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MGM Studios DVD presents

Gorky Park (1983)

"Promise me I can have your face when your breath leaves your body."- Professor Andreev (Ian McDiarmid)

Stars: William Hurt, Lee Marvin
Other Stars: Brian Dennehy, Joanna Pacula
Director: Michael Apted

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, violence, and language
Run Time: 02h:06m:41s
Release Date: 2000-12-19
Genre: suspense thriller

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


DVD Review

I have always been a big fan of the suspense thriller. There are few things I like better in a film than a twisting plot that keeps me guessing. Unfortunately, it seems that very few suspense thrillers actually succeed at out thinking the audience. They are either so simple that you figure out "whodunit" instantly, or there are so many improbable situations, characters, and plot points that the whole thing becomes a little absurd. Gorky Park, the 1983 film based on the novel of the same name, fits mostly into column A, but is still a rather entertaining ride in the end.

I don't want to give away too much of the plot (after all, not knowing what happens next is kind of key when watching a mystery), but here is a brief synopsis: Arkady Renko (William Hurt) is a detective in Russia assigned to investigate the murders of three people, one of them an American citizen. The bodies were found in Russia's Gorky Park with their faces sliced off Hannibal Lecter style. The plot unfolds from there as Renko tries to make connections between the victims and the prime suspects, who run from American businessman Jack Osborne (Lee Marvin) to Russian beauty Irina (Joanna Pacula).

The acting is, for the most part, very good. William Hurt gives one of his better performances as the tortured investigator. Newcomer Pacula is a bit distant as Irina, but she does have quite a few good breakdown scenes. Lee Marvin basically plays Lee Marvin, the same as he did in all those old Westerns. Of course, there is that one discrepancy that pops up with every American film set in a foreign country: all the actors speak English with a Western accent. Of course, it wouldn't make much more sense to have them all speaking English with a Russian accent, since they wouldn't be speaking English at all, but I digress. Of course, since an accent makes a woman sexy, Pacula speaks with a thick Russian accent. I guess she came from a different part of Russia.

Director Michael Apted (best known for the documentary series that includes 42 Up and the latest Bond film The World is Not Enough) crafts a rather suspenseful film. I'll be honest, not a lot happens in two hours, but at least Apted keeps things interesting. He almost seems to have created a Russian film-noir, complete with a dark, dreary setting, lots of shadows, crosses and double crosses, and even a femme fatale. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the plotline isn't always very clear, but it doesn't matter, as the lighting, setting, and characters draw you in.

I really wanted to like Gorky Park a lot more than I did. I'd heard it was supposed to be very good, if a bit inferior to the book. Unfortunately, I found it to be a stylish, but rather flat, entry into the suspense thriller genre.

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


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MGM certainly couldn't be called consistent when it comes to DVD image quality, so I am happy to say that Gorky Park looks pretty good. Color contrast is excellent, black level is spot on, and there is very little edge enhancement. The only real problem is the overall softness of the image and a bit of shimmer on some complex fabric patterns. Hey, it's anamorphic, too!

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The mono soundtrack is fairly good as well. Most importantly, dialogue is always clear and understandable. There aren't a lot of sound effects, but what is present (a few gunshots mostly) sound full and realistic. The score sounds quite good as well, adding to the atmosphere of the film quite successfully.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 01h:15m:31s

Extras Review: MGM has included only the theatrical trailer in widescreen format. Major demerits to MGM for their continued refusal to include English subtitles (as many TVs do not support closed captioning).

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

Gorky Park is a fairly engrossing thriller, if a bit convoluted. MGM has done a nice job with the audio and video on this disc, and I can't argue with the low price.

Joel Cunningham 2000-12-14