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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Physical Evidence (1988)

Jenny: This is me! Guts and brains! You cannot do any better!
Joe: Dear God. Like a Vassar version of Tarzan.

- Theresa Russell, Burt Reynolds

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: September 25, 2003

Stars: Burt Reynolds, Theresa Russell, Ned Beatty
Other Stars: Ted McGinley, Tom O'Brien, Kenneth Welsh, Ray Baker
Director: Michael Crichton

MPAA Rating: R for (intense language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:39m:24s
Release Date: March 18, 2003
UPC: 012236138259
Genre: mystery

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D D-D-B- D-

DVD Review

When I was coming of age in the 1970s, there was nobody cooler on the big screen in my eyes than Burt Reynolds. A potent mixture of rugged cool and self-depreciating humor endeared him to audiences on and off the screen. Then came Smokey and the Bandit. Hey, don't get me wrong, I loved it, too, from the toilet paper sight gags to that Dixie fried repartee with one-time significant other Sally Field. But being the cash cow that it was, people wanted more where that came from. Nobody wanted to see Reynolds, the actor, stretching his wings in superb comedy-dramas like Starting Over and the self-directed The End (one of the most achingly hilarious, fall-off-your-recliner movies ever). Nope, audiences wanted 600 Cannonball Run sequels. Instead, we got pale imitations of that formula, which eventually wore thin with Burt practically phoning in his "aw, shucks" demeanor.

By the mid to late 1980s, most of his films became incredibly painful to watch with the nadir point coming in the form of Physical Evidence, a languid, horrible murder mystery that almost makes me yearn for a special edition DVD of Smokey and the Bandit II.


Joe Paris (Reynolds) is a burned out Boston police detective suspected of murdering a seedy drug dealer. Cursed with a reputation no self-respecting lawyer wants to touch, his case is turned over to public defender Jennifer Hudson (Theresa Russell), who's just itching for a high profile case to show up the guys at her male dominated firm. Despite Joe's surly attitude and her all-business procedures, the two slowly bond, but for every minor move forward, out pops an "incredibly dramatic plot twist"(!) forcing them back (Joe's blood type found on the murder weapon; an affair with one of the suspects wives on the night of the killing, etc.). So it's not until Joe starts playing detective again (despite his suspension) that the odds start accumulating in his favor—along with increased probabilities he won't live to make another wisecrack.

When Chinese take-out boxes on a living room table featured prominently in a scene showcasing female lead Theresa Russell and on-screen hubby Ted McGinley exude more personality than their fellow on-screen participants, you know you're watching a bad movie. Bless his heart, Burt tries so hard (and there are a couple of worthy comebacks nobody can deliver better than he can), but Physical Evidence is practically D.O.A. from the opening siren. Casting and chemistry is essential in storylines like this and Russell has zilch with Reynolds. Russell can be a commanding lead in parts tailored to her icy-cool appeal (Black Widow, Impulse), but whoever had the bright idea to put her in this role is probably doing third shift at Wal Mart nowadays. In fact, the only performance I found consistently entertaining was Ned Beatty's turn as the opposing attorney; at times, I wished he'd given a cab-hailing whistle to the camera guy and said "Follow me! I'm the only interesting character to be found in this piece of muck for the next 99 minutes."

Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Without question one of the worst-looking discs to enter my player's tray. Practically a digital copy of a lifeless VHS tape, it's cluttered with grain, deprived of detail, lacking in sharpness, barely in color; ugh. It was like going back in time and watching cable television in the '70s.

What? Complain about the full-frame treatment? Not when there are much better movies that have been shortchanged to get passionate about.

Image Transfer Grade: D-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Amazingly, the one good aspect of the disc; strong ambience in the rear channels enabled me to stay awake. But heading back to the negative zone, the fronts sounded almost monophonic by comparison. Dialogue remained crisp throughout (which in this film's case, isn't a virtue).

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 21 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: If only I could give an A+ for the complete lack of bonuses (which in this case is a virtue).

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

There was a time when I considered Rent-A-Cop the low point of Burt Reynolds career. After enduring Physical Evidence, the former looks positively Shakespeare-ian by comparison.


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