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MGM Studios DVD presents

The Adjuster (1992)

"Something had to change, so I watched while it did. "- Arianne (Jennifer Dale)

Stars: Elias Koteas, Arsinée Khanjian, Maury Chaykin, Gabrielle Rose
Other Stars: Jennifer Dale, David Hemblen, Rose Sarkisyan, Armen Kokorian, Jacqueline Samuda, Gerard Parkes, Patricia Collins, Don McKellar, John Gilbert, Stephen Ouimette, Raoul Trujillo
Director: Atom Egoyan

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for (Nudity, sexual situations including explicit masturbation)
Run Time: 01h:42m:04
Release Date: 2001-04-10
Genre: late night

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Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B-BA- D+

 

DVD Review

Egyptian born, Canadian raised writer/director Atom Egoyan came to widespread acclaim with the release of his 1997 film, The Sweet Hereafter, which earned him two Academy Award® nominations. His films, including Exotica, Felicia's Journey and Calendar, are rarely easy to digest, dealing with subject matter that challenges his characters, and his audience. Where The Sweet Hereafter cast a lawyer as the central figure out to collect compensation for a tragic bus accident that killed most of a town's school children, in his 1994 film, The Adjuster, the principle character is also involved in procuring remuneration for damages and loss, in the form of insurance adjuster Noah Render, played by Elias Koteas (Exotica, Crash).

Render specializes in fires, and his job is to help victims assess their belongings and determine the value of their losses for their insurance claims. More importantly, he tries to help these people get back to a state of normalcy, after an event that will irrevocably change their lives. In dealing with his clients however, he also has a tendency to extend his services beyond consultation and claims processing—he routinely sleeps with them after setting up their temporary quarters at a local motel that relies on his business in the off season. He looks at their lives in terms of monetary values, even though their losses cannot always be measured in financial terms alone. He is seen as a hero in the community, helping people get on with their lives and settling with the insurance companies who all-too-often have their policies stacked in their favor.

His wife, Hera, (Egoyan's wife, Arsinée Khanjian) is a censor for the Canadian film board. She spends her days watching pornographic films and judging the values represented. She also videotapes these films discreetly, to bring home for her sister Seta (Rose Sarkisyan) to view. The three, along with Hera's young son, live in one of three model homes built for a subdivision project that failed; instead they are surrounded by a vast tract of barren land, littered with billboards advertising the lifestyle they were supposed to enjoy.

Enter Bubba (Maury Chaykin), a wealthy, middle-aged man whose wife, Mimi (Gabrielle Rose), participates in elaborate sexual encounters with other men while he watches. The couple are obsessed with bizarre experimentation, and in seeking locations for their escapades, Bubba discovers the subdivision where Render and his family live. He poses as a location scout for a film company in order to gain access to their home, and suggests that they might want to use the house for their film. Render accepts, and as his family moves into the motel used by his clients, his world is transformed in a way that will bring him to understand what the values he has been assessing mean on a more personal level.

The Adjuster is not an easy watch. The mood sustained is disturbing, and an almost surrealistic presentation seems mostly disjointed, aided by the ethereal ethnic soundtrack from Mychael Danna (Kama Sutra, 8MM, Girl, Interrupted) that elicits an atmosphere crossing Twin Peaks with The Last Temptation Of Christ. Performances by the cast are brilliant, though I would hold up Maury Caykin's portrayal as the pinnacle of the film. There is never any outward sign of violence from the characters, though we can tell by their actions that turmoil is inherent in each of them. As in Egoyan's other films, he threads the workings of all these people together to realize the potential of their influence on one another, but the effect is underplayed and at the same time extravagantly bizarre. How this film ever received an R rating is beyond me; aside from the implied sexual situations with minors and homoeroticism, there are also scenes with explicit sexual content, including fully-exposed masturbation, all of which is included in this 102 minute cut (it isn't hard to imagine what ended up being excised for the shorter Canadian cut). The portrayals of the censor board certainly must have raised eyebrows at the ratings screenings.

This is certainly a film for a select audience, and most would not hold it up as the best of Egoyan's work. However unique and engrossing, it is a world I would not revisit often.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, The Adjuster exhibits a lot of grain throughout, though it is reasonably well rendered. What is not so good is the abundant aliasing present, especially visible on brick facades or in landscape shots. Colors are not oversaturated, and occasionally black levels suffer.

Image Transfer Grade: B
 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in 2.0 surround. Sound quality is fine, with good directionality and plenty of ambience especially in the musical soundtrack. Dialogue is for the most part clear, with no signs of distortion or other anomalies.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: This is one of those films that suffers from split distribution in North America. While the Canadian Alliance release contains a full length commentary track plus two featurettes including an Egoyan interview, this MGM release only comes with the theatrical trailer. As far as I know however, the Canadian disc is not anamorphic, so neither version is the ultimate for this film.

Extras Grade: D+
 

Final Comments

The difference between prerelease blurbs describing this film and its actual content could not be more misleading. This is hardly the sexual escapade advertised, which sounds like a setup for a kinky foursome. Instead, we have a brave and disturbing character study with low key performances, and though there is much sexual content, it is hardly erotic in nature. Egoyan looks at the dark side of human existance with the concept of value, both tangible and spiritual, at the heart of this deviant photoplay. For audiences up to a challenge only.

Jeff Ulmer 2001-04-23