motley assortment of policemen and soldiers armed with live ammunition. When violence breaks out, he is caught up in the chaos and fires on the protestors. No longer is he a detective, staking out drug dens and examining crime scenes -- he has become a killer of unarmed people. Something inside him breaks, and he will never again be the same man. Stander’s first act is to take himself off of riot duty, which he knows will cripple his career and break the heart of his father, a highly respected retired police general. His second is to realize, while the rest of the police force is off quelling another riot, that “a white man could get away with anything!" A powerful impulse strikes him, and he finds himself pointing a gun at a bank teller. What begins as an angry lashing-out against the system soon turns into an addiction to the adrenaline rush of bank robbery. Eventually, his one-man operation grows to include two criminal acquaintances, and the Stander Gang is born. These gentleman bank robbers, sticking it to the system (but keeping the loot for themselves), become a media sensation, almost like folk heroes to the general populace. The film plays like a traditional caper flick with political overtones. It’s episodic, but moves at a quick pace, with a smattering of action sequences. Many scenes boil over with tension, even when there is no actual violence. The actors are brilliant, especially Thomas Jane, who brings real humanity to Andre Stander’s descent from police hero to political outlaw to greedy criminal. It’s an amazing story that would make for great fiction if it weren’t true. THE WAY I SEE IT: 4/5 The picture, mastered in hi-def, is mildly grainy, giving it a period (late '70s - early '80s), almost documentary, feel. Colors are realistic, neither washed-out nor oversaturated, but much of the film is very shadowy. Black level is generally good, but the shadowy scenes lack detail. Edge enhancement is not an issue, and there are no compression artifacts to speak of. Basically, the image is solid, though unspectacular. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4/5 Most of the audio consists of dialogue and music, and is limited to the front soundstage, although there are a few action sequences that make use of the surrounds. Dialogue is clear and crisp, which is important since the actors are all speaking with South African accents (some affected; some real). The surrounds kick into high gear during the township uprising sequence, when they are cleverly used to enhance the feeling of chaos in the scene. A separate 2.0 mix is included, which doesn’t pack quite the punch of the 5.1 track. A funky, retro-rock soundtrack is provided by The Free Association, mixed with some African musical stylings and a few period rock tunes. Combined with the late '70s - early '80s costume and hair design, it’s hard not to be reminded of the Beastie Boys' Sabotage video. THE SWAG: 4/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Director’s Commentary: Director Bronwyn Hughes provides a solo scene-specific commentary that does just about everything a commentary should. She talks throughout the entire film, discussing the production, the actors, and where the film did and did not deviate from the actual events on which it’s based. A lot of thought and preparation was put into making this film as authentic as possible, from the use of archival footage and real protest songs in designing the riot sequence to shooting in real-life locations (including the actual courtroom where Nelson Mandela was sentenced to prison), and learning about it is fascinating. Hughes also delivers one of the funniest lines in commentary history when describing how she directed a sex scene. As the credits begin to roll, when most directors tend to say “thanks for listening!" and shut up, she starts talking faster in order to squeeze in as much information as possible. This is an all-around great track. Deleted Scenes: Two deleted scenes are included, running 2:18 and 1:28. There is no introduction or commentary for them. Interestingly, one is anamorphic, and the other isn’t! Both scenes are interesting, but unnecessary to the final structure of the film, which is to say they are just the sort of deleted scenes that should be included on a DVD. Sundance Channel’s Anatomy of a Scene: (25:41) This featurette takes an in-depth look at the township riot sequence. Comments from the director, crew and cast are included, along with comparisons of archival footage and photographs with the scene as it appears in the film. Anatomy of a Scene featurettes are always interesting, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Trailers: A short trailer for Stander (0:52) is included, along with trailers for the following: Bad Education (0:37) Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (2:21) Riding Giants (2:14) Rosenstrasse (1:55) She Hate Me (2:21) Silver City (2:29) I give major kudos to Columbia - TriStar for including a good number of extra previews. While trailers in general ain’t what they used to be (and tend to give away far too much of most films for my taste), I like to watch a few before a feature in order to re-create the theatrical experience. More studios should be this generous. SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 4/5 The Way I See It: 4/5 The Way I Hear It: 4/5 The Swag: 4/5 While Stander did not get a wide theatrical release, or much in the way of publicity, it definitely deserves to find an audience. It should appeal to anyone interested in true-crime or caper flicks, and especially to Thomas Jane fans (with a few gratuitous nude scenes for his female admirers). A solid film, a solid presentation, and a solid collection of extra features earn Stander my RECOMMENDED seal of approval.