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Lions Gate presents
The Hollywood Sign (2001)

Kage: That's cause rigor mortis has passed. Must've been here over 36 hours. See, stiffness of the limbs is a condition engendered by a chemical reaction of lactic acid produced by muscular tissue, generally dissipating after a period of 36 hours.
Tom: Where'd you learn that?
Kage: Well, I played a Forensic Expert in a Roger Corman movie. I was very good.

- Burt Reynolds, Tom Berenger

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 13, 2003

Stars: Tom Berenger, Rod Steiger, Jacqueline Kim, Burt Reynolds
Other Stars: David Proval, Al Sapienza, Dominic Keating, Eric Bruskotter
Director: Sönke Wortmann

Manufacturer: Technicolor
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence
Run Time: 01h:32m:28s
Release Date: September 17, 2002
UPC: 658149804326
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ C-B+C+ D-

DVD Review

Though it looked like the impetus for a revival of a waning career, in retrospect, I don't think Burt Reynolds' 1997 Oscar® nomination for Boogie Nights was a good thing. Since then, he's been playing the same role over and over—the washed-up has-been struggling with his own obsolescence. What began as an ironic, surprisingly worthy casting choice has now doubled back on itself as Reynolds has gone from milking the character type for its satirical potential to embodying it fully. I'll pause while you note the irony.

Despite the disastrous The Final Hit, Reynolds is once again dabbling in insider Hollywood comedy. He plays a former TV star whose career downturn was due in large part to his drinking and temperamental on-set attitude. He meets up with former colleague Tom (Berenger), who suffers from a typecasting problem, and discovers that Tom has a hot script to sell. The two team up with Floyd (Steiger), a B-movie actor, but to get the script produced, they need financing. Logically, they decide that exploiting Floyd's mob connection (a gangster named Rodney, Floyd installed his security system) is the best bet. Then the trio happens upon a former friend of Rod's (as in formerly living) and concocts a plan. They bug the mobster's house and discover that he has stashed away $9 million is stolen cash. To get a hold of it, it'll take a great scheme and the best actors in Hollywood to pull it off. Unfortunately, they've only got each other.

I suppose The Hollywood Sign was intended to be sardonic and witty, but it isn't. Leon De Winter's script makes use of a number of hackneyed devices, but the most offensive is the self-aware, ironic bent. I suppose such is to be expected in a film about filmmaking, but De Winter pulls the trick where you have your characters talk about a movie that's very similar to the one they are experiencing. The "great script" that Tom is trying to get produced? It's called The Hollywood Sign. And it's a satire about the criminal antics that surround the production of a Hollywood film (that is itself about corrupt moviemakers). The dialogue is also fairly weak, though there are some nice character moments (such as the scene where Kage sits down to watch one of his old movies and collapses under the weight of his wasted career).

Sönke Wortmann direction is a mixed bag as well. He and director of photography Wedigo Von Schultzendorff (both from Germany; De Winter is from the Netherlands) keep things visually interesting, with an oddball style that highlights the artificiality of Hollywood. Wortmann handles pacing poorly, though, failing to draw engaging performances from his actors and allowing the 90-minute film to drag in the middle before a hasty, poorly told conclusion.

It's worth noting that this was one of Rod Steiger's last films; he also appeared with Reynolds in The Final Hit. His long career eventually dwindled into small roles and straight-to-video fare, and it's a little sad that his character in this one was so true-to-life. Hollywood, she is a harsh mistress.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is above average, particularly for a film released straight to video. Colors are somewhat muted due to some stylish photography and lighting, by stay consistent throughout. Black level is good, as if shadow detail. There's some artifacting hiding in a few shots, but nothing too distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Though billed as a DD 5.1 mix, this sounds like 2.0 all the way. The front soundstage handles nearly everything. Dialogue is anchored in the center channel, though it does bleed into the surrounds. Music spreads between the front mains but sounds a little thin. When the surrounds do kick in (during the lethargic action scenes), they offer little real enhancement to the mix.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Hotel Chelsea, Swimming with Sharks
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Extras are as such: choose the trailer from the main menu or click on the Lion's Gate logo to see clips for Pretentious Ethan Hawke Project Hotel Chelsea (included because of the Chelsea scenes in The Hollywood Sign) and 1994's Kevin Spacey Hollywood satire Swimming with Sharks.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

The Hollywood Sign's tired script is matched in quality by the tired performances from the aged cast. I wouldn't suggest watching it when you are tired, though, unless you're trying to fall asleep that much faster. Lion's Gate's DVD isn't bad, though.


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