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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Scenes of the Crime (2001)

"You do understand you're out of your league here?"
- Jimmy Berg (Jeff Bridges)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: October 12, 2003

Stars: Jeff Bridges, John Abrahams
Other Stars: Noah Wyle, Peter Greene, Machen Amick, Morris Chestnut, R. Lee Ermey, Brian Goodman, Henry Rollins, Mizuo Peck
Director: Dominique Forma

MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some strong sexual content
Run Time: 01h:30m:56s
Release Date: September 30, 2003
UPC: 043396004924
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

With his feature film debut Scenes of the Crime, French writer/director Dominique Forma takes on the crime genre by mixing elements of the traditional American crime lord saga with flashes of intentionally discordant storytelling that gives the film a purposely off-balance feel. What seem like unrelated characters and subplots are introduced quickly (and sometimes for what seems like no reason) and how they all eventually overlap and come together is where the story develops into a film that relies less on gunplay than it does on smart dialogue and chance.

Lenny Burroughs (Boston Public's Jon Abrahams), a young mechanic with a Steve-McQueen-as-Bullitt fascination, is a part-time driver for Los Angeles mob boss Trevor Morrison (Brian Goodman). It's easy money, and he's promised his lovely fiancée Sharon (Mizuo Peck) that he'll give it up once they're married. But to paraphrase children's author Lemony Snicket, a series of unfortunate events then finds Lenny inadvertently in control of a pivotal hostage situation when the kidnapping of rival mobster Jimmy Berg (Jeff Bridges), who stole $7.2 million from Trevor Morrison, goes awry.

Instead of the usual rampant gunplay that can be so prevalent in the "warring crime lords" genre, Forma's Scenes of the Crime settles in for a decidedly more cerebral approach. With Lenny and his hostage, Jimmy, holed up in a parked van on an L.A. street, surrounded by Jimmy's "associates," cell phone conversations between two embattled crime bosses go back and forth, as deals are made and broken, and poor Lenny is caught in the middle between trusting the options offered by a desperate Jimmy, or following the orders of his boss Trevor. It seems like a real lose-lose situation for all involved.

As you would expect in a genre film like this, there is a full cadre of colorful secondary characters, with R. Lee Ermey, Peter Greene, and Black Flag's Henry Rollins taking a backseat to a great bit of against-the-grain casting of Noah Wyle as Jimmy Berg's shadowy, murderous sidekick, Seth. As an added plus, Madchen Amick (underused in a wonderfully short skirt) and Morris Chestnut get some screen time as owners of a deli on the street where the hostage situation occurs, and like a couple of other minor characters, their introduction and involvement in the proceedings is eventually revealed by Forma.

It seems that Forma has done his best to study the look and feel of American crime films, and he gives Scenes of the Crime a uniquely polished, visual look that belies the relatively small production budget. Overhead camera angles, sudden slow-motion, and long sweeping pans between characters keep the visual momentum fresh, and work well combined with the enjoyable back-and-forth between Bridges and Abrahams. The tough guy gangster talk really bristles with macho hipness here, and by the time Forma settles in with a somewhat unconventionally abrupt payoff, the ride has been more than worthwhile.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Columbia TriStar has done a decent job with this one. The print does have some noticeable specks, but colors are rendered beautifully, with natural fleshtone levels balanced by deep blacks. A bit of shimmer in spots, but overall a very nice looking transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
English, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital track is a nicely mixed one, with plenty of well placed left-to-right (and vice-versa) imaging. Rears don't get used often, with the core of the material spread across the three front channels for the duration. The low end here is surprisingly pretty deep, as well, with slamming van doors really reverberating and rumbling more so than you might expect.

Audio is also available in Spanish 5.1, as well as French 2.0 surround.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Double Vision, S.W.A.T., Identity, Hollywood Homicide
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Columbia TriStar has gone darn near barren on Scenes of the Crime, offering just a set of trailers as extras.

The disc is cut into 24 chapters, and features a healthy cross-section of optional subtitle languages (English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean).

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

I found Dominique Forma's slightly chatty crime story to be full of pleasantly unexpected situations and confrontations. Jeff Bridges, with that great, syrupy deep voice of his, is usually worth the price of admission in any film, and it was fun to see E.R.'s Noah Wyle go against type as a slick, trigger-happy thug.



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