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Anchor Bay presents
Slayground (1984)

"It's more than just a robbery now."
- Stone (Peter Coyote)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 05, 2003

Stars: Peter Coyote, Mel Smith
Other Stars: Billie Whitelaw, Ned Eisenberg, Philip Sayer, Marie Masters, David Hayward, Michael Ryan
Director: Terry Bedford

Manufacturer: Crest National
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:29m:10s
Release Date: December 03, 2002
UPC: 013131211795
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB- D

DVD Review

Slayground, aside from having just an incredibly dumb title, is a largely forgotten little crime thriller from 1984 starring Peter Coyote as a down-on-his-luck crook who finds himself being hunted down by a ruthless assassin. The story has decent lineage as it was penned by author Donald Westlake, who later went on to write the quick-witted screenplay for The Grifters. In Slayground, though, things are a little less cerebral, and the perpetually dismal world that the assorted characters tumble through is grubby, dank and muddy, even when the story suddenly shifts locales to England during the film's second half.

Coyote portrays Stone, a struggling thief who leads a trio of thugs on an armored truck heist. The robbery itself goes without a hitch (more or less), but the getaway is marred when an innocent girl is killed. The young girl's grieving father is Danard (Michael Ryan), the wealthy owner of a hockey team, and he enlists the services of a mysterious assassin to hunt down those responsible for the death of his daughter.

Director Terry Bedford put together a solid ensemble cast, including a particularly well-acted and believable performance from Coyote as the bad luck prone Stone. Billie Whitelaw, who was the creepy Mrs. Baylock in The Omen, has a small role as Madge, a woman harangued by an effeminate British mobster. It is Madge's dilapidated amusement park that serves as the locale for Slayground's big climax, and Whitelaw gives her character a wonderful dose of exasperated desperation. Mel Smith, maybe best known as The Albino in The Princess Bride, is also one of the film's most engaging characters (next to Coyote); Smith is Stone's former partner Terry who is, although now straight, reluctantly willing to help his old friend.

The bugaboo in Slayground is the presence of the so-called assassin, who is only shown in silhouette or shadow, and who speaks in a weird, southern-tinged accent. His methods and techniques are so excessive that it takes quite a few logical leaps to accept that his style is really going to be effective. He lobs grenades and fires machine guns indiscriminantly, and misses killing Coyote's Stone so many times I wondered why he didn't just sneak up behind him and shoot him once rather than stand outside a building and pump it full of machine gun rounds. Plus, the story makes him out to be some sort of Scooby-Doo uber-villain, who can just appear and disappear at will, and the character is never developed as anything more than just a one-dimensional character who seems especially shallow when matched against the natural performances by Coyote and Smith.

Even with the hokey assassin plot, the bulk of Slayground is a generally enjoyable crime saga. There are no completely good characters to be found here, and all of them are deeply touched by the lure of crime in some way or another, but unfortunately the assassin is the plot point Bedford and Westlake decided should serve to hold the narrative of the film together. I would have preferred Slayground focus more on the relationship between Stone and Terry, and though that does make up a chunk of the second half of the film, it all has to eventually fall back on the bogeyman presence of the black-clad gun-for-hire. The film culminates in a big showdown in a rundown amusement park, and there are some great moments of creepy, surreal carnival props that figure prominently as the assassin hunts down Stone.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: There are a lot of DVD companies that could learn a thing or two from Anchor Bay with regard to image transfers. Here is yet another relatively minor film that they have successfully resurrected in a sharp looking 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors and fleshtones are not as lush as you might find in a more contemporary film, but they are as well-balanced and natural as you are likely to find on a B-movie crime film from the early 1980s. There is a bit of fine grain and ringing (especially noticeable on vehicle grillwork), but overall the image transfer looks very good.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Two mono tracks (English and French) are provided by Anchor Bay, and both are serviceable and adequate. Dialogue is reproduced cleanly, with no noticeable hiss.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Not much in the extras column to get excited about, because all that's found on this release is 23 chapters and a theatrical trailer.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Slayground is a crime saga that begins with a lot of promise, but like so many other films, it boxes itself into a corner and ultimately has nowhere to go. The bulk of the main characters are all realistically gritty and coarse, but the story is hampered by a slightly cartoonish assassin who is laughable in comparison.


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