City of Industry Blu-ray Review
"I'm my own police."
City of Industry sees the vastly underrated Harvey Keitel on unstoppable form in this 1997 gem.Coming up in the business alongside De Niro, studying in the same film school, there was a time when the two stood toe to toe, with perhaps even Keitel stepping ahead. He had the lead in Scorsese's Means Streets (even though it's now remembered largely for being De Niro's breakthrough role), starred in Blue Collar and Fingers and seemed like a rising star until Apocalypse Now, where he was dropped for being too emotive and replaced by Martin Sheen. For the next decade he did little memorable beyond playing a tremendous Judas in Scorsese's seminal but often dismissed The Last Temptation of Christ, and it wasn't until the 90s, and Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, that he got back in the game, with a plethora of choice roles including Ferrera's Bad Lieutenant, Campion's The Piano, Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, Spike Lee's Clockers and Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Til' Dawn. But he seldom got a straight lead in a solid mainstream film.Director John Irwin's modern noir thriller provided a very rare opportunity, putting Keitel front-and-centre in the kind of revenge role that was molded by Lee Marvin in Point Blank. Betrayed after a robbery that went right, Keitel's retired thief goes on a city-trawling vendetta to find the man who wronged him, facing off against the Chinese mob and a gang of gunrunners along the way, in his demented quest for justice. City of Industry is a straightforward thriller, familiar in most of its beats, but with the benefit of an eclectic cast (Stephen Dorff is a suitably weasely antagonist, with nice bit parts for Famke Janssen, Elliot Gould, Timothy Hutton, Michael Jai White and even Lucy Liu) a stunning score (featuring some of the era's heavyweights - Massive Attack, Tricky and Death in Vegas) a punchy script, and an atmospheric, claustrophobic mood within which Keitel's relentless anti-hero can go full tilt. It's stylishly simple, and very effective.
Picture QualityKino Lorber serve up the first ever Blu-ray release of City of Industry on a Region A-locked US disc, delivering the film with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. It's not perfect by any means, but it's a pleasing enough rendition of this little-known gem, and likely the best shape we'll ever see it in. It starts off in particularly strong style, with a distinctive black-and-white title sequence that is heavily stylised but also simplistically effective.
Likely the best shape we'll ever see the film in
Detail laps up the moody, gritty LA environments, capped with that perpetual smog-haze (it's the same 90s LA we saw in Predator 2 and Falling Down), brimming with glare and desperate-to-break-through rays of sunlight, and we find some finer nuances in the crags of Keitel's (increasingly) weathered face, and – understandably – things look better in daylight outdoor shots than in the darker sequences, where shadows (admittedly used very effectively) can rob the image of a hint of detail. The colour scheme is natural enough in daytime, and more stylised at night, taking in the neons and playing with lighting, but black levels aren't the strongest and it does have that, again 90s, faded look with only a few primary pops. Still, none of this is really an issue with this fairly faithful presentation. What is an issue is the almost complete lack of grain, which suggests rather over-indulgent DNR implementation, giving some of the mid-range shots a more plastic-like sheen, particularly on skin textures. It's not a deal-clincher, but if this had been Predator, people would be (and were) up in arms. Nevertheless, it's still likely the best shape we'll ever see it in so we'll have to make do.
Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track is easily the best the film has ever sounded, making the most of a tremendous song-dominated soundtrack which offers up a plethora of gems from the era, kickstarting with Massive Attack's mood-setting Three, and offering a bevvy of great numbers throughout, arguably better pieces than a low key film like this would normally secure.
This is easily the best the film has ever sounded
Dialogue remains well-prioritised across the frontal array, delivered clearly and coherently throughout, even with Keitel's grunts, moans and almost monosyllabic words dominating the piece. Effects are limited, certainly, but still offer up some screeching car noises, alarms, sirens and a strong salvo of varying weapons fire, including shotguns, machine guns and hand guns, with a thunderous explosion to boot. Dissemination isn't spectacular, with the surrounds not getting as much use as you'd have hoped for, but the LFE gets in on the action and the superior soundtrack – even beyond the song tracks the scoring is also moody and atmospherically industrial – keeps it on surprisingly effective and maybe even impressive form.
ExtrasAlthough not packed to the brim, the disc offers up a solid Audio Commentary by filmmaker Steve Mitchell and film historian Nathaniel Thompson, who reflect upon this underrated gem and explore its often unnoticed treasures. There's also the Original Theatrical Trailer.
Blu-ray VerdictKeitel's front-and-centre in the kind of revenge role that was moulded by Lee Marvin in Point Blank
Making its long-awaited worldwide Blu-ray debut twenty years on, this 1997 gem gets fine treatment from US label Kino Lorber, who deliver it on a Region A-locked Blu-ray disc complete with acceptable video and very good audio – likely the best we'll ever see considering how long it's taken to even get this – as well as a couple of nice extras. Fans of the massively underrated Harvey Keitel should celebrate this unexpected Blu-ray release.
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