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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
"Well, you can't go to the police because you're being blackmailed and you can't stop the guy who's blackmailing you because he's got you by the short hairs. Now, if I were a betting man, and I am, I would bet that once you have the tape, you can go to the police, clear your good name and they'll catch the real bad guy. Am I right?"
DVD ReviewWhen a film entitled Bad Seed doesn't actually contain a character that fits that description, I should be able to file charges, or send someone to movie jail. How would you have felt if Gladiator was about a guy who worked at a car wash? Or if The Godfather told the story of a talking raccoon? No doubt you would have felt pretty much like I did after a recent viewing of the Artisan DVD release of Bad Seed, a tacky little flick from 2000 that was known at one time by the more appropriate, yet less sexy, title of Preston Tylk.
Luke Wilson (Bottle Rocket) is Preston Tylk, a seemingly nice enough guy who finds out his wife Emily (Mili Avital) has been having a long-term affair with a wiry, diary-keeping baker named Jonathan (Norman Reedus). After some aimless, grief-induced wandering through the rainy streets of Tacoma, Preston ends up back at home just in time to see a mysterious car speeding away from his house, presumably driven by his wife's lover. Preston charges in to find his wife nearly dead on the floor. When Emily dies one scene later, the angry Preston sets out on a rage-induced vendetta to find her murderous lover and take the law into his own hands. All of this happens in the first fifteen minutes, and with a better script this could have had all the ingredients for a taut thriller. Note that I said "could" have.
The whole problem is that it never manages a satisfactory payoff, especially in relation to the title. Writer/director Jon Bokenkamp tells a compelling enough story, but it's the conclusion that wrecks the 95 minutes that have come before. I realize that a film called Preston Tylk would probably not attract the rental crowd as much as the deceptively titled Bad Seed, but it is an out and out disservice to the unsuspecting mope who plunks down $3.50 to rent this clunker. I hate to completely bad wrap Bokenkamp's project on the basis of a title that in no way captures the essence of his film, but it is so jarring to at least merit discussion.
Wilson, who is made to resemble Tom Cruise on the DVD cover art, does the hangdog, wronged man act fairly well. I'm not sure if I totally buy his "dangle from a speeding truck" scene, but in general his character moves and speaks in a realistic manner. His anger and sorrow at learning of his wife's extra-marital affair comes across as genuine emotion, and Preston is not too macho to worry about being seen weeping alone in a diner.
On the other hand, Reedus, as the apparent villain, is supposed to make the viewer believe that his aggressive, gun-toting Jonathan would also keep a diary detailing his meetings with Emily. He looks evil, with a pair of cold, beady eyes; yet he can also write flowery prose about falling in love with a married woman. His character was never fleshed out enough for my tastes, and the thought of a sensitive, caring baker with a gun seemed inconsistent and manipulative. In my opinion Bokemkamp would have been better suited to have Jonathan look less like a criminal and more like an average joe.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and with Bad Seed it is a hilarious performance by Dennis Farina (Get Shorty) as a low-rent private detective named Dick, who is hired by Preston to help retrieve an incriminating videotape. As I mentioned earlier, Bokenkamp has a skill in penning refreshingly engaging dialogue, and Farina's character gets the bulk of the good stuff. Dick adds some much needed levity to the proceedings, and without it Bad Seed would have collapsed inward on it's own melodramatics, like a celluloid black hole.
I know I've been a little rough on this movie, and like a doctor, I can offer a second opionion. My lovely wife Jeanine has her own scale for rating a movie, which I call her "yeah, right" system. Basically, it is how many times a film will get her to utter "yeah, right" in disgust. I lost count during Bad Seed, but it was at least six or seven times, which doesn't include the big "yeah, right" muttered at the film's conlusion. Any of the good that Bokenkamp did is washed away during its slap in the face ending, with its shoddy Shawshank Redemption overtones and dramatic camera angles.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Artisan has released Bad Seed in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Much of the film is dark, and as such benefits from strong black levels and excellent shadow definition. There is some minor grain present, though not enough to be distracting. The colors look crisp, with no noticeable bloom, and flesh tones are stable. There were some compression issues most significantly evident during some of the rainy, night scenes and in a few of the interior shots of Jonathon's home.
The image transfer from Artisan earns higher marks that the actual content.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 and 2.0 mixes are virtually interchangeable. Not a bad thing necessarily, as both give full life to the score, and incorporate music cues as the dominant rear channel effect. No problem with dialogue clarity, and both audio mixes presented a stable, anchored sound field.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by writer/director Jon Bokenkamp, actor Luke Wilson; writer/director Jon Bokenkamp, producer Roni Equia, composer Kurt Kuenne
The second commentary track is also with Bokenkamp, but includes producer Roni Equia and composer Kurt Kuenne. This is more of the traditional behind-the-scenes track, and the inclusion of Kuenne is a nice touch. Too often composers get lost in the shuffle, and I really enjoyed hearing some of his comments on how this was scored.
A 15-image Photo Gallery is completely unneeded, and should not have been included. This isn't the type of film that one might be compelled to relive the experience through photos, unless you're a Luke Wilson junkie.
The 12-minute, behind-the-scenes featurette combines production footage, final scenes and talking heads of the principles. I watched it hoping to see if I missed some of the fine points, but apparently I didn't.
Twenty chapter stops, as well as English and Spanish subtitles complete the supplementals.
For a weak film, Artisan has included more bonus material than I would have expected. The two commentary tracks were a real plus.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsI found Bad Seed to be a deceptive and unfair thriller. With the exception of a funny turn by Dennis Farina, the main characters do nothing but ultimately waste 95 minutes of my time and shatter any hope I had of a satisfying movie experience.
Though it does have two somewhat interesting commentary tracks, my advice is don't rent this.
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