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Fox Home Entertainment presents
44 Minutes: The North Hollywood Shoot-Out (2003)

"These guys were media junkies. They'd be robbing banks in the morning and watching themselves on TV in the afternoon."
- Frank McGregor (Michael Madsen)

Review By: Kevin Clemons   
Published: December 14, 2003

Stars: Michael Madsen, Ron Livingston, Mario Van Peebles
Director: Yves Simoneau

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and bloody images
Run Time: 01h:24m:54s
Release Date: December 16, 2003
UPC: 024543099130
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

In a tense and blood-soaked 44 minutes on February 28, 1997, the Los Angeles police took part in what is considered to be one of the longest gun battles in urban warfare history. Two bank robbers, known as the "High Incidence Bandits," targeted a Bank of America building in North Hollywood and, in the process, attracted a slew of LAPD officers. Their exit from the bank would go down in history as "The North Hollywood Shootout," and become the basis for this made-for-television film, 44 Minutes.

As the film opens, we are introduced to Frank (Madsen), a member of the renowned Robbery Homicide Division in Los Angeles. As Frank kisses his pregnant wife goodbye, we shift attention to Donnie Anderson (Livingston), a S.W.A.T. officer dealing with the recent death of his father, and his struggles on the job. Finally, we meet Henry Dee (Van Peebles), a religious beat cop who never misses a chance to offer spiritual guidance to suspects. Meanwhile, we also see the two now infamous bank robbers, Larry (Bryniarski) and Emil (Taktarov), who posses a stockpile of weapons that rival those of some small countries. What happens from there is 44 minutes of sheer terror for everyone involved.

The entire shootout, true to time, covers the last forty-four minutes of the film, but what occurs in the first 41 minutes showcases the film's weakness. The introduction of the characters is fine to an extent, but the script by Tim Metcalfe seems to be too involved with giving each of the three main characters an emotional crutch—be it a pregnant wife or a deceased father—to help create a quicker emotional connection to the character. This actually cheapens the genuine effect and it does not fit in line with the rest of the film.

Another flawed production decision is the addition of interviews that bookend crucial developments in the plot. The interviews themselves are handled nicely, but the fact that they are done by the actors portraying the police officers lessens the impact and takes the viewer far away from any sort of connection with the brave and heroic LAPD officers. As we learn in the short, behind-the-scenes piece included on the DVD, several members of the LAPD who were there that fateful day served as advisers, so why not include them in the interview portions?

The film represents a fine look into the events of that day, but overall, I felt cheated. Events that transpired after the shootout involving the death and subsequent lawsuit from the family of one of the robbers is skipped over, while other events that could have been included in a nice epilogue are omitted as well.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image looks disappointingly average given the recent release of the film on television. Colors are solid with nice vibrancy and no bleeding. The transfers looks a tad murky throughout, with some of the darkly lit scenes looking very poor. There's no pixelation or artifacting, but edge enhancement is noticeable from time to time.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is aggressive throughout with nice use of the surround channels during the gunfight sequences. The .1 LFE track provides solid support throughout while the dialogue is crisp and clear throughout. This is an average track at best.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: A brief featurette is promotional for the most part, though there are still some nice bits of information to be learned. A lot of time is spent focusing on the authenticity of the weapons used and the painstaking efforts that went into the location shooting and the use of effects.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

The presentation of the film is handled nicely on this DVD and would make for a nice rental, but the story's condensed nature leaves a lot of questions unanswered.


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