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MGM Studios DVD presents
The Siege At Ruby Ridge (1996)

"Why don't they get it over with?"
- Randy Weaver (Randy Quaid)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: October 19, 2005

Stars: Randy Quaid, Laura Dern
Other Stars: Kirsten Dunst, Joe Don Baker, Diane Ladd, G.W. Bailey, Bradley Pierce
Director: Roger Young

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (some violence)
Run Time: 02h:57m:43s
Release Date: October 04, 2005
UPC: 027616123077
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C+BB- F

DVD Review

This made-for-television two-parter, originally titled Rudy Ridge: An American Tragedy (that title shows up on this print, despite the cover) purports to show both sides of the story, attempting to balance the deadly 11-day confrontation between an overzealous government and well-armed "separatist" Randy Weaver and his family. The screenplay from Lionel Chetwynd is based in part on the book Every Knee Shall Bow by Jess Walter, but it manages to blur some of the facts enough so that even though questions get raised, the participants (for both sides) seem to fall into neat, stock roles.

Director Roger Young tries to be even keeled with the flow of the narrative—or at least as much as television would allow—but Randy Quaid seems to channel Randy Weaver as a variation of his Cousin Eddie role from National Lampoon's Vacation, which somehow reduces the dramatic punch of the character by a few degrees. At least Laura Dern (as Weaver's doomed wife Vicki) and a young Kirsten Dunst (as daughter Sara) rise past some of the cornpone white supremacist mumblings of Quaid, with Dunst in particular doing a terrific job conveying a mix of fear and pride.

Things go off track during the final forty minutes or so, during the trial portion, when a fringe-jacketed, scene-chewing Joe Don Baker shows up as flamboyant legal bumpkin Gerry Spence, and the resulting courtoom conflict brings the momentum to a crawl. That's when we the viewer are left to decide if the government was a bit too gun happy, or if Weaver and his family were the rebellious threats some tried to make them out to be. This film doesn't answer those question definitively, nor did I really expect it to.

The real question is whether it tells the story accurately, and the Chetwynd screenplay tries to do so in spots, more so than I would have expected, but still not 100% on the money. I sincerely doubt the final product ended up being as completely honest and frank as it should have been, and I would not categorize this as "history" or a "documentary" by any means. It is, at least, not afraid to point a questionable finger at the tactics of the government, and not simply mock Weaver as a nutjob whose beliefs led to the death of his wife and young son.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Not an altogether bad treatment for a television movie, with the 1.33:1 fullframe transfer looking surprisingly strong, especially during the siege sequences, where the use of shadow and light almost makes this one look like a feature film. Outside of those scenes detail is a bit soft in spots, but colors generally look rather pleasant.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is provided in fairly generic 2.0 stereo, though one that delivers clean dialogue with a minimum of spatial movement or dramatics. It's a workmanlike presentation, adequate without being particularly noteworthy.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Out of Time
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only extra is a trailer for Denzel Washington in Out of Time. The disc is cut into a skimpy 12 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or French.

Extras Grade: F


Final Comments

I'm generally opposed to television movies based on "real life" events, and while this one takes a couple of liberties with the facts, the guts of the story remains grim and kind of frightening. But since it was a made for television two-parter, the runtime gets a bit windy (clocking in around three hours), and that means more Randy Quaid to endure.

I recommend reading Jess Walter's book Every Knee Shall Bow rather than invest the time here, despite a nice performance from Kirsten Dunst.


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