HTF REVIEW: "The Grifters" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Sep 24, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]

    The Grifters




    Studio: Miramax
    Year: 1990
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 110 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
    Subtitles: English



    Seduction. Betrayal. Murder. Who's Conning Who?
    I have always been very public about being a
    fan of John Cusack. Those that know how much
    I enjoy his work have been persuading me to
    watch The Grifters, one of the few films
    of his I have managed to see.
    [​IMG]
    "The Grifters" is a gloomy, tense film that
    explores the lives of three con artists and
    their relationships to each other. There's
    Roy (John Cusack) a young grifter, working
    'short cons' on innocents such as bartenders
    and sailors. Roy's mother, Lilly (Anjelica
    Huston) works the racetracks for a sadistic
    mobster (Pat Hingle). Then there's Roy's
    girlfriend Myra (Annette Bening), a ruthless
    con artist, who preys on desperate businessman
    and perhaps, is preying on Roy himself. Every
    one of these characters is just waiting for
    a sucker to be born.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    With everyone scamming everyone else, The
    Grifters works as a character study, delving
    into the minds of these desperate criminal types.
    It's interesting to learn that this was the film
    where Cusack was finally coming into his own as
    a serious actor coming off of starring roles in
    more wilder '80s teen comedies.
    [​IMG]
    I think the biggest surprise in this film for
    me was hearing a familiar voice and then seeing
    one of my all-time favorite character actors,
    Henry Jones. This film was one of his very last
    theatrical appearances. He died 9 years later.
    How is the transfer?
    Considering this film is already 12 years old,
    I wasn't expecting the film to look this good...
    but it does! Miramax has given us an extremely
    clean anamorphic transfer that remains crisply
    detailed in both its day and night lit scenes.
    Colors are very pronounced and accurate all around.
    The only problem I see here is a visible amount of
    noise that shows up in scenes with white background
    or sky. You'll notice it most prominently in the
    opening credits of the film as well as during a
    few darker interior sequences. All of this is
    quite minimal and should not deter from your
    enjoyment of the film.
    [​IMG]
    Though there is no 5.1 here, you'll be pleasantly
    surprised how good the Dolby surround mix is. Elmer
    Bernstein's musical soundtrack distributes itself
    rather evenly between the front and rear channels.
    While most of the film's action comes across the
    front channels with lots of underlying bass, the
    rears provide some terrific effect sounds such as
    a crowd at a racetrack, the sounds of street
    traffic, or the echo of the racetrack announcer's
    PA system.
    Special Features
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    Released under Miramax's Collector Series
    banner, The Grifters contains an interesting
    amount of added material that compliments the film.
    Take a look at this Feature Commentary! At
    first glance you can't help but to get excited over
    a commentary that features Director Stephen Frears,
    Screenwriter Donald E. Westlake and actors John
    Cusack and Anjelica Huston. The problem is, like
    most commentaries on recent DVD releases, all of
    the material has been recorded separately, thus
    the commentary comes off quite bland with absolutely
    no spontaneity. Right off the bat, Cusack talks
    about being this young actor who felt the weight
    of the film's success upon his shoulder -- especially
    given the fact that he was surrounded by adult
    co-stars. Director Stephen Frears talks about
    casting the young actor under recommendation without
    having to do an exhaustive search. He also talks
    about the problems he had filming at most racetracks
    (they wouldn't permit it), until Arizona let them
    use theirs. Donald Westlake reveals that both
    Anjelica Huston and Cher were the first choices
    to play the character of Lilly. He also readily
    discusses how difficult it was to translate from
    Jim Thompson's novel to film and how he often had
    to improvise scenes. As the film rolls along,
    Angelica provides some interesting insight into
    her character relaying where that character's
    thoughts are at the moment. Obviously her character
    has gotten deeper into the grift than anyone else's.
    All in all, the commentary remains interesting, but
    it is just done so blandly, with everyone giving
    quiet, low-key commentary that could have been
    much lighter had all of them been in the same room
    together during the recording sessions.
    [​IMG][​IMG]
    The Making Of The Grifters begins with
    Director Stephen Frears (who really should comb
    his hair) and Screenwriter Donald E. Westlake
    discussing how they first came into the film
    project. John Cusack talks about the casting
    session he had with Frears in a NY hotel room.
    It was certainly one of the strangest meetings
    he had ever had. Huston talks about being taken
    back by the script, coming to the audition wearing
    a beautiful red dress. Both actors talk about
    Annette Benning's professional acting ability.
    The cast fondly talks about Jim Thompson's novel,
    and his ability to write about the wrong people
    being in the wrong place. The documentary also
    covers the periodic look of the film, the costume
    designs and what it was like to be on the set with
    Director Stephen Frears. Finally, we learn about
    the release of the film and the critical acclaim
    that it received. After all, it was the film
    that put Miramax on the map.
    (length: approx. 16 minutes)
    The Jim Thompson Story takes a look at
    the author who was considered to be darkest and
    boldest of all the American crime writers. This
    featurette traces his life from birth through
    his young years when he came in touch with the
    underworld. Jim Thompson, like many of his
    characters, was a man in the wrong place in
    the wrong time. He had immense talent but never
    got the respect he deserved. After his death, and
    with the release of The Grifters, he is
    slowly being recognized for his literary talents.
    (length: Approx. 7.5 minutes)
    [​IMG]
    The Grifters Scrapbook give us almost 40
    publicity and production still photos that you
    browse through using your DVD remote. I sort of
    enjoyed the unique approach to displaying these
    pictures, as they stack themselves upon one another
    as if they were files being placed on top of a
    desk.
    There is absolutely no original theatrical
    trailer included here (which is quite odd), but
    there are trailers for Serendipity, High
    Fidelity, Grosse Point Blank
    and 40 Days
    and 40 nights
    .
    Final Thoughts
    I personally found The Grifters to be a
    very startling film full of intrigue and depth.
    I'm not sure, however, if I found it to be an
    enjoyable movie experience simply because of its
    dark storyline. Still, I respect the fact that
    this film has a rather large following.
    Miramax has done an ample job of releasing a
    Collector's Edition that is sure to please fans
    of this film, despite the fact that the commentary
    is a little bland and the DVD lacks a theatrical
    trailer.
    Release Date: October 8, 2002
     
  2. Aaron Cohen

    Aaron Cohen Second Unit

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    Thanks for the review. I might check this out. I'm a big fan of Cusack as well! I'm already spending a ton of money today though what with all the Warner 2-disc Special Editions!!!! Hehe, but judging from your reviews they should be great! Thanks again.
     
  3. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Cool. I was never really satisfied with previous video editions of this title. It's nice to see it is being done right.

    Regards,
     
  4. Brent Bridgeman

    Brent Bridgeman Second Unit

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    A great movie that I can't wait to see in its OAR. Annette Bening is just hot in this.

    Also, check out the producers for a familiar HTF name.
     
  5. Craig Robertson

    Craig Robertson Supporting Actor

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  6. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Perhaps they just went back to the original theatrical soundtrack in favor of the remix. As long as it is a good DD2.0 track, I'm fine with that. I often find myself liking good masterings of pro-logic mixes better than the subsequent 5.1 remixes. Examples include the Criterion Silence of the Lambs and Robocop releases. I would be interested to hear the story on the soundtrack from someone who really knows, though.

    Regards,
     
  7. Andrew Bunk

    Andrew Bunk Screenwriter

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    I know Ron's review states a release date of 10/8, but this actually came out today-best Buy only had about 5 copies though. Can't wait to see it on DVD for the first time.
     
  8. Tim RH

    Tim RH Second Unit

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    I think it should be mentioned that this forum's own ROBERT A. HARRIS is one of the producers of The Grifters, for anyone who's interested! [​IMG]
     
  9. John Geelan

    John Geelan Screenwriter

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    One of my favorite little movies. Annette Bening really made her mark here. No wonder Warren Beatty grabbed her up. If he didn't, I would have [​IMG] Thanks Ron!
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The original mix on Grifters was Dolby SVA (2 track Dolby encoded).

    It was never a 5.1 mix.

    RAH
     
  11. JamesD

    JamesD Auditioning

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    This is one of my all time faves. I'm glad to see that Mirimax has treated it right. Thanks for the review.
     
  12. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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  13. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    Tony,
    You can be a fan of anyone without experiencing
    all their films, music, or whatever.
    Let's just say that I have seen just about every
    Cusack film. I never saw The Grifters
    because it was just one of those films that got
    past me at that time.
    I am not a huge fan of Angelica Huston, either.
     
  14. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    "You can be a fan of anyone without experiencing
    all their films, music, or whatever."

    gotcha. good point.
     
  15. Andrew D F

    Andrew D F Stunt Coordinator

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    Ron,

    I believe that Tony was commenting on this fragment:

     
  16. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?
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    that is exactly what i was referring to.
     

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