Absence of Malice comes to Region A-locked US Blu-ray complete with a 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. Detail is generally very good indeed, with no aberrant digital defects: no overt DNR tampering, no artifacts, and no signs of heavy-duty edge enhancement. The original grain level has been left largely intact, giving the movie a naturally filmic sheen throughout; indeed the only distracting grain comes into play during the closing few seconds as the titles roll over the final shot, and that is merely as a result of the original optical processing required to overlay the titles on the closing images. The colour scheme is broad and largely natural, the dated setting and outfits inherently faded, and we get strong, solid blacks that seldom fall below an acceptable level. Sure, this is a far cry from the best of the best hi-def shot blockbusters out there, and will never really make for demo quality material, but it’s pretty good for a thirty-year old movie and certainly the best the film has ever looked.
Buyers should beware that the inaccurate and incomplete specifications on the back cover of this release merely list the audio track as being “DTS-HD MA”, when in actual fact what we get is a Linear PCM 2.0 track.
Inherently a dialogue driven-affair, this front-heavy mix is a decent, solid offering that presents the already limited material well. It may not be a bombastic, dynamic offering, but then again, as stated, the film itself was simply never going to deliver that. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the frontal array, never distorting even during the moments of raging anger and screams. Effects are obviously restricted to almost entirely atmospheric ambience, but traffic and car noises are well presented, as well as the inner workings of the press equipment itself. The score, whatever you may think of it, gets some of the best presentation on this track, easily the second most dominant element after the dialogue. With no real bass to speak of, this still remains a good, solid presentation of this particular movie.
I didn’t really expect all that many extras for this release, but it’s nice that we get more than just a bare bones disc, with a very interesting half-hour retrospective documentary – Behind the Story – proving to be more than just another bit of EPK fluff, featuring an older Newman and Field, as well as the director and the writer looking back at the film, the story, the filming of important scenes, the supporting cast (including Wilford Brimley’s excellent cameo), the press reaction and the slightly tweaked reshot ending; as well as a single deleted scene, just a minute long, and fairly poor quality, which has a frustrated Newman having trouble with the bank because of his bad press; and the original theatrical trailer to round off the disc.
The 1981 drama Absence of Malice, starring the late, great Paul Newman, and directed by the late, highly acclaimed director Sydney Pollack, is not only packed with good performances (including an Oscar-nominated one from Newman), it is also founded upon a superior central issue, and one which continues to be relevant even to this day: the often unfettered power of the press. With all the ongoing controversies – how do we allow the Press to uncover important issues, like MPs expenses, whilst also preventing their more mercenary behaviour, like hacking into Milly Dowler's mobile phone? – it seems as good a time as any to check out this remarkably good, and unquestionably important, movie.
On Region A-locked US Blu-ray we get good video and decent audio, as well as a couple of nice extras that keep this from being just another mistreated, forgotten, bare bones back-catalogue title. Fans will definitely want to pick it up, and those who, liked me, had never even come across it, should certainly consider checking it out. If you like movies with strong and poignant issues at their core, then this will likely be well worth your time.
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