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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Past Midnight (1992)

"Do you like mysteries?"
- Ben Jordan (Rutger Hauer)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 15, 2004

Stars: Rutger Hauer, Natasha Richardson
Other Stars: Clancy Brown, Paul Giamatti, Guy Boyd, Tom Wright, Ernie Lively
Director: Jan Eliasberg

MPAA Rating: R for violence, sensuality and language
Run Time: 01h:39m:38s
Release Date: August 17, 2004
UPC: 043396066823
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- D-B-B- D-

DVD Review

Past Midnight modestly touts an executive producer credit to Quentin Tarantino—in fact, it doesn't appear anywhere on the cover art, only during the credits of the film itself—something that a lesser DVD marketing team might have glommed onto in order to muster up some casual interest in this otherwise forgettable thriller. Forsaking snarky promotion for simply letting the picture speak for itself, this did-he-or-didn't-he-kill-his-wife story proves to be fairly pointless when all is said and done, even with a pair of performances by the always watchable Rutger Hauer and Clancy Brown.

In a story that is eerily like a variation on today's headlines, Hauer plays Ben Jordan, a man released from prison after 15 years for viciously murdering his pregnant wife with a butcher knife—and considering he was literally caught red-handed, his guilt is a foregone conclusion, despite his proclamations of innocence. One of his first stops out of the big house is to visit his new social worker Laura Matthews, played with a ridiculous level of hormonal gullibility by a saucer-eyed Natasha Richardson. Richardson's character is in an on-again-off-again platonic/sexual relationship with fellow social worker Steve (Brown), and when the mysterious Ben Jordan plops down in front of her she is turned into a quivering mass of suspicious jelly, tormented by a sudden wave of lust and some nagging belief that he just may be innocent.

Directed by Jan Eliasberg, veteran of the small screen (Cagney & Lacey, 21 Jumpstreet, Dawson' Creek), and working off a shamelessly manipulative screenplay from Frank Norwood, a film like Past Midnight plays out like it's stuck on television movie auto pilot, layering on the usual suspicions and cruising through a small universe of alternate suspects (including a baby-face Paul Giamatti) as Richardson's Laura goes from social worker to investigator to damsel-in-distress. Hauer, whose character seems like a distant cousin to any of countless dangerous ones he has played before, is filled with the right air of coiled anger to be at the very least fun to watch, but the fact that he literally does nothing but make himself look like he's not a killer makes the lusty antics of his social worker seem even goofier.

A film needs to draw you into the characters in order to make you care even a smidgen about them, and aside from the spurned lover performance from Clancy Brown, I didn't really give a hoot about anyone else because their actions were filled with the kind of one-note melodrama that made them seem like dimensionless movie characters rather than anything approaching real people. Laura's willingness to drop trou for a convicted murderer who constantly glowers and pops out of dark shadows like a boogeyman seems strange; I'll admit to not having been to a social worker lately, but I'm guessing hopping into the sack and playing detective for every "client" is not on their job description.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Past Midnight comes in a moderately speck-filled 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from Columbia TriStar. Aside from those minor print blemishes, the rest of the transfer is decent, sporting coloring reproduction that is pleasant, and featuring well-rendered fleshtones.

There's nothing exemplary here by any means, and remains just an average transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a run-of-the-mill 2.0 stereo mix, and while it doesn't offer all that much sonically, the transfer is plainly adequate. Dialogue is presentable and clear at all times.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Japanese, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Missing, In The Cut, Secret Window
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Nothing here other than three trailers, but oddly enough I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

The disc is cut into 12 chapters, and features optional subtitles in English, Japanese or Spanish.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Here's a film that is built around one big payoff—in this case "who's the killer?"—and it suffers an immediate misfire that there just isn't much to hold your interest once you realize you don't care who the guilty party is because no one in the story is especially relatable.


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