Crime, Drama

Albino Alligator (1996)

0 Comments 29 June 2012

Studio: Miramax/Echo Bridge Entertainment

Theatrical Release: January 17, 1997

Blu Ray Release: July 10, 2012

Director: Kevin Spacey


Review by James Klein

Low budget indie film Albino Alligator is a strange movie. Parts of it are great. The actors hit their stride, the direction is tight and energetic, the story at times twists and turns…however parts of the film are a mess. Silly comedic subplots, sudden over the top acting and some hilarious bad dialogue riddled with profanity that could make a truck driver blush. Albino Alligator is all over the place and for that reason alone, I do appreciate something different and something entertaining but I know not everyone will enjoy this film due to the tone shifts.

The film begins with a few undercover cops on a stake out who have found the man they are looking for. Suddenly, the man starts to run, knowing he is being trailed. As the police chase after him, three men have just held up a store but accidentally set off the alarm and are escaping via automobile. As the police get mixed up on whose chasing who with the three crooks accidentally killing an undercover cop by running him over, they take refugee at an underground bar. The bar is run by Dino (M. Emmett Walsh) and his waitress Janet (Faye Dunaway who is excellent as always) who know something is up with these three men. When the young Dova (Matt Dillon) pulls a gun on everyone and hold them hostage, the cops corner them inside and the patrons and owner soon become their hostages. While Dova’s injured brother Milo (Gary Sinise) is the calm one, a voice of reason, their other partner Law (William Fichtner, as always playing a villain) is a complete psychopath who is ready to kill everyone, includingMilo. The hot-headed Dova takes charge and as the patrons offer their advice or start to conflict with his plans, the movie soon becomes complex and one can’t help but be glued to the film while this happens.

The screenplay by Christian Forte is both good and bad and in my opinion is the biggest problem with the film. While I loved the story of these three crooks, the film keeps cutting back to A.T.F. Agent Browning (Joe Mantegna) who is in charge of the investigation and is trying to keep the press from taking over his show, so to say. All of Mantegna’s scenes seem to play for laughs when the rest of the film is a dark crime drama. The tone suddenly starts jumping around and everyone from Mantegna to the other cops to the press reporters seem to be hamming it up for the audience. As I am even writing this review, I’m starting to think its a combination of both the screenwriter and Spacey’s direction as Mantegna is usually a great performer. All of these scenes quickly got old and annoying, with characters saying “fuck” every other line.  If this entire subplot was missing, the film wouldn’t have lost anything. In fact, it would have been perfect.

Going back to the direction, this is Kevin Spacey’s first film and I must say I was impressed. There are some great shots and some really neat action scenes that seem to be directed by a veteran genre film maker. He also got a great performance out of Sinise as the wise but slowly dyingMilo. I really enjoyed some of the various camera angles and tricks he did without being too flashy as if he’s saying “look at me, I’m directing!” Spacey must have done some research on film noir’s as the movie seems to be paying homage to some of these classic films from the 1940’s. The bar scenes are moody, intriguing and surprising.

One thing that is surprising is thatEchoBridge’s blu ray is in the original aspect ratio of 2:35:1. After several releases by Echo Bridge in full frame, they finally got it right and did a great job on the picture and sound (5.1 and 2.0 are available). Sure, the blu ray doesn’t have a trailer or any special features but I’d rather get the picture and sound right before I get a making of or audio commentary.

For the price and the quality of Albino Alligator, this blu ray is a purchase if you ask me. You get a really neat and fun crime noir that plays out like a stage play but yet never drags or becomes boring. While the film has some problems, its still worth a look.

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