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USA Home Video presents
Matter of Trust (1997)

Theresa: It was different with us. It was intense. That scared me. I didn't know who I was then. And I shouldn't have walked out on you like I did. You didn't deserve that. Mike: It's okay. Theresa: No, it's not. It's not. Mike: It is.
- Joan Severance, C. Thomas Howell

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: January 28, 2002

Stars: C. Thomas Howell, Joan Severance, Nick Mancuso
Other Stars: Robert Miano, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Vince Ricotta, Randee Heller, Corbin Timbrook, David Ornston
Director: Joey Travolta

Manufacturer: Macrovision
MPAA Rating: R for nudity, violence
Run Time: 01h:29m:59s
Release Date: January 22, 2002
UPC: 696306009825
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- DC-B- D

DVD Review

Don't you sometimes lie awake at night and wonder: Golly, whatever will I do if, when I go to the kitchen in the morning, I find a severed human finger frying in a sautée pan on the stovetop? If so, then good news, film fans: Matter of Trust is the answer to those prayers. Things begin badly—the sounds of sadomasochistic sex and Gregorian chants over the opening credits, followed by an ungainly amount of exposition via radio call-in shows—and don't ever really get any better. We learn that there's a serial murderer killing prostitutes in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, and are soon introduced to Michael D'Angelo (C. Thomas Howell), alcoholic cop, a guy who takes a healthy swig of Smirnoff before getting out of bed. He is called to a murder scene—the serial killer's latest victim—and we're treated to what's probably intended to be clever dialogue ("You f***ed up this time, man, you really f****ed up big." "Johnny, you gotta cover for me, okay?"), plus D'Angelo vomiting in an alley when he's supposed to be chasing a suspect. And it's not just the hookers who are in the crosshairs: at the crime scene, someone jumps out of a neighboring apartment and guns down an officer. (Full disclosure: the cop who gets whacked in the first five minutes is named Danzig, a surname perilously close to my own, and I readily admit to being less than charitable toward a movie that so readily kills off a possible distant relative, even a fictional one.) Next we meet Theresa, played by Joan Severance, an assistant district attorney looking to take on her first solo case—is the cop shooting the one? She wants to tie it to the Echo Park murders, but the office isn't having any of it. She's married to Peter, an overworked doctor, who is fond of bemoaning his life in this manner: "What happened to the dream, Theresa? What the f*** happened to the dream?" Peter is played by Nick Mancuso, who either has an extremely peculiar head of hair, or should consider finding a new stylist for his piece. Whatever that is on the top of his head is, unintentionally, the scariest thing in the movie. How's this for a wacky coincidence? Before Theresa married Peter, she went out with Mike, who still carries a torch for her. Matter of Trust is a haphazardly told story—characters show up and disappear for expository purposes only, and we see improbable character traits like Mike blowing off steam by smoking cigarettes and drinking bottled water at an S&M bar. And some stuff is just plain insultingly stupid: for instance, someone drops off an envelope for Mike at an AA meeting. Who is going to pass that along, given that the second A stands for "Anonymous"?The whole thing is just very sloppy—there are some surgically enhanced breasts on display early on, but the movie gives up on the soft porn idea pretty quickly, making it unfit even for late night runs on Cinemax. And given that there's basically one suspect for the crimes, the suspense will not leave you on the edge of your seat. It's a movie where memories of the past always happen in black & white, with gratuitously grotesque subsidiary characters like a junkie mother and her transvestite son and the suggestion of a sexual relationship between them, and in which we're treated to lovely lines of dialogue like: "Did you get my sperm?"Surprise: the acting here is very poor indeed. Howell is gruff and boring, and despite a 2002 copyright on the case, the movie betrays the fact that it was made in 1997 with Howell's goatee, very second Clinton Administration. Severance is listed as a co-producer, so perhaps she should have known better; she seems to confuse acting with squinting. But they're not the worst of it: particularly egregious is Jennifer Leigh Warren, who plays Theresa's assistant. She mugs hopelessly, offering five or six tics where even one would be too much, in unsuccessful attempts to steal some focus. One nice little bit: Mike lives next door to Travolta Auto Body, obviously the namesake of the film's director. If as much care had gone into the story and the shoot as into this one little dollop of production design, there might actually have been a movie here.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: If you looked up the term "straight to video" in a film dictionary, you might find Matter of Trust. It's not a particularly well-shot movie, and the transfer to DVD is erratic, almost haphazard. Colors don't stay true from one scene to another, and the blacks are all over the grayscale.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Surprisingly, the audio is the peppiest thing on the disc. Pretty fair use is made of the surrounds, though almost always for music cues telegraphing plot points.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Just the chapter stops, but it's worth commenting on the extremely poor copywriting job that was done on the packaging. The copywriter evidently cannot distinguish between a private law firm and a district attorney's office, and favors us with this impenetrable sentence: "But all things erupt when personal issues that have been repressed begin to surface in horrifying ways bringing everyone together in an explosive triangle of betrayal." (All things erupt? Bringing everyone together?) Even after having watched the movie, I have no idea what this sentence means.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Even on a busy weekend night at the video store, the DVD section would have to be pretty well picked over before you'd go home happy with Matter of Trust. The front of the case asks: "Can trust overcome deadly lies?" I don't know, but it can't overcome lousy moviemaking.


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