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From Dusk Till Dawn(1996)
The Gecko brothers -- two dangerous outlaws on a wild crime spree kidnap a father and his two kids and head south to a seedy Mexican bar to hide out in safety. But when they face the bar's truly notorious staff, they're forced to team up with their hostages in order to make it out alive!
For more about From Dusk Till Dawn and the From Dusk Till Dawn Blu-ray release, see From Dusk Till Dawn Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on May 6, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: George Clooney, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin, Fred Williamson
Director: Robert Rodríguez (I)
» See full cast & crew
From Dusk Till Dawn Blu-ray Review
Fans need to wait through many more dusks and dawns for a better Blu-ray release.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, May 6, 2011
Everything is hunky-dory.
Deception! From Dusk Till Dawn is perhaps the ultimate turn-on-its-head movie, a picture that plays one way for one half and becomes a whole other animal -- literally -- in its second half. This is a wonderfully-crafted picture and a hallmark of superb scriptwriting. That the film can be so jarringly different yet still flow so incredibly well and never feel like it's either playing with its audience or coming across as any way disingenuous is a testament to Quentin Tarantino's skills as a screenwriter. From Dusk Till Dawn is the collision of a seriously disturbed Crime Thriller and a gross-out festival of all things grotesque; carnage is everywhere, and no matter whether it's a high body count at the hands of a pair of deadly criminals or a smorgasbord of severed limbs dressed with gallons of blood at the fangs of the undead, Director Robert Rodriguez's picture is a hybrid flick for the ages that works incredibly well at both ends of the spectrum. Give it up to Rodriguez and Tarantino for bucking traditional structure, and leave it to them to make something as crazy-fringe as this both into a mainstream hit and a complete picture that's as comfortable allowing its actors to aimlessly but engrossingly chatter all the live long day and later tear them to pieces from dusk until the rescue of dawn.
Brothers Seth (George Clooney, The Men Who Stare at Goats) and Richie (Quentin Tarantino, Sukiyaki Western Django) are fugitives from justice, fleeing authorities following a daring robbery, leaving a bloody trail in their wake and one hostage in their trunk. After things go terribly awry at a roadside liquor store, they head to a small hideaway motel until the coast clears and they can meet their contacts in Mexico. Unfortunately, a small family, also on its way to Mexico, is about to have its fate forever entwined with the deadly brothers. Former minister Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel, Taxi Driver), mourning the loss of his wife and his faith, is looking to escape his past life, but he's dragging his children, Scott (Ernest Liu) and Kate (Juliette Lewis, Natural Born Killers), along for the ride. Seth and Richie see the Fuller's RV as an easy ticket to get across the boarder. The Fuller's are taken by force and made to drive the fugitives across the boarder, but skirting away from the authorities is going to be the easy part. Across the boarder and within the devilish walls of a smoky, sinful bar called the "Titty Twister," all hell's about to break loose and challenge the American five to stay alive from dusk till dawn.
First half first. From Dusk Till Dawn opens with one of those deliciously-written exchanges between two characters who manage to speak about absolutely nothing -- except for a blurb or two about the brotherly bandits who've already shot up Abilene and are cruising down towards the boarder; don't worry, though, we'll git'em -- yet do so in such a natural fashion that their B.S. is more captivating than anything even a good scriptwriter could dream up for an all-important exchange in some supposedly superior movie. That's what makes From Dusk Till Dawn so special. It's all B.S. It's all in good fun. There's no greater message here, no real reason for the movie, even, other than to shock and disgust viewers but at the same time prove that a movie that doesn't even have a traditional structure or even a second half that relates to anything in the first half can succeed. Indeed, the dialogue exchange between liquor store clerk and small-time lawman is the film's best moment, and it's the perfect tone-setter for what's to come, which is mindless but very well-executed drivel that's as entrancing as most anything else out there, from the most stiffly serious highbrow pictures to the lowest-common-denominator Action and Comedy films that strive only to pull the wool over the audience's eyes all They Live-like.
Still, the movie manages great intensity that's completely a product of Tarantino's script and the performances of its cast. For all the good work George Clooney has done -- Up In the Air, Three Kings, Michael Clayton -- this might be his best overall effort. It's certainly unmistakably Clooney with the suave stature and effortlessly natural dialogue. It's the way he takes everything in stride and keeps his emotions in check no matter the circumstances -- and there are some doozies -- that make the character one to remember. His counterpart, screenwriter Tarantino, plays the creepy, perverted, maybe even a little slow but always fast-talking "sidekick" wonderfully well; Tarantino isn't quite as good an actor as he is a writer/director, but considering he's pretty close to the top in both of those categories, that his acting is a notch or two below is still pretty darn impressive. Harvey Keitel is excellent as the troubled former minister who's running form his problems but only runs right into the wrath of God, and God forces him into a corner where he must decide how strong and deeply-rooted his faith really still is. Lastly, Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu -- the latter of whom is really quite good in this but unfortunately never did anything in the same hemisphere as From Dusk Till Dawn after the fact -- are both strong in critically important supporting roles.
The second half is all Robert Rodriguez. Sure there's still the occasional quick retort or snarky comment from a character, but part two is all about the carnage, and this is Robert Rodriguez's home turf. Nobody does bloody, gritty action like Robert Rodriguez, and From Dusk Till Dawn's second half is nothing but. He makes excessive violence fun; the "Titty Twister" becomes an orgy of bloody, guts, limbs, bile, and fire, and there's even a demonic band rocking out with a guitar made of a human torso playing the part of the body and a leg the neck; who can only guess what the strings are made from. This isn't a movie for those with a weak constitution -- at least its second half isn't -- but considering how Rodriguez carefully underscores the grizzly visuals and hardcore violence with an unmistakable sense of humor, he takes the edge off and turns what might have been an unwatchable display of gratuitous violence into one of the most wonderfully realized forty-five or so minutes in Horror movie history. Structurally, and from a purely cinematic perspective, the first half is still the superior of the two, but the second is easily the more entertaining. It really is something else to watch how two completely different halves collide, the only real common thread being the characters. There's a little something for everybody who appreciates an honest, well-made, all-in R-rated movie in From Dusk Till Dawn; just put grandma and the kids to bed before checking it out.
From Dusk Till Dawn Blu-ray, Video Quality
From Dusk Till Dawn makes its long-anticipated U.S. Blu-ray debut, and this 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer is...iffy. There are times when it boarders on the spectacular, though. Despite orange flesh tones and a generally burning-hot color palette, the opening sequence inside the liquor store looks borderline magnificent. A light layer of grain gives off a filmic texture, and fine details -- all the way down to the subtle texturing on the officer's hat -- are quite good. Moderately strong detailing remains through much of the picture, going so far as to reveal the fine lines in the "Titty Twister's" wooden floor and the scatted peanut shells and varied debris on top of it in a few close-up shots of people and gore strewn about. Still, the transfer does waver, sometimes looking flat and soft, minimizing detail and losing the film-like texture that's evident in the better scenes. Colors never drop below an alarmingly warm push, and black crush is evident throughout. Edge enhancement is occasionally visible, but banding, blocking, and print debris are, for the most part, non-factors. This isn't a total train wreck of a transfer. It's not an A-grade presentation and could be better, sure, but it's not the end of the world.
From Dusk Till Dawn Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fortunately, Echo Bridge has seen fit to present From Dusk Till Dawn on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. In raw terms of excellence, it fares better than the video transfer, but it's still not without problems and inconsistencies. Music is sometimes rich and full, and at other times cramped and lifeless. Notes occasionally drift to the sides but struggle to achieve a fuller-bodied texture, but at other times the track effortlessly spreads its wings and achieves a high level output where every speaker is engaged, clarity is strong, and power is evident. Even the lighter music that accompanies Salma Hayek's famed tabletop dance routine is smooth and natural, but some other quieter notes heard elsewhere in the film struggle to achieve the same level of definition. Background ambience is fine, whether evident in the light din of a family-friendly diner or the rowdier sounds of the "Titty Twister" bar. Fluttering bats swirl around the soundstage in one extended sequence, providing the most dominant of the discrete and surround elements in the film. Gunfire is adequately potent, action scenes are equipped with a strong but not positively tight and seamless low end, and dialogue reproduction is always center-focused and clear. It's fortunate that From Dusk Till Dawn wasn't saddled with a two-channel soundtrack as is the case with some of the other recent Echo Bridge/Miramax releases; the added channels really help the material, and while this isn't a reference-grade track, it handles the action and music well enough.
From Dusk Till Dawn Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
From Dusk Till Dawn contains no extras.
From Dusk Till Dawn Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
From Dusk Till Dawn is as if a trial run for the Tarantino/Rodriguez collaboration that would culminate in the fabulous Grindhouse double feature. This movie is itself a tale of two pictures meshed into one, the only real common thread the cast of characters. The smooth-talking, well-staged, strongly-acted first half is all Quentin Tarantino, and the ultra-violent and loads-of-gory-fun second half is all Robert Rodriguez. From Dusk Till Dawn is a wonderfully unique movie that has a little something for everyone and plays as a coherent whole despite the radical change in structure and content from one half to the next. Echo Bridge's controversial Blu-ray release of From Dusk Till Dawn isn't a show-stopper, but it's certainly not Total Terror either. The lossless soundtrack is good at times and adequate at others. The absence of supplements is a real shame for a movie of this profile and is a greater disappointment than even the video. Fans who don't already own this movie or are just now getting around to checking it out might consider a purchase given the low asking price, but anyone who cares about supplements or already owns a serviceable DVD copy might want to hold out for something more substantial.
From Dusk Till Dawn: Other Editions
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