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Warner Home Video presents
Shade (2004)

"God, I wished the mob still ran this town."
- Vernon (Stuart Townsend)

Review By: Nate Meyers  
Published: July 09, 2004

Stars: Stuart Townsend, Gabriel Byrne
Other Stars: Thandie Newton, Jamie Foxx, Sylvester Stallone, Bo Hopkins, Melanie Griffith, Hal Holbrook, Patrick Bauchau
Director: Damian Nieman

MPAA Rating: R for language, violence, sexuality/nudity
Run Time: 01h:41m:24s
Release Date: May 25, 2004
UPC: 085393482725
Genre: crime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B-A-A- B-

DVD Review

People will always have a fascination with conmen and elaborate heists. Some of the most beloved films in history revolve around intricate cons that have little bearing in reality. Shade, from first time writer and director Damien Nieman, is one of those thoroughly enjoyable movies that has a lot of fancy card tricks, fast talk, crazy twists, slick suits, and beautiful women. It may not be connected to reality, but who cares?

Charlie Miller (Gabriel Byrne) is engineering a big score that involves stealing money from rich men with a foolish love for poker. Coupled with his partner, Tiffany (Thandie Newton), Miller enlists the help of Larry Jennings (Jamie Foxx) and Vernon (Stuart Townsend). Vernon is an old accomplice of Miller and Tiffany, but something in their history is not on the level. As the four work their magic they encounter a corrupt cop (Bo Hopkins), offend a local mob boss (Patrick Bauchau), and get a chance to take down the ace of poker, Dean Stevens (Sylvester Stallone). The plot contains twist after twist and con after con—but always with a wink and a smile. By film's end there has been one twist too many, but its been enough fun that it doesn't really matter.

Damien Nieman's debut as a director shows a great deal of promise. He has a firm grasp on this subject matter, with layer upon layer of inside jokes and references for card enthusiasts. The camera sweeps through the clubs and underground poker games with tremendous force and manages to make grown men sitting around a table cinematic. Some of Nieman's editing choices don't work (such as introducing each character with a title card), but he grounds the audience right into the middle of his characters' world without disorienting anyone. The weakest part of Nieman's work here is his script. It keeps the story moving and never lags, but there is not real insight to the world of gambling that has been covered in other movies. It ultimately seems to be an excuse for stylish filmmaking.

Accompanying the rich camerawork by Anthony B. Richmond is a great use of music. Music pulsates throughout to create energy and to accentuate each actor's performance. Townsend and Byrne both drop their Irish accents to create slick personas with a desire to rise in rank. The supporting cast is primarily strong, with a humorous performance from Foxx and sturdy character parts for Bo Hopkins and Hal Holbrook—the latter plays mentor to Townsend. The true disappointments in this cast are Stallone and Melanie Griffith. Griffith's role as Dean Stevens' girlfriend is so small that her being cast in it makes for a distraction. As for Stallone, it's tough to imagine this guy as a great poker player. Even though Sly has dropped the camies in favor of a shark-skinned suit, he still looks like a washed up action star.

The past few years have seen a rise in gambling related movies. Damien Nieman has obviously been affected by this recent trend, and offers a worthy installment. Shade doesn't contain the contemplative and mature insight of Neil Jordan's The Good Thief, nor does it have the punch of John Dahl's Rounders. But for anyone looking to enjoy a fun ride with clever plotting and enough substance to make it engaging, place a bet on Shade.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Shade looks awfully good. There are some print defects, but the overall image is impressive. Colors, especially reds, are striking and never bleed. Skintones are accurate, with strong detail and depth in each of the actor's faces. Contrast is strong, with solid blacks. The opening scene has a great desaturated look that comes through nicely in the transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Accompanying the strong visual presentation is an equally impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. The bass of the film's soundtrack grabs the viewer right away to create a pleasing experience via the subwoofer. Dialogue comes through nicely, except for the introduction of Charlie Miller (this is probably a flaw of the original sound mix). The gunfights have a lot of pep in this mix, with each speaker getting in on the action. The surround speakers are active throughout most of the film, thanks to the wall-to-wall use of music. Sound does not travel much across the front soundstage, except for in a couple of key scenes. Also available on this DVD are English and Spanish Dolby Stereo 2.0 mixes.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Damien Nieman, Stuart Townsend
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:07m:00s

Extra Extras:
  1. Actor & Director Interviews—a collection of brief interviews with each major actor, the director, and a technical advisor.
Extras Review: Considering the lack of attention this movie got in its theatrical distribution, Shade gets a nice amount of extras. The theatrical trailer is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Stereo sound. The trailer accurately advertises the style and feel of the film, containing a lot of vigor. Also included on this set are interviews with actors Stuart Townsend, Gabriel Byrne, Thandie Newton, Jamie Foxx, Melanie Griffith, and Sylvester Stallone. By and large nothing interesting is mentioned in these brief, promotional interviews. However, Townsend does provide some insightful information about the amount of practice and work that went into learning how to handle a deck of cards. Damien Nieman and technical director Paul Wilson also give interviews, but mostly it's an excuse for the two men to show off their skills with a deck of cards.

Next is a pair of featurettes. Tricks of the Trade (14m:35s) takes the viewer into the world of Los Angeles' Magic Castle, where we get a tour of the superstars in the world of magic and card tricks. Most people will find this boring, especially since none of the tricks are revealed. The closing minutes of the featurette are the best when a variety of card tricks are performed. The other featurette is The Making of Shade (08m:01s), which contains snippets from the interviews mentioned above. There isn't a great deal of information included in this featurette, except for the creation of the film's opening credit sequence.

The final extra is a feature length commentary by Damien Nieman and Stuart Townsend. For the most part, Nieman seems more interesting in the card tricks than in the filmmaking process. The two men seem to enjoy recording this commentary and revel in pointing out their friends and co-workers that populate the background as extras. Townsend doesn't speak as often as Nieman, but manages to provide a few interesting stories (such as his becoming "addicted" to a deck of cards). Nieman has a lot of love for the world of poker and explains all of the inside references he makes to legendary card players in the script. Eventually the commentary becomes irritating, since Nieman is caught up in the world of cards but never offers any insight into the mentality or how tricks are done.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

As far as stylish, conmen movie go, Shade is a fine accomplishment. Don't expect a great deal of depth or character development, just sit back and enjoy the show. This DVD from Warner Home Video reflects the energy of the filmmakers with a fine, colorful transfer and bassful sound mix. The supplemental material is nothing outstanding, but there are some interesting moments.

 


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