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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Ruby (1992)

"I'm just a small-time club owner with a sense of the past."
- Jack Ruby (Danny Aiello)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 29, 2003

Stars: Danny Aiello, Sherilyn Fenn
Other Stars: Arliss Howard, David Duchovny
Director: John Mackenzie

MPAA Rating: R
Run Time: 01h:50m:17s
Release Date: September 02, 2003
UPC: 043396101388
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C CCC- D

DVD Review

The assassination of President Kennedy remains, for Americans of a certain age, a day of sadness, of the loss of innocence, of the shattering of some of the dreams that we held dear about ourselves. The assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald does not have that same kind of resonance, and that's sort of the principal problem with this movie. It's a character study of sorts of Jack Ruby, the Dallas strip club owner who gunned down Oswald while the Texas School Book Depository clerk was in police custody; just why Ruby killed Oswald is the ostensible subject of this film, but it's a movie that generates more heat than light, and one that is so murky and fast and loose with the truth that it makes an Oliver Stone movie seem like a paragon of clarity and straight thinking. And that's no easy feat. (You know you're in trouble when, in the opening credits of a movie about the Kennedy assassination, one of the title cards reads: "Choreography by Vince Patterson.")

Danny Aiello plays Ruby, who loves to talk about his hometown, Chicago, though when we meet him, it's 1962, and he's been in Dallas for at least fifteen years. Aiello runs a shoddy little strip club, the last gasp of burlesque, though he fancies himself a showman; he's got some Mob connections, which of course becomes the stuff of a conspiracy buff's fantasy. Ruby cruises the bus depot and meets a pretty young thing on the run—she calls herself Candy Cane, and Ruby is taken by her beauty and vulnerability. It's Ruby's chaste relationship with Candy that propels the story forward, and therein lies the problem.

A title card at the end of the film tells us that Candy is a complete invention, little more than a convenient story device to get Ruby in the same Vegas ballroom as JFK and the country's leading Mafiosi—even Stone, in JFK, wasn't that brazen with just making stuff up. Candy is played by Sherilyn Fenn, who's got just the right mix of tartiness and defenselessness—but she's not given much to work with, and the character comes to seem like little more than a series of tired clichés, a kissing cousin to the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold. Aiello just doesn't have the dynamism to pull of the part, which is an odd one to begin with—why hasn't he put the moves on Candy? What's he doing mixed up with the Rat Pack and the White House and the Cosa Nostra? Playing out some writer's insane conspiratorial fantasy, that's what.

The movie doesn't separate fact from fiction, so there's no use in even trying. It is worth mentioning, though, that the headliner in Vegas bears an uncanny similarity to Frank Sinatra—the actor sings Day In, Day Out, one of Sinatra's signature tunes from the period, but here he's called Tony Montana, in a laughably inappropriate allusion to Scarface. (Couldn't they just have called him Johnny Fontaine?) The film was made before Mr. Sinatra passed away; perhaps the producers were fearful of Sinatra's attorneys, or other associates of the Chairman.

The crescendo of the movie should of course be the dark days in Dallas in November 1963, but the film never really gets it together—we follow Ruby into the police building on his way to kill Oswald, but we've got no idea what he's doing there—to save the honor of his city, his country, his girl, Mrs. Kennedy? Anything would be better than the cheap indicating that Aiello gives us instead. A couple of actors in smaller parts rate a mention, though—Arliss Howard speaks like a graduate of the Christopher Walken School of Odd Diction as a shadowy CIA agent tormenting Ruby; Willie Garson, Stanford from Sex and the City, makes an odd little Oswald; and David Duchovny plays a Dallas cop completely smitten with Candy. According to the credits, he's supposed to be Officer Tippit, the cop that Oswald gunned down the day of the Kennedy assassination, but those particular dots are never connected for us on screen.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Scratches and debris deflect seriously from the video presentation; the color levels aren't too bad, but this seems like a sloppy and careless transfer to DVD.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Way too much of this movie is a mumblefest—even Mafiosi talking low in dark rooms need to be understood for film purposes. There just isn't enough clarity on the soundtrack to support this kind of throwaway acting style, and much of the dialogue is hence rendered incomprehensible.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Donnie Brasco, Little Nikita
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Nothing but chapter stops and three trailers.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

A murky and tired rehash of conspiracy theories and stripper clichés, Ruby bears the same relationship to Oliver Stone's JFK that the Oswald assassination does to that of President Kennedy—it's a curious and confusing afterthought, not the main event.

 


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