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Synapse Films presents
The Deli (1997)

"Let me tell you something, I want you to learn how to smoke. So, these are yours."
- The Cabbie (David Johansen)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: July 20, 2004

Stars: Mike Starr, Matt Keeslar
Other Stars: Brian Vincent, Frank Vincent, Judith Malina, Ice T, Gretchen Mol, David Johansen, Burt Young, Jerry Stiller
Director: John Andrew Gallagher

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (swearing)
Run Time: 01h:36m:03s
Release Date: June 29, 2004
UPC: 654930303191
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- D+C+B- C+

DVD Review

Watching people yell at one another is not funny to everyone. It's a shame nobody involved with The Deli understands this. About 40 of the movie's 96 minutes contain people yelling at each other. Maybe this is the way Italian delicatessen owners behave at times, after all Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing portrays them similarly. The only difference is that Lee gave his characters real emotions and intelligence.

The story centers around one week in the life of Johnny Amico (Mike Starr, whose comic timing from Dumb and Dumber appears to have vanished), a man who runs his deli but suffers from a gambling problem. Johnny's gambling leaves his cashiers, Andy and Pinky (played by Matt Keeslar and Brian Vincent), without any money in the register. As one might expect, this angers the deli's vendors when they come to collect their due. Now, normally these men would stop doing business with Johnny, since his behavior would not support their way of life. Luckily for Johnny, however, all of these men take his inadequacies with good, albeit hostile, humor.

Even more surprising is the amount of leniency Johnny receives from the mobsters Tommy Tomatoes (Frank Vincent), JC (Burt Young), and Petey Cheesecake (Jerry Stiller). In reality, Johnny's legs would have been broken a long time ago, but Tommy constantly gives him extensions without so much as a threat. Hell, he doesn't even demand collateral! When Johnny winds up about $20,000 in debt within three days, he concocts a farfetched scheme that is beyond comprehension. Essentially, he plans to gamble the deli on basketball games. The irony is not only lost on the characters, but also by screenwriters John Andrew Gallagher and John Dorrian.

Fans of mob movies will recognize many of the cast members from other movies. Every five seconds somebody comes on screen that will remind the viewer of other, better films. Almost every character actor here has worked with Martin Scorsese in either GoodFellas or Casino, which makes us realize how truly gifted a director he is. Scorsese has on more than one occasion directed these people into stellar supporting performances, but John Andrew Gallagher lets them go to waste. It's not entirely his fault, since the script contains poor writing. Honestly, how much can an actor do with dialogue devoted to yelling?

Apart from a weak script that treats its characters like cartoon characters, the stylistic choices are totally wrong. The musical score belongs in Home Alone, not a mob-related comedy. Additionally, Gallagher makes all the wrong choices with his shot selection. He either holds a scene in a single long shot when it begs for a close-up, or clumsily cuts into a close-up when it serves no purpose. If Gallagher and his crew know what's best for them financially, they'll open a deli and leave filmmaking to the proficient.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The Deli was shot on digital video, which explains why this transfer is not tremendously impressive. Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen on a single layer, the image does justice to the source material. There are no traces of video interference or grain, and contrast is solid. The colors look nice but there is no real sense of depth in the image, which makes the overall viewing experience somewhat cold and uninteresting. It's too bad the movie wasn't shot on film.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Presented in Dolby Digital mono, The Deliis as good as a mono track can allow. The front soundstage contains all of the sound, with no separation as one would expect. Dialogue is easily understood with the effects, the musical score, and songs coming through cleanly. Home theater enthusiasts will not be enthralled, but Synapse has done what they can with this track.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by John Gallagher, Brian Vincent, John Dorrian
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Insert—contains three essays about the movie and Ice T.
Extras Review: Surprisingly this is not a barebones DVD. For this release, director John Gallagher has written three essays that are printed here in the insert. Ice T and Me chronicles his relationship with Ice T, mentioning how he came to know him and cast him. There are also some references made to Ice T's unexpected promotion of the movie. Gallagher also wrote Selling The Deli: An Indie Odyssey about his meeting producer John Dorrian and coming into contact with the project. The final essay provided in this insert is a repetitive overview of his affection for the project and his cast.

In addition to the insert, there are 11 deleted scenes and an audio commentary with Gallagher, Dorrian, and actor Brian Vincent. The commentary has some interesting tidbits, such as the process of renovating an actual deli in order to shoot on location. Gallagher is the most dominant speaker here, though at times his voice is distorted and echoey. Dorrian contributes some nice comments about the producing process and finding locations, but it's nothing you haven't heard before. Vincent spends a lot of his time on the track talking about the other actors, especially Gretchen Mol. As for the deleted scenes, each of them is thankfully cut from the final movie since they contain the same unfunny humor and yelling. Each scene is presented in widescreen and has not been finished, containing a weak image and rough audio. The scenes combine for a total runtime of 15m:17s, which includes some footage from the final cut that bookends each deleted scene. The scenes play all at once, but are divided into chapters.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

The digital video transfer and mono soundtrack are fitting compliments to The Deli. It's lethargic with little sign of life or intelligence. The transfer is about as good looking as its source material will allow, but video does not have the power of film. As far as mono soundtracks go, this one is a fine installment. The extras are more than you would expect, but still do not offer much in the way of value. Instead of stopping at <The Deli, take your business to the grocery store.


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