Stormy Monday Blu-ray Review
Leaving Newcastle Pet
Mike Figgis's low budget noir debut Stormy Monday introduced the world to a young Sean Bean, caught between warring Brit and Yank gangsters played by Sting and Tommy Lee Jones.Nearly 30 years on and it looks like quite a low key production, but Figgis, with legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, still crafts a suitable mood and ties together a fairly straightforward story with a surprisingly effective veil of unpredictability. Indeed, scratching below the surface - or thinking about the 'coincidences' - and you find a contrived narrative, but Figgis disguises it with a game cast and an atmospheric and atypical setting. Bean's naive Brendan finds work as a cleaner at a jazz club owned by Sting's beleaguered manager, Finney, who is under pressure from a dodgy US 'businessman', Cosmo, played by Tommy Lee Jones, to sell up. Things get complicated when Cosmo's violent methods of persuasion don't go according to plan - a situation further exacerbated when his right-hand-girl, Kate (Melanie Griffith) meets Brendan.Supposedly shot as a tribute to Get Carter, there's little (beyond Newcastle) that parallels the two, but that's not to say that Figgis's effort isn't an impressive debut, marking one of the relatively few films in his oeuvre which are noteworthy (although famous for Leaving Las Vegas, few others hit the mark beyond the underrated Internal Affairs). Bathed in sax and jazz - the latter of which doesn't always work apart from mirroring the frenetic on-screen events - the score is its own moody component, which helps things no end. Bean's very young, but does a solid job opposite Griffith, whilst the heavyweights battle it out for ownership of the club, with Sting surprisingly natural as the gun-hating owner (making you wonder why he didn't take more roles) and Jones pulling off a trademark performance he could do in his sleep. A great, game cast, and a moody, strong debut.
Picture QualityArrow's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of Stormy Monday promotes an impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, delivering the film in likely the best shape it's ever looked, polishing up the limited-budget late 80s Brit production.
This disc is likely the best shape the film has ever looked
Clarity is strong, with fine detail lapped up and superior texturing, with close-ups looking solid, whilst Deakins' great longer shots often elevate the production (like the bridge sequence). There's still a little inherent softness around the edges, likely present from the original source material, and black levels, whilst generally very well defined - with strong shadow detail - are far from flawless. The colour scheme is natural and the image has some very rich tones, even if the setting - and noir style - isn't defined by vibrancy. The grain structure remains stable for the most part, and overall it's a very good video presentation indeed.
Sound QualityThe accompanying uncompressed LPCM 2.0 track, on the other hand, is far from impressive. Whilst dialogue gets strong presentation, coming across clearly and coherently and taking precedence over the rest of the material where necessary, and whilst the effects - understandably - remain nominal and indicative of both the style and budget, they still come across as solid, however it's the score that sounds... odd.
It's disappointing that the music doesn't sound right
It's not the first time that Arrow have delivered an audio track which isn't quite right, with the excellent King of New York getting a strong release let down only by its 5.1 remix. Similar problems beset the uncompressed audio here, leaving the score - which is arguably one of the most important parts of the production - often booming and echoing unpleasantly, as if it had been recorded in a vast hall. Although it's not a problem that affects the whole film, that's only because the scoring and song elements are not non-stop, and for a film largely set in a jazz club, it's unsurprisingly disappointing that the music doesn't sound right. Almost certainly the importance and impact of this issue will vary wildly from person to person, but for many it will prove disappointing having waited nearly 30 years to revisit this film.
ExtrasArrow's release sports a small but decent selection of extra features headlined by an Audio Commentary by writer/director Mike Figgis himself, moderated by critic Damon Wise. Figgis expands upon his ideas behind the feature, and what he had to work with, as well as the strengths the cast brought to the table, and the unusual setting. We also get a new 'Appreciation' of the movie by critic Neil Young, and a tour of the famous Newcastle locations used in the film offering up glimpses of them at the time, and now, almost thirty years on. The disc is rounded off by a trailer, and the package itself completed with one of Arrow's trademark booklets and a reversible sleeve featuring great new artwork.
Blu-ray VerdictStormy Monday boasts a great, game cast, and makes a moody, strong debut
Arrow's release of Mike Figgis' British classic debut, Stormy Monday, gets off to a good start with a great video presentation, but ruins things with a flawed audio track privy to several unmistakable booming echo reverberations which mostly affect the sequences with more active music. Still, if you can get past that, there's a decent set of extras and it's certainly the best the film has ever looked, and likely the only Blu-ray release available.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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