It’s one of those rare, great, head-to-head thrillers
Internal Affairs Blu-ray Review
Exploring the dark flip-side to the same coin...Mike ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ Figgis’s sophomore feature is a stunning psychosexual crime thriller that is an early pioneer of both the docu-drama approach with its style, and the corrupt-cop-who-gets-results theme that, now, in an age of The Shield and Training Day, or Scorsese’s rip-off of the seminal Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs, The Departed, audiences are more than familiar with. Boasting career-high performances from its two leads, Richard Gere and Andy Garcia, it posited Gere’s charming-but-ruthless street cop against Garcia’s relentless-but-volatile IA investigator, playing out as an elaborate game of cat-and-mouse as the two dance around one another, doing whatever it takes to win and, in the process, proving that they’re more alike than either would ever admit.It’s one of those rare, great, head-to-head thrillers and Figgis’s clinically efficient study of these two opposing forces is a simmering stew of unyielding psychological tension that recalls classic cinematic face-offs like Olivier and Caine in Sleuth. Although steeped in palpable menace, and boasting a brooding, ever-building atmosphere, the narrative still feels like an authentic police investigation, with Figgis’s tempered direction and restrained choice of score allowing the thrills to be more naturally derived, and thus more effective. The film was further bolstered not only by the chemistry between the cast members, but also the unexpected animosity between Gere and Garcia, which unfortunately – but fortuitously – only echoed the sentiments of their respective characters, inadvertently lending the picture yet more clout.
Figgis ensures that his characters do as much damage with their words as they do with fists and firearms.
Internal Affairs Blu-ray Picture QualityInternal Affairs crept silently onto US Blu-ray earlier this month, with very little fuss. The good news: it's REGION FREE and marks a considerable step up from the various preceding DVD releases that have seen the light of day. Almost a quarter of a Century after it was first shot, the relatively low budget production was never destined to be demo material, with very little about it to warrant a glowing recommendation and even a couple of disappointing, problematic moments where the integrity of the image starts to crumble, but it still looks regularly good, often even very good - particularly on tighter shots - and, as stated, it marks a vast improvement over any other presentation that the movie has seen pretty-much since its 1990 theatrical release.
Facial detail, skin textures and clothing weaves are generally discernible, with Andy Garcia's short-and-spiky hair offered a little separation, and the red-eyed drug-addled look visible on the younger Baldwin brother. Clarity does not appear to come at the expense of excessive edge enhancement, although a small amount can be spotted, and DNR application has robbed some of the detail - a certain amount has likely been used to clean up the image, no doubt at the expense of true depth and pristine image reproduction. It’s not a complete loss, but the image doesn’t have the kind of definition you would expect from a pristine remaster.
There's a nice sheen of suitably filmic grain and the colour scheme is generally captured well, particularly with regards to Gere's bright red classic 63 corvette and the LA-tanned skin tones, although the black levels are where further problems start to creep in. Aside from moments where the black suits and police uniforms tend to blur a little, the most noticeable problem comes during the naturally-lit funeral sequence, where detail, contrast and image integrity go right out the window. Thankfully it's short-lived, but it, coupled with the mid-range detail levelling, prevents this from being anything more than a serviceable video presentation. If all you’ve been stuck with is the DVD, though, this is still a hefty step up, and with this being the kind of niche title that isn’t likely to see any further remastering in the next 25 years, fans should take what they can get..
Internal Affairs Blu-ray Sound QualityThe main English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, whilst not having a huge amount to play with, does a good but far from exceptional job, providing a welcome accompaniment to the proceedings without distinguishing itself in any particular way. Still, dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, with only a couple of ADR moments discernible during some of the more noisy scenes; both Gere's calm, calculated tones and Garcia's cool, almost mumbled words coming across discernibly at all times. Effects take precedence over the underplayed score, which only comes to life sporadically, perhaps moreso towards the end, leaving atmospheric observations – mostly of the bustling crowded streets and thrum of traffic – with the most presence. Gunshots ring true, and allow for a degree of separation. Whilst far from the kind of track you would use to show off your system with, I doubt anybody would have expected Internal Affairs to sound any better than this, and I doubt it ever has.
Internal Affairs Blu-ray ExtrasNo extras.
Is Internal Affairs Blu-ray Worth BuyingDespite being overshadowed by Pretty Woman and The Godfather Part III, respectively, lead stars Richard Gere and Andy Garcia delivered considerably more impressive performances here in this underappreciated 1990 cop thriller, Internal Affairs, which pits the two actors in a head-to-head battle of wits as an obsessive IA agent goes to extreme lengths to catch an ostensible top cop who will do whatever it takes to cover up his nefarious activities.
If you’ve never heard of it, then take that as a blessing, because now you get to watch this little gem for the very first time. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
This Region Free US release should suit the appetites of all fans, who will be just pleased to have one of their favourites finally available to add to their collection. Certainly the video and audio are nothing to scream and shout about, and the complete lack of extras only further exacerbates this, but this is a great, highly underrated crime thriller that everybody deserves to see. At this catalogue price it's worth the risk of a blind buy.
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