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MGM Studios DVD presents
Fay Forrester: "I always wondered what it would be like to die a really violent death."
DVD ReviewThe scene is familiar. A mysterious female visitor enters the office of a worn-down private investigator. She flaunts her beauty and shows a lot without revealing too much of herself. Her story contains numerous lies, but has just enough truth to keep the investigator interested. While he listens to her sketchy and unbelievable tale, it is obvious that this girl is setting him up for a violent downfall. But he decides to help her anyway. The trap is set.
In the modern film noir Kill Me Again, Jack Andrews (Val Kilmer) has hit the ultimate bottom of life. His wife died in a car accident several years ago, and it sent him into a downward spiral. Now, he is broke and works in a failing job as a private investigator. He owes the mob $10,000, and they've already broken one of his fingers as a warning. When knockout Fay Forrester (Joanne Whalley-Kilmer) enters his office, Jack is searching for a lifeboat. Instead, he becomes involved in a twisted scheme that leads him into a series of deadly encounters.
I enjoyed watching the ways Fay uses her physical charms to swindle the money away from the men in her life. Vince Miller (Michael Madsen), her psychopathic boyfriend, falls into the trap of underestimating her headstrong will. When Fay asks Jack to help her fake her death, he begins hesitantly, but soon starts to enjoy this cat-and-mouse game. Unfortunately, even though he realizes that she is using him, Jack still falls in love with her. Thus lies the downfall of the film noir "everyman." He believes that once they get away, this vibrant girl will settle down with him in Maine. Unfortunately, as numerous film noir protagonists have learned, the femme fatale will use them and then lose them.
Joanne Whalley-Kilmer does a wonderful job expressing the sensuality and allure of a woman obviously incapable of real love. She makes no real qualms about it, and only needs to use her eyes to draw men into her web. Val Kilmer performs decently as the straight man in over his head. Even his character's name is boring and a typical American name. Michael Madsen gives his usual over-the-top performance as the criminal with a knack for brutal violence. His gruesome interrogation of Jack's friend Alan (Jon Gries) is a precursor to his infamous nasty scene in Reservoir Dogs. Madsen is known for this type of role, and displays his usual mix of energy and menace.
Director John Dahl (Red Rock West, The Last Seduction) obviously has a great deal of admiration for the film noir genre and its classic films. Kill Me Again takes plenty of its story and action from the old staples and more recent movies such as Chinatown and Body Heat. Dahl inserts some modern touches into the mix, but the basic structure remains the same. Unfortunately, this story lacks enough originality to distinguish it from the mold. The actors do a solid job, but the characters lack the extra flair necessary to keep the story interesting amidst the workings of the plot. Also, the twists become too predictable, especially in the final supposedly shocking surprise.
In 1974, Chinatown invigorated filmgoers with its gritty storyline, fascinating characters, and violent tension. It took the conventions of the film noir genre and turned them on their head for a remarkable result. Kill Me Again does none of these things. This makes the story fairly dull and an imitator instead of an originator. The actors give it their best shot, and the atmosphere generates a few chilling moments, but the story lacks innovation. It provides entertainment for a while, but falters and begins to grow tedious as the film progresses.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: Widescreen transfers are becoming fairly standard issue for DVD releases these days, and this makes the absence of one on this disc more frustrating. I don't mind when studios give viewers the option of choosing either a widescreen or full-screen version on a two-sided disc. Kill Me Again relies heavily on its atmosphere and mood, and this suffers when the picture is cropped.
The overall transfer on this disc is mediocre, with no major drawbacks or positives. A significant amount of defects exist, including some graininess and muted colors. However, the outdoor scenes remain fairly bright and clear, with well-defined images in the foreground and background.
Image Transfer Grade: C
Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0-channel Dolby soundtrack for Kill Me Again functions well to convey the sordid mood and tension involved in Jack's actions. The score does its best to keep the film moving and retain the mystery that is inherent in the story. While the sounds failed to move remarkably well from left to right, the end results are clear and efficient. Considering the limits of two channels, this is a decent audio transfer, with no obvious drawbacks.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: While I did not expect much from this fairly obscure MGM catalog title, the lack of any noteworthy extras still irks me. Even a short section of production notes or cast information would have helped.
This disc does contain the original theatrical trailer in the full-screen form. It succeeds in generating interest for the film without giving away the entire plot. The tone of the preview is eerie and conveys the dark, shady nature of the story. Overall, the lack of extras, combined with the full-screen transfer, shows MGM's minimal interest in promoting this film on DVD.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsKill Me Again attempts to recapture the essence of film noir classics such as Out of the Past or Double Indemnity. On the surface, it succeeds with a gloomy tone, mysterious immoral characters, and a luscious femme fatale. However, it lacks the liveliness or inventiveness of the past masterpieces and eventually becomes a subpar imitation. Director John Dahl does begin to convey the promise that he would fulfill with his next film, the impressive Red Rock West.
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