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A-Pix Entertainment presents
Oxygen (1999)

"I think you're very much like me."
- Harry (Adrien Brody)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: August 29, 2000

Stars: Maura Tierney, Adrien Brody
Other Stars: Terry Kinney, James Naughton, Laila Robins, Paul Calderon, Dylan Baker, Olek Krupa
Director: Richard Shepard

Manufacturer: CAPVMT
MPAA Rating: R for (Violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:32m:33s
Release Date: January 11, 2000
UPC: 783722701935
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Kidnapped and buried alive, a woman has only 48 hours to live. Can the detective assigned to the case outwit her opponent and discover the victim's location before it's too late? That's pretty much the setup for the made for TV movie Oxygen, starring News Radio's Maura Tierney and <B>The Thin Red Line's Adrien Brody.

It helps to know beforehand that this was a fairly low budget film ($1.5 million) shot in under a month. It explains why this feels more like an episode of Hill Street Blues than Silence Of The Lambs or either version of The Vanishing. While I suppose it was tolerable, at almost all times I felt like I was watching actors acting; I never bought into the story or the characters.

Although the opening shot—which the director explains he ripped off from a music video—is cool, the movie lost me from the first act. We establish the villian Harry (Brody) as he meets his intended victim Frances (Laila Robbins), the wife of a millionaire, while she is out on the street walking her dog. He strikes up a conversation which she seems far too interested in (Hello? This is New York...). Inevitably she gets whacked upside the head with a pistol and we see her kicking and screaming as she is driven away. Next, we're out in the woods and it is revealed that our kidnapper plans to bury the woman. She is understandably upset, but I am just not connecting with her. She is told to take off her clothes (this doesn't have a reason, as she remains partially clothed), and we see her in a box getting ready to be buried. She's pleading away and asks for a flashlight because she is afraid of the dark, which is denied by the bad guy, but conveniently supplied by his accomplice. This begs the question, why would you have a flashlight with you if you are out in the woods in the middle of the day, other than to serve the shooting of a film? All credibility is lost already.

Next we meet our lady cop Madeline (Maura Tierney), whose opening scene involves chasing a bad guy through a subway train (a sequence made more interesting by the commentary). After shooting the guy, she is upset, and calls a man who is obviously manipulates her. We then see her show up at a hotel and meet this man, who pours drinks and they disappear. As she is staggering back down the street, her partner happens to find her, indicating she has to go back to work. A breath mint and a quick emotional scene in the washroom where we also discover she also has cigarette burns on her arm, and she is fully recovered from being blind drunk—not even her husband (the chief of police) seems to notice. We get to the briefing room and watch the tape submitted by the kidnapper which features our victim in bra and panties pleading for her husband to cough up a million bucks. The cops set up a trap at the drop-off point (Harry Houdini's tomb), the bad guy leads them on a car chase through New York and gets caught, and we spend the rest of the film in the interigation room, trying to see if Madeline can get Harry (who is named afer Houdini) to crack.

Since I could care less about the victim, whether she is saved or not is inconsequential. Brody pulls off a pretty decent performance, but I found him more irritating than disturbing. Tierney does a wide range of acting, but the believability of the character and the way the story is manipulated doesn't allow you to sympathize with her, either. In the end, there is not a lot to gain from watching this film, other than perhaps an appreciation for other, better ones.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Oxygen is presented in a 1.85:1 transfer enhanced for 16:9 TVs. There is a some grain at times, especially during sequences with deep blues. The image is just a bit soft with no sign of edge enhancement. Colors are strong, black level is good, and compression artifacts are minimal. Overall the disc looks pretty good.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is 5.1 surround, but there is not a lot going on in the rear channels. Most of this film is dialogue (and more dialogue), so it could have been mono for all intents and purposes. Audio is clean with no distortion.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Razor Blade Smile, Six Ways To Sunday, Phantom Of The Opera, Dance With The Devil
Production Notes
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Richard Shepard and stars Maura Tiera and Alan Brody
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Storyboard to scene comparison for car chase sequence (two featurettes)
Extras Review: We get a screen specific, full length commentary with director Richard Shepard, Maura Tierney and Alan Brody. Although they spend most of the time mocking the film, the commentary is this disc's saving grace, without it I would have thrown this one to the dogs. Parts are actually interesting, and the informality was welcome.

We also get a section with two short featurettes on the car chase sequence which gives us an overview of the scene looking at storyboards with commentary from director Richard Shepard and editor Adam Lichtenstein, with the second featurette viewing the actual filmed sequence, also with commentary. Again, these extras are this disc's saving grace, as it is actually interesting to hear how they put together the sequences given their budget and time constraints.

There is a selection of trailers, including previews of other A-Pix discs—Razor Blade Smile, Six Ways To Sunday, Phantom Of The Opera and Dance With The Devil—which run 5 and a half minutes in total. A theatrical and preview trailer for Oxygen are also included, along with a filmographies section, which is actually a collection of short bios for the whole cast.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Well, I didn't buy into the victim or the scenario, so this one was a bit of a waste. If you can set aside all the elements they used to force the story along, I suppose it could be serviceable. If you are at all interested in low budget filmmaking, the commentary and supplements would be worth going through on their own, otherwise I'd file this as a really low priority rental.


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