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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Crossroads (1986)

"You got your mind made up about how everything works, don't you? How you ever gonna learn anything new when you know everything already?"
- Willie Brown (Joe Seneca)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: August 09, 2004

Stars: Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca
Other Stars: Jami Gertz, Joe Morton, Robert Judd, Harry Carey, Jr., Robert Johnson
Director: Walter Hill

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for (language, sexuality)
Run Time: 01h:38m:44s
Release Date: August 10, 2004
UPC: 043396047983
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Crossroads tries to blend the mythology of the Blues with a coming-of-age road trip. As legend has it, in the 1930s bluesman Robert Johnson (Tim Russ) sold his soul to the devil so he could play the guitar better than anybody else. Modern sensibilities, such as those held by Eugene Martone (The Karate Kid's Ralph Macchio, who still has a hard time enunciating), discard this story but love Johnson's music. Eugene is a student at Julliard, training with the acoustic guitar to play classical music. However, Martone's interests lie in the Blues and he becomes convinced that an old man named Willie Brown (Joe Seneca) is one of Johnson's former band members.

After numerous denials, Willie Brown finally concedes that he is the famed bluesman and will teach Eugene one of Johnson's missing songs if he'll break Willie Brown out of the hospital that he has been committed to. Eugene complies after Willie makes fun of him for being a mama's boy, and the two escape with such ease that one wonders why Willie didn't just walk out the front door a long time ago.

Up to this point the movie has been slow moving and the character's motivations are not exactly believable, but it is a promising coming-of-age tale that looks like it will deliver a couple of good performances and maybe even a worthwhile theme or two. The visuals and sound design have worked to create a gritty feel that anchors the story in reality with tremendous force.

Yet it is at precisely this point when the movie falls apart. Both Eugene and Willie are at odds with one another, which makes sense for the teacher and the student to have their difficulties. The only problem is that Willie doesn't do any teaching because his whole goal is to arrive in Mississippi where he can get out of the contract he made with the devil, who goes by the name of Scratch (played by Robert Judd). This new supernatural element of the story comes out of left field and never sits well with the viewer. Making Willie's deal with the devil even more out of place is the introduction of teenage runaway Frances (Jami Gertz), with whom the two men form a bond as they journey into the Deep South.

The introduction of Frances and Willie's supernatural dealings creates a split in the script's focus that is never reconciled. Frances and Eugene are thrust into a drama about growing up and dealing with the hardships of life, while Willie insults them and suffers from nightmares about his pending damnation. Neither story is particularly bad, but each of them gets short shrift because they have to split the running time. One gets the feeling that none of the filmmakers really ever decided what they wanted to do. Initially, it looks like this will be a more hard-hitting star vehicle for Ralph Macchio, but his character gets lost in the shuffle during the confused second half of the movie. The character of Willie Brown is another downside of the script, because he is so cruel to the children that it is impossible for the viewer to root for this old man in his conflict against the devil.

Walter Hill is well known for his action films and Crossroads appears to be his effort to make a serious production. Unfortunately, the script and storytelling are divided between a coming-of-age drama and a supernatural mystery. The audience is torn between the two genres and never becomes comfortable with the picture as a whole. The result is a movie that doesn't exactly have anything wrong with a particular part of it, but as a whole is unsatisfying.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Crossroads gets a new anamorphic widescreen transfer preserving its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 for this DVD release. The image is strong, with crisp images and strong detail. Contrast is solid and the flashbacks, shot in black and white, look film-like. The overall image has a nice sense of depth to it, but there is a consistent amount of grain to the image that keeps this from being a standout transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Presented in Dolby Stereo 2.0, Crossroads sounds good when played in ProLogic. The music, particularly Willie's harmonica, comes across nicely in the surround speakers. Dialogue is clear and well balanced with the rest of the mix. There are a couple of instances of sound separation across the front soundstage, but not many. Willie's dream sequence, and the thunderstorm accompanying it, sounds nice in all of the speakers. This is not a dynamic mix, but a pleasant one.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Karate Kid, Silverado: Special Collector's Edition Video and DVD, You Got Served
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Like Columbia's other catalog titles, Crossroads has a limited amount of extra features. There are three trailers for other titles, starting with The Karate Kid and Silverado: Special Collector's Editon. Each is presented in 1.33:1 full screen and Dolby Stereo sound. The third trailer is for You Got Served, presented in nonanamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Crossroads is a missed opportunity because the filmmakers never decided what kind of movie they wanted to make. This new DVD release of it from Columbia TriStar resembles many other catalog titles from their vaults. It has a nice anamorphic transfer and a pleasant Dolby Stereo 2.0 sound mix, but only a few trailers for other titles.


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