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Dexter Cornell, an English Professor becomes embroiled in a series of murders involving people around him. Dexter has good reason to want to find the murderer but hasn't much time. He finds help and comfort from one of his student, Sydney Fuller.
For more about D.O.A. and the D.O.A. Blu-ray release, see D.O.A. Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 19, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, Charlotte Rampling, Daniel Stern, Jane Kaczmarek, Robert Knepper
Directors: Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton
» See full cast & crew
D.O.A. Blu-ray Review
A Thriller with a steady pulse.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 19, 2012
You look dead.
D.O.A. isn't just a cute acronym or a description of the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirate offense, but also the title of a rather snazzy Whodunit hailing from the late 1980s, the film starring Dennis Quaid in the lead role and Meg Ryan prancing about in a "Freudian" slip. The film follows pretty basic Mystery procedure but goes through the motions with an uptick in urgency and, through all the chaos, weaves together a fairly taught, well-organized little Thriller that has a little bit of everything, including murder, greed, hidden identities, and a lengthy suspect list all with their own motivations and each with secrets to hide well beyond how they are initially constructed and far past the scope of the film's focus crime. The picture doesn't absolutely grab the audience and suck it into an inescapably intense rush to the truth -- it's not quite that gripping -- but the movie flows quickly and leaves nothing on the table, particularly in terms of its energy and eagerness to tell the best tale it can in a 90-some minute window of opportunity.
College professor and once-ambitious and talented writer Dexter Cornell (Quaid) is wading through a fairly typical adult existence. His divorce from unhappy spouse Gail (Jane Kaczmarek) is all but finalized. He's washed out at work and he's lost his touch behind the typewriter. He's so far gone from work that when an ambitious student named Nicholas Lang (Robert Knepper) seeks Dexter's approval on a novel he's recently penned, Dexter merely brushes the document aside and grades it without even opening the cover. But when Lang tumbles down the side of the building, bloodies Dexter's window, and and crashes to the pavement below, Dexter realizes that there might be something more to the young man than an attention-starved young author. Dexter suddenly finds himself in conflict with fellow faculty, including another inspiring writer, Hal Petersham (Daniel Stern). He's also working through the realities of a student crush; young Sydney Fuller (Ryan) is a shy but longtime admirer of the good professor and his written works. But things truly unravel when, somewhere along the course of the hours following Lang's death, Dexter is poisoned by someone in his inner circle, either by an old acquaintance or a newcomer into his life. Learning he has only a day or so left to live, a weakened but driven Dexter sets out to unravel the truth and nail his killer before he himself keels over for good.
D.O.A. presents audiences with a fair primary mystery but a more complex surrounding series of events which truly give the movie its shape, dramatic scope, and appeal. Though it's not immediately clear who Dexter's killer may be, the primary suspect appears fairly easy to spot, even as the film populates the landscape with a fairly large variety of possibilities. The "what" and the "why" become more important and entertaining food for though than the "who," seeing as audiences who are no strangers to the Whodunit landscape can probably see through the smokescreens with little effort. But there's enough surrounding intrigue enveloping the whole of Dexter's frantic search for answers that the film actually works with the killer's identity -- though perhaps not quite the specifics of the motive -- pegged rather early in the process. Truth be told, it's all of the film's other revelations that give the movie a greater dynamic shape beyond the mere identity of the killer and his or her motivation, for there's far more to Dexter's life and the people suddenly shaping it -- both new acquaintances and old relations -- than even he knew in the hours, days, months, even years prior to his eye-opening and life-ending poisoning.
The other key factor in the shaping of D.O.A. into a winning film is the direction of Annabel Jankel and Rocky Morton. There's an early Robert Rodriguez vibe to the whole thing, the opening and closing black and white moments in particular oozing the director's style (note the film actually predates any Rodriguez films). The bookend segments let off an edgy tone and manage the delicate balance between highly stylized but not overdone. The film-at-large offers up good, high quality cinematographic composition, retaining that gritty, fast-paced, hardcore feel throughout, all the while keeping up a strong rhythm but also a consistency in tone and a strong cinematic flow. Characterization rises above cinema norm, too. The characters are well rounded and provided quality backstories, and even if some of that seems a little stale -- the divorce chatter between Dexter and his soon-to-be-ex-wife plays as a little too rehearsed and generic -- the script generally rises above the call of duty and yields a fairly dynamic collection of suspects who are far more than meets the eye. Combined with strong performances all around -- Quaid really captures the frantic, dizzy, sweaty, but determined dying hero thing remarkably well -- and that high-yield mood and atmosphere, and it's easy to see why D.O.A. is a solid little picture that's better than many others of its kind come.
D.O.A. Blu-ray, Video Quality
D.O.A.'s 1080p transfer falls around the upper end of the Mill Creek Blu-ray picture quality spectrum. The image appears fairly detailed and nicely colored, and it's generally consistent to boot. Grain retention is evident, and ranges in visible intensity from low-to-medium-to-high. The black-and-white opening and closing segments appear rough by design, though blacks do go rather pale and a few pops and stray vertical lines are present. The bulk of the film, presented in color, yields a steady palette that's never too dim but never excessively or unnaturally vibrant, even in bright reds that push the display rather hard. Skin textures can appear somewhat smooth and pasty, but generally the image offers fair facial, clothing, and accent details. The image isn't consistently sharp and precision clarity isn't a given, but softness and murky elements are the exception rather than the rule. Black levels in the color segments are fine, though skin tones favor a slightly red and rosy appearance. Print wear isn't an issue of much concern, nor are banding or blocky backgrounds. This is a serviceable, acceptable transfer of an old catalogue title plopped onto a Blu-ray being sold at a bargain price right off the bat.
D.O.A. Blu-ray, Audio Quality
D.O.A. delivers a soundtrack that's sort of lackluster but effective, not lively but not on life support, either. Mill Creek's DTS-HD MA 2.0 lossless soundtrack serves up music that plays with suitable balance, natural smoothness, and good front-side spacing, with emphasis on a club scene that offers a more intense musical presentation with heightened volume and energy. The basic dialogue element impresses insofar as its ability to remain natural and focused in the middle portion of the soundstage. Various atmospherics give this track a larger feel, a bigger sense of space, and a more natural flair. Whether the din of a busy college quad or a Christmas party, chatter in an art gallery, the hustle and bustle of a busy city street, or specific effects like a flushing toilet or police sirens, the track reproduces the film's various surroundings and sound effects with relative ease. There's a slight crunchiness to a few effects and the strive for clarity sometimes seems to put a strain on the track, but all things considered this is a fair presentation that cannot be faulted too much given the aggressive bargain pricing.
D.O.A. Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
All that's included is the D.O.A. theatrical trailer (480p, 1:50).
D.O.A. Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
D.O.A. may not be the most memorable film to come out of the late 1980s, but it's a very high quality, slightly-under-the-radar experience that offers high quality direction, a fine cast and equally admirable performances, and a good sense of mystery that's actually more interesting as it concerns the surrounding plot elements, not simply the main story. It's a watchable, fast-paced, neatly-constructed little Thriller that withstands the test of time and proves superior to many bigger-budgeted pictures that lack D.O.A.'s personal intensity and edgy, high quality craftsmanship. Mill Creek's Blu-ray release of D.O.A. features suitable video and audio but no extras of note. Considering the quality of the film, the acceptable Blu-ray technical presentation, and the price, this release comes recommended.
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