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MGM Studios DVD presents
For Queen and Country (1989)

"What do you think this is, a f***ing tea party? This is war, Reuben!"
- Lynford (Graham McTavish)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: May 30, 2004

Stars: Denzel Washington
Other Stars: Dorian Healy, Amanda Redman, Graham McTavish, Sean Chapman, Bruce Payne, George Baker
Director: Martin Stellman

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, language, some sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:45m:09s
Release Date: June 01, 2004
UPC: 027616906953
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- DD+D+ D-

DVD Review

Before he became a major star, Denzel Washington traveled across the Atlantic to England where he made the highly forgettable For Queen and Country. Fortunately, Washington returned to America where he quickly turned in an Oscar-winning performance in Glory, thus stopping any damage this movie could have done to his career.

Washington plays Reuben, a Cockney veteran of the Falkland Wars of the early 1980s. This might be giving Washington's performance too much credit; his Cockney accent comes and goes, and never holds up next to his co-stars' real accents. Reuben returns home to the Orwellian tenements of some unnamed English city. Drugs, violence, burglaries, and unemployment run rampant. Reuben's army buddy, Fish (Dorian Healy), sits at home with his pregnant wife, children, and maligned limbs. Cops take bribes and harass citizens. One such citizen is Lynford (Graham McTavish), an old friend of Reuben's. Lynford takes it upon himself to start a war on the streets, creating a modern urban hell.

Or so it would seem, but because of the small budget none of this hell is really seen. It's implied with a few shots of police cars and people running in the streets, but take a look at most cities nowadays. That could just as easily be a major concert letting out. One could forgive the movie's limited production qualities if the characters were interesting, but sadly this is not the case. Reuben starts a romantic relationship with his neighbor, Stacey (Amanda Redman), but it's laughable. Consider this: their meeting consists of Reuben trespassing into her apartment and Stacey holding a knife to his throat, then they dance at a party, then they have a fight about guns, then they want to leave the country together, and then...oh, who gives a damn? By this point the love story has reached new levels of absurdity that the audience runs the risking of straining their eyes because of how often they will inevitable roll them.

None of the characters make a lasting impression. The script doesn't explain their history and Reuben's friendships with Fish and Lynford are barely worth mentioning. Some characters appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly as they are introduced. Reuben, Stacey, and Fish appear to suffer from bi-polar disorder, since in one scene they are perfectly happy and in the next they are firing weapons blindly. Director Martin Stellman appears to have never sat down and decided what he wanted this to be about. Are we supposed to root for Reuben, or pity him? Is the militaristic culture of Margaret Thatcher's England responsible for this mess, or is it police corruption? Until Stellman and his co-writer Trix Worrell decide what they want to communicate to the audience, there's no point in watching this movie.

Adding to the lack of purpose is an incohesive visual style. The camerawork primarily follows a documentary feel, yet there's a bizarre purple light used during night scenes that does nothing other than distract the viewer and create a surreal lighting scheme. The score, by Michael Kamen, would be melodramatic in a soap opera, but here it is beyond description. Whatever chance the movie has at creating a genuinely emotional response in the audience is squelched by Kamen's overbearing music.

While watching For Queen and Country, I immediately remembered Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa. Both deal with a Cockney man returning to the slums of an English city, both deal with an interracial couple, and both end tragically. But the difference is that Jordan gave us complex and interesting characters with a purpose, people we could root for and understand. For Queen and Country, conversely, has no idea what it and its characters want and the result is a pointless, boring movie.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: For Queen and Country is put on a single layer in nonanamorphic 1.66:1 widescreen. The resolution is so poor, that any object that is held in a long shot appears to be out of focus. Grain is constant throughout, which is probably due to the source material. Mosquito noise is noticeable, particularly in shots that include the sky. Print defects, scratches, and bland colors don't help the viewer appreciate the movie either. All who involved themselves in this transfer should hang their heads in shame.

Image Transfer Grade: D+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Contrary to what the back cover says, this is not a mono sound mix. Rather, it is a Dolby 2.0 stereo mix in English. Bass appears towards the end of the movie when the riot starts, but is nonexistent prior to that. Sound is front-heavy, with nothing being heard in the surround speakers. Dialogue is audible, but not especially clear. The music is over-mixed, a terrible mistake considering how bad of a score it is. This is definitely a step backwards in DVD sound mixes.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra provided is the original theatrical trailer, there isn't even a one-page insert with chapter listings! Presented in nonanamorphic widescreen and 2.0 stereo, the trailer does make the movie look like it's interesting. So much for truth in advertising.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Denzel Washington is probably not eager to speak about his performance in this movie, and it's easy to understand why. The story, direction, acting, and production values are wretched. No matter how low the price of this DVD is, do not waste your cash.


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