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Palm Pictures presents

The Criminal (1999)

Rebecca White: This boyfriend of hers, what'd you say his name was?
Jasper Rawlins: I didn't say she had one, I said it was a possibility. She told me the name of her cats, but, I don't reckon they did it.- Holly Aird, Steven Mackintosh

Stars: Steven Mackintosh, Eddie Izzard, Natasha Little, Yvan Attal, Holly Aird, Bernard Hill
Other Stars: Jana Carpenter, Justin Shelvin, Barry Stearn, Andrew Tiernan
Director: Julian Simpson

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content
Run Time: 01h:35m:25s
Release Date: 2002-09-24
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

The Criminal is a British version of film noir, telling a typical story of a man wrongly accused of murder. While the film succeeds on many technical levels, it is a perfect example of just how dull a thriller can be when the main character is not developed properly. The audience is not given a chance to know the protagonist, and therefore, the audience is never able to empathize with his predicament.

The film tells the story of Jasper Rawlins, (Steven Mackintosh), a musician who one night meets a beautiful woman, Sarah (Natasha Little), in a bar. Their conversation is witty and appealing, and quietly foreshadows the upcoming tension. Unfortunately, this opening scene is the only character introduction we are given before events spiral out of control. After Jasper invites Sarah back to his apartment, an attacker breaks in and Sarah is brutally murdered. Jasper is the number one suspect, and he becomes caught in a web of intrigue as he risks his life to clear his name.

All of the characters in The Criminal feel one-dimensional because they are never on screen long enough to invoke any sort of emotional response from the audience. I did feel drawn into the sense of chaos surrounding Jasper, as I knew as little about what was going on as he did. However, I also found it difficult to experience the chaos from his perspective. As a result, I felt rather apathetic towards his plight. Certain characters become intriguing just before they permanently disappear, while others are little more than red herrings. It is frustrating to watch a film while feeling so disconnected from its core.

As seems to be the norm lately in the suspense genre, the film relies on a series of twists to provide a shocking conclusion. I typically find surprise endings to be quite satisfying if I have enjoyed the mystery of a film in its entirety. However, when I witness a shocking ending that attempts to tidy up a film that consists of mediocre entertainment value, I cannot help but feel slightly duped.

The film is, at least, occasionally a display of technical bravura. First time director, Julian Simpson, utilizes long steadicam shots and a visual flair that indicates the work of an incredibly talented filmmaker. Yet, he frequently uses an MTV style of quick editing that proves maddening. Furthermore, much of the narrative flow is lost on an incongruous series of flashbacks. While I am certain this disjointed style was intentionally used to keep the audience confused, the story of the film suffers. Julian Simpson is undoubtedly a bold director with great potential, but his muddled script prevents The Criminal from earning strong accolades.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Though The Criminal is presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the image is nonanamorphic. This is a disappointment for what could have been a stunning transfer. While generally pleasing, the picture is quite soft and often lacks detail. Additionally, the lack of anamorphic enhancement introduces an abundance of video artifacts. Color and black level are often accurately rendered, though darker scenes tend to accentuate an orange tinge. For a nonanamorphic image transfer, I was surprised by the overall cleanliness, but disappointed with the noticeably lower resolution.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is amazing for a low budget picture. The surround channels are constantly aggressive, enveloping the viewer and heightening the sense of spaciousness. Even moments when a higher budget recording would have settled for a monaural surround channel, this track consistently makes use of the stereo surrounds for both music and effects. The bass is incredibly strong, with extension down to the lowest end of the audio spectrum, though several instances are slightly muddy and indistinct. Occasionally, the high end is shrill and unpleasant, but these moments are minimal. This is an exciting audio experience that strengthens the impact of the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director Julian Simpson
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Interviews
Extras Review: The Criminal contains a suitable amount of extras that both entertain and enlighten the viewer. First, is the feature-length commentary with director Julian Simpson. Simpson delivers an impressive analysis of his film, pointing out much of his technical prowess that might go by unnoticed during an initial viewing. I was pleased to find that his remarks leaned towards production techniques rather than the film's story, as I feel that the story is the weakest element of this film. From beginning to end, this is an informative and enjoyable commentary.

The featurette is divided into seven segments. The first six are brief interviews with the actors and Julian Simpson. Each actor discusses the plot, their characters, and the allure of script, while Simpson explains the inspiration behind his casting choices and the development of the story. The seventh segment is titled On Location, which features candid footage of filming several scenes. Even with the volume level cranked, it is nearly impossible to decipher the voices in this section, which makes for a very dull experience.

The theatrical trailer is presented in nonanamorphic widescreen with 2.0 stereo surround. This is one of the better trailers I have seen recently, as it peaked my excitement level without divulging too much information of the film's plot.

Two sections titled Production Drawings and Police Files are similar to storyboard sections, though they contain slightly different content. Production Drawings is a collection of schematics and blueprints that map out key locations of the film, while Police Files shows fingerprints, mug shots, and background history for certain characters. This is an interesting idea, but very difficult to read, even with a full screen presentation.

Also included are cast biographies, a weblink, and a preview of other films from Palm Pictures.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

The Criminal is one of those maddening cinematic experiences where the style is dazzling and the substance frazzling. Though I found the story to be dull and lifeless, I was stimulated by the technical expertise of director Julian Simpson, as well as the blistering 5.1 audio track. I give this DVD a mild recommendation as a rental.

Brian Calhoun 2002-10-02