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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Montana (1997)

Kitty: When you traveled, what was your favorite place?
Nick: Thailand. However, I always have been very partial to Montana.

- Robin Tunney, Stanley Tucci

Review By: David Krauss   
Published: June 30, 2003

Stars: Kyra Sedgwick, Stanley Tucci, Robbie Coltrane, Robin Tunney, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Other Stars: Ethan Embry, John Ritter
Director: Jennifer Leitzes

MPAA Rating: R for (strong and bloody violence, language and brief sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:36m:02s
Release Date: June 10, 2003
UPC: 043396100596
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ BB+C D+

DVD Review

Montana is a violent, often darkly humorous mob tale that struggles valiantly to break free from the tried-and-true Mafia mold. Unfortunately, its progress is impeded by a self-conscious attempt to be offbeat and quirky. In trying so hard to be different, Montana loses its way and ends up disjointed, unfocused and unsatisfying.

All of which is a shame because the premise holds promise. Instead of the customary male-dominated mob storyline, Montana serves up an innovative twist, focusing instead on two women—Claire (Kyra Sedgwick), a seasoned (and jaded) hit woman, and Kitty (Robin Tunney), the bookish, not-as-dumb-as-she-seems mistress to The Boss (Robbie Coltrane). The smarmy clerk Duncan (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Claire's devoted partner Nick (Stanley Tucci) round out the gang's inner circle.

Of course, every mob must deal with personnel issues and a few bad eggs who crave more power. Claire, however, seems content to be a team player until she's reduced to errand-boy status when sent on a thankless mission to reclaim the runaway Kitty, all the while babysitting The Boss's grown-up but immature son Jimmy (Ethan Embry). When disaster ensues, Claire senses she's fallen out of favor and may be a marked woman, so she and Nick delve deeper into the gang's tangled relationships, hoping to ferret out the traitors, recover a million dollar bankroll, and save their own hides.

The female assassin angle is fresh and intriguing, and no doubt drew director Jennifer Leitzes to the project. To see Claire mixing it up with and often out-dueling the boys in several shootouts and takedowns lends the film a smart edge. And while the violence is often gratuitous, it's interesting to see the women so unaffected by it. When blood splatters upon Claire and Kitty they not only don't flinch, they also don't bother to wipe it off their skin and clothes. Claire is such a professional she even methodically breaks a dead man's bones so she can shove him into a trunk to better dispose of his body. Squeamish she is not.

Claire's toughness and chutzpah lend Montana much of its appeal, but the screenplay by John and Erich Hoeber doesn't develop her—or any of the other characters—fully enough. We never find out how Claire becomes embroiled in this group of thugs or grasp her attraction to the lifestyle. Maybe we're just supposed to accept these hooligans at face value and live with them in the moment, but the lack of depth detaches us from the action and numbs us to the excessive violence. Black comedy is, at times, deftly integrated into the story, but ultimately overdone, often derailing the film at crucial moments.

Montana boasts an impressive cast, but only Tucci and Hoffman stand out. Both work hard to distinguish themselves, and while Tucci's role is especially vague, he masterfully creates the film's most memorable character, proving an actor can do quite a bit with very little.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The disc's back cover brags that the film has been "remastered in high definition," and while the anamorphic widescreen presentation is easy on the eyes, it lacks the clarity and visual pop of real HD. The print is free of debris and colors seem true, if slightly muted. (The blood, however, shows up a tad too red and "theatrical.") A fair amount of grain gives Montana a film-like feel, which fits the gritty story well.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Here again, the box promises "digitally mastered audio," but the Dolby Pro Logic track is largely flat and uninteresting. The audio only springs to life during gun battles, but the level changes are so jarring I found myself groping for the remote to lower the volume. This type of film doesn't require multi-channel sound, but more depth and fullness would have added more atmosphere to the movie.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Resident Evil, Snatch
Packaging: Unknown
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Not much here except a few trailers.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

While Montana features a unique main character and top-notch cast, these elements aren't enough to sustain this violent film over the course of its running time or mask the deficiencies of its script. A nice rental for the curious, but certainly not a keeper.


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