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Blu-Ray Review: THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT - Entertaining Actioner Let Down By Careless Transfer

Another back catalogue release- this time from Warner Home Video- given the high definition treatment, The Long Kiss Goodnight should well be considered one of the best action movies of the 1990s and is available to buy on Blu-ray now. But even more fundamentally than that, it should be heralded as one of the only films (other than Beetlejuice) to ever get a good performance out of Geena Davis- and a full year after the debacle of Cutthroat Island as well! The question, as always, is: do we need it? Based on the film alone, the answer would be yes. The Long Kiss Goodnight is a pleasure- ahead of its time in terms of its rather post-modern pastiche of action films (going way beyond cliche by injecting some knowing nods and winks for instance), and pleasantly positions Geena Davis in what would usually have been a male role. The premise is so good that it feels very familiar- the amnesiac super agent who by accident rediscovers her skill set after another bump on the head, and finds the key to unlocking the secrets of her past. But it isn't just the premise that works so well: the execution is excellent, from the generally hyped up feel of the action, to the brilliant, memorable and eminently quotable dialogue through to the chemistry (both in-script and on screen) between Samuel L Jackson and Geena Davis. I have always maintained that Jackson is at his best when he has someone else to bounce off- as in Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable, even Soul Men- he needs a counter-point to balance, and to a certain extent restrain his intensity. Otherwise he just ends up shouting into a vacuum, unable to judge the ferocity of his performance, and descending to a later Al Pacino style of acting that amounts to no more than shouting as loud as possible at every one else on screen. The film rests on Geena Davis though- it is her performance that makes it a lot more than just the hugely expensive actioner without much in terms of substance that it is often accused of being. She handles the necessary schizophrenia of her character(s) well, even offering a convincing segue from masculinised and feminised identities, and more than holds her own in the boy's world of the action film. I only have one problem with the film: I have always hated, and I think will always hate the cheap Bond-rip-off style opening credits that look an utter mess, and if you look hard enough give away the bloody secret about Geena Davis' character before we even meet her on screen. That's just silly. But other than that, it is a great action film experience. Never too complex, and just self-aware enough to pull off a gentle parody among the big guns and explosions. But how does it fair as a high-definition offering?

Quality

There is a disclaimer at the start of this disc- as there are with many others- stating something along the lines of "This high definition disc was made to the highest standard. Your machine may require a Firmware update"- how ominous is that when you're faced with a back catalogue release? For some reason, I noticed the message during this viewing, after hundreds of times when I've just stared at it blankly- and it seems that notice was an odd prophecy for what was to follow. The Long Kiss Goodnight is all over the place as high definition transfer: chief among the problems is the palette, which amps up rainbow colours to cartoonish levels, while neglecting pastel tones, blacks and whites, so there is a bizarro Mark Millar feel about the wintry scenes. The best evaluation is to imagine the print as a colourised black and white, because that's what it looks like- facial tones are too orangey against the snowy backdrop, and everything looks entirely out of place, like the Colour and Contrast settings are way, way off. Texture ranges from excellent in facial close-ups (making Geena Davis look withered at one point) to entirely wiped out in wider shots (thanks in part to the dialled up colour palette) to the point where everyone looks like they're sculpted from wax, particularly Samuel L Jackson, whose face is usually so full of character. It is incredibly frustrating to think that studios are still putting these under-cooked, DNR heavy transfers out for the sake of getting them out, when there would be a market for well-done transfers, even for middling quality films. The sound is okay- typically bombastic in action sequences, which is good, but more than a little too quiet in slower paced scenes, which I have found from almost all of these back catalogue releases- so you either have to choose between normal volume dialogue and ear-bursting music and special effects, or just too-quiet dialogue and acceptable level sound effects. Not something anyone should have to choose between. So going back to that question at the top- do we need it? Probably not. Extras One measly Theatrical Trailer. I considered approaching Trading Standards about the use of the term "Special Features" on the disc, since there is definitely nothing special, and I'd even contest that a Trailer constituted a feature at all. Theatrical Trailer The Long Kiss Goodnight is available to buy on Blu-ray now.
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