Carl Franklin’s gritty 1992 feature directorial debut receives a UHD release from The Criterion Collection.
The Production: 4/5
After committing a string of brutal crimes, would-be drug dealers Ray (Billy Bob Thornton) and Pluto (Michael Beach) go on the run with Ray’s girlfriend Fantasia (Cynda Williams), hoping to unload their recently acquired drug cache, before hiding out in Ray and Fantasia’s home town of Star City, Arkansas. Behind them are LAPD detectives Dud Cole (Jim Metzler) and John McFeely (Earl Billings). Ahead of them is Star City Sheriff, Dale “Hurricane” Dixon (Bill Paxton).
What starts off as a surprisingly violent crime movie, quickly turns into a drama driven, cat and mouse thriller. As the trio crosses the country, with law enforcement drawing closer from both sides, pieces of the story gradually come together, until they converge in rural Arkansas.
When One False Move was first released, much was made of the level of violence in those opening scenes, with reports of people walking out of an early screening. I do recall on first viewing 30 years ago, my jaw dropping at scenes that could make the most enthusiastic Tarantino fan cringe. Director Carl Franklin has stated that he insisted on including those scenes in order for the audience to know exactly what was heading toward Hurricane, the unprepared small town sheriff. He made the correct decision.
In spite of the opening ten minutes or so, One False Move is primarily a dialog motivated drama. Peeling away at many dynamics of life. In the end, it is an excellent piece of reality inspired fiction, co-written by Billy Bob Thornton and childhood friend Tom Epperson.
One False Move has had an interesting history. It was originally intended for the direct-to-video market, but the instant critical buzz resulted in a very limited theatrical run. Since then, it has remained little known, but a constant favorite of film lovers everywhere. So, it is a welcome surprise to see it given a well deserved UHD treatment from The Criterion Collection, and the image quality presented here is far above anything I’d ever hoped for.
3D Rating: NA
One False Move is a very low budget movie, shot on 35mm film. I doubt the total budget was more than several hundred thousand dollars, which makes the overall image quality of the UHD disc rather surprising. Low light scenes, such as the opening sequence, contain a healthy amount of vibrant grain, which has an almost iridescent quality in 4K with Dolby Vision. The daylight scenes, which make up the majority of the film, are crystal clear. In fact, considering the budget constraints, I’m surprised how impeccably it was filmed. I didn’t notice a single instance of focus slipping or being missed. The tonal range and consistency was much better than a film produced under these limitations has any business being.
Two audio tracks are included, 2-channel surround in both DTS HD and Dolby. This is not an audio intensive movie, having mostly dialog with a little ambiance and occasional background music. So the soundtrack really isn’t very important, as long as it is balanced and dialog is easily intelligible, which it is. My only minor quibble is that the background music, when it is there, tends to be rather distant and echoey. It really is no problem, though.
Special Features: 2/5
Conversation with Carl Franklin & Billy Bob Thornton (27:27) – Director Carl Franklin discusses the making of One False Move with co-star/co-writer Billy Bob Thornton.
One False Move is an excellent example of the type of film that can be made without an abundance of funding, but with an abundance of talent. From the writing, to the directing, to the cinematography, to the acting, by a mostly (at the time) little-known cast, it manages to hit so many perfect notes. While its limited budget is apparent, it is not an impediment to the power and complexity of the story.
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