24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Review

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Who needs a binding legal contract when you're making history?

by Casimir Harlow May 31, 2019 at 7:18 AM

  • Movies & TV review


    24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £14.99

    24 Hour Party People Film Review

    Michael Winterbottom's 2002 docu-drama takes an early meta look at the music scene in Manchester across three decades.

    Clearly the music scene was as unruly as the Hollywood scene back in the day, with producers getting swept up in the colourful celebrity party life and soon losing track of the cost of it all, particularly as their rebellious musical geniuses become increasingly extravagant in their demands.

    24 Hour Party People takes a satirical, frivolous look at Tony Wilson, founder of Factory Records, who gets inspired to start a record label after seeing the Sex Pistols live, signing Joy Division using a contract written in his own blood, giving them carte blanche to do what they want, and starting down the path of a series of decisions that see his business slowly haemorrhaging money as his artists go completely off the rails.

    A painful comedy of errors

    Casting Steve Coogan as Wilson is an odd choice, immediately making the entire feature feel like a mockumentary, rather than any kind of poignant look at some really bad decisions. Coogan has recently mastered more serious roles, but this is almost pure Alan Partridge, however, after a while it starts to strangely suit the ridiculous character he is playing, who has to deal with one band that makes a hit single but insists on a lavish record sleeve that ends up costing them money with each sale, and another band that records an entirely instrumental record because the frontman refuses to do any lyrics. It's a painful comedy of errors.

    Winterbottom successfully fuses real live band footage from the period with his faux period video footage of the 'documentary' itself, mainly by making the whole thing look poor, giving Coogan plenty of fourth wall narration to colour the piece, and bringing in an almost perfectly chosen ensemble Brit cast that includes Paddy Considine, John Simm, Lennie James, Shirley Henderson, Andy Serkis, Sean Harris, Peter Kay, Simon Pegg and Christopher Eccleston. It's a curious watch; a slow-motion trainwreck of drug-fuelled chaos that captures the vibe of decadent degeneration.

    24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Picture

    24 Hour Party People (2002) 24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Picture
    Icon Film Distribution bring 24 Hour Party People to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation that is pretty much exactly what fans would expect from the movie - i.e. utterly terrible.

    Shot on SD camera, it's hard to see what mileage fans are going to get out of a Blu-ray 'upgrade', with the presentation frustratingly dated in its video 'style', even though it arguably suits the 70s/80s documentary-style of the piece, and it's a tactic to try and integrate some real live band footage into the proceedings without that same footage standing out like a sore thumb.

    Pretty much exactly what fans would expect from the movie - i.e. utterly terrible

    It is remarkably difficult to assess the technical merits of the presentation as it is pretty much exactly what you would want to avoid in a Blu-ray presentation - softness smoothing it beyond the waxiness of Predator, a clean image likely through rampant DNR application, edge enhancement evident frequently through the piece, and every passing moment making you hope that the production will magically step out of its faux period style to deliver some semblance of clarity. There are a couple of close-ups that come vaguely close to affording detail, and, surprisingly, it doesn't utterly collapse in on itself during the darker sequences, with some colourful primaries popping during the live acts, all rendered pleasingly. Technically, the Blu-ray is probably doing the absolute best it can with the source material, and presenting it exactly as it was originally intended to by seen (although it would undoubtedly not be made like this today), but it's also a textbook appalling presentation.

    24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Sound

    24 Hour Party People (2002) 24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Sound
    The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is much more impressive, giving breadth to the 'live' music on offer, and providing an immersive background to the music docu-drama story.

    The highlight of the disc

    Dialogue remains well prioritised throughout, even when interspliced with the live acts / rehearsals, and there are a few nominal incidental effects, but the film - and thus the audio track - is really all about the music and, in that respect, fans will not be disappointed. From the early 70s gigs to the later borderline raves, there's plenty of aural engagement here, sweeping up all around you to provide some semblance of genuine live immersion. It's still front-dominated, but nevertheless remains the highlight of the disc.

    24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Extras

    24 Hour Party People (2002) 24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Extras
    This latest Special Edition Blu-ray release at least affords the production a decent salvo of extra features, the majority of which fans will already be familiar with.

    A decent salvo of extra features

    Headlined by a number of Commentaries from the real Tony Wilson (which is arguably the most interesting extra), as well as one with Coogan, and one with some producers at the real Factory, there are also no less than 11 Interviews from those involved in the studio, as well as an Interview with the director and a slew of 24 Deleted Scenes.

    24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Verdict

    24 Hour Party People (2002) 24 Hour Party People Blu-ray Verdict
    A slow-motion trainwreck of drug-fuelled chaos that captures the vibe of decadent degeneration

    Icon Film Distribution deliver this 2002 feature with a video presentation that was pretty much to be expected from a film shot in SD, and a more impressive audio track, as well as the plethora of additional features that were previously available on the DVD release. Fans will be interested in picking it up because it is likely the best the film has ever looked or sounded, and ports over all the old extra features.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99

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