Action, Crime, Super Hero

Dick Tracy (1990)

0 Comments 07 February 2013

Dick Tracy coverStudio: Touchstone/Disney
Theatrical Release: June 15th, 1990
Blu-Ray Release: December 11th, 2012
Rating: PG
Directed by Warren Beatty
Review by Craig Sorensen

After the success of Tim Burton’s Batman every studio in town wanted some of that sweet superhero money.  And so theaters across America were flooded with poorly thought out, cheaply produced dreck.  Producers hoped that audiences wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between something made with an artistic vision (regardless of whether you like Batman or not, it was certainly different) and blandly made money grab (Steel?).  Most of these films are not really worth tracking down.  Either they don’t understand what it was that made Batman work or they don’t understand what it is about the original source material that works (Judge Dredd?).  There are very few bright spots in the genre.  So I wasn’t really expecting much when I revisited Dick Tracy.  Surprisingly, Dick Tracy is a lot of fun.

The plot centers around Big Boy Caprice’s (Al Pacino of Cruising) plan to take over the city’s organized crime by bumping off every hideously deformed thug that doesn’t step in line with his plan.  After killing Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino, also of Cruising) Big Boy takes control of the Club Ritz and Lip’s girl Breathless Mahoney (Madonna, not of Cruising).  After that the film is kind of a whirlwind of plots to off Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty of Ishtar).  Eventually a faceless man shows up with a plan to finally put a stop to Tracy’s do-gooding.

OK, so the plotting here wasn’t going to win any awards.  Where Dick Tracy really shines is in the technical and art direction departments.  Beatty is able to bring Chester Gould’s comic strip to vibrant life here with a bold use of color and state of the art (for the ‘90s anyway) effects work.  The distorted sets are supplemented with some fantastic matte paintings and subtle cgi to create an almost traditional animation look (production designer Richard Sylbert won an Academy Award for his work).  And of course the film has to have some great makeup effects to bring to life the grotesque rogue’s gallery.  Most of the villains here are almost unrecognizable under all that latex so it’s surprising that the film has such an amazing cast.  Get a load of this cast: William Forsythe, Mandy Patinkin, Ed O’Ross, Seymour Cassel , Charles Durning, Stig Eldred, Dick Van Dyke, Kathy Bates, Dustin Hoffman, R.G. Armstrong, James Caan, Henry Silva, Catherine O’Hara, Michael J. Pollard, Mary Woronov and Estelle Parsons.  I’m sure I’m leaving out a bunch.  This thing is almost a who’s who of character actors.  And they all go for broke here, chewing any bit of scenery they can get their hands on.  Of course, out of all of them, Pacino is the craziest.  He’s a poster child for overacting in this thing.  It’s never less than entertaining for sure but it’s hard to believe that he was nominated for an Oscar for his work here.

Touchstone/Disney’s Blu-Ray looks fantastic.  It really does the film justice.  All the colors pop off the screen.  Of course, the film is presented in it’s original 1.85:1 ratio.  It doesn’t look like the film has had too much noise reduction applied to it (maybe just a little).  Audio comes in a nice 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix.  It does justice to not only Stephen Sondeim’s original songs but all the explosions and tommy gun fire as well.  Where the disc faulters though is in the extras department.  Dick Tracy had a very troubled production and it would have been nice if there had been a documentary included.  It also would have been nice to maybe see some behind the scenes footage of how they pulled off some of the effects work.  But you ain’t gettin’ that.  The only thing you get is some unrelated trailers for other Disney releases.  You also get a second disc which contains a “digital” copy of the film and I guess that’s it.  You can’t just copy it to your hard drive though, you’ve got to jump through some hoops (iTunes store hoops).  I guess it might be convenient if you’re an old person who doesn’t know how to make your own “digital copy” from the Blu-Ray.  Me, I would have rather they just throw in a regular DVD version if they have to include multiple copies.  At least then I could take some screen captures (anyone know of some good Blu-Ray playing software for Macs?)

Rating: ★★★★☆

- who has written 151 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

Craig hails from 'Parts Unknown'.

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