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Not Easily Broken(2009)
Dave and Clarice Johnson are in their second decade of marriage. Dave's dreams of major league baseball success were dashed by an injury in college, leading him to a steady but unfulfilling career as the head of a small construction firm. Clarice is basking in the glow of real estate stardom, creating a life that revolves around her rise to the top. She has become blind to Dave's needs, the most important being his desire to become a father and start a family with her. They face a total disruption in their lives when a car crash seriously injures Clarice, whose meddling mother, Mary, blames Dave for her daughter's leg injuries and derailed career. Help comes in the form of kind-hearted physical therapist and single mom Julie Sawyer, whose son Bryson is coached by Dave and his pals Brock and Tree in Little League baseball. Though Clarice is helped by Julie's care, she becomes concerned that her constant criticism of Dave has pushed her husband away--possibly into the arms of the empathetic Julie. Soon Dave and Clarice must face a married couple's most serious questions: are we really meant to be together, and if we are, how do we fight to keep what we have built as man and wife?
For more about Not Easily Broken and the Not Easily Broken Blu-ray release, see Not Easily Broken Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on April 3, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Morris Chestnut, Taraji P. Henson, Maeve Quinlan, Jenifer Lewis, Kevin Hart, Wood Harris
Director: Bill Duke
» See full cast & crew
Not Easily Broken Blu-ray Review
Boasting impressive picture and sound, Sony's drama about interpersonal relationships flirts with a religious view.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, April 3, 2009
Not Easily Broken starts out with the message that marriage is a religious bond. Judging by the opening scene, it seems that the movie would attempt to cast religion as a character in the film as strongly as any of the other characters. Talk about wrong first impressions. That opening thesis melts away rather quickly, as it seems not even a movie based on a story by pastor T.D. Jakes can survive Hollywood's apparent rules barring religion from being portrayed too positively in film. But before shying away from a religious message, Not Easily Broken shows a minister perform his sermon at the wedding ceremony between Dave Johnson (Morris Chestnut) and Clarice Clark (Taraji P. Henson). The minister preaches that a third partner exists in marriage: God. This is a rather gutsy way to start a film. But instead of an ongoing, theological message about faith and belief and the renewing and redemptive power of religion, the film emphasizes a more secular message about community, anti-materialism, and social outreach. Needless to say, those themes have been done to death and Not Easily Broken devolves into a series of cliches. Despite the corny dialog, the characters seem somewhat accessible and the technical merits of Sony's Blu-ray disc are impressive. Not Easily Broken deserves at least a rental for those interested in such dramas.
After the opening scene, we begin to see that the marriage between Dave and Clarice is strained and growing increasingly troubled. Dave is a struggling contractor--a genuine good guy who mentors the boys he coaches for baseball. Clarice is more materialistic. She works as a high-end real estate agent. These character portraits may be cliches, but they seem true to life. The arguments are also fairly realistic as Clarice becomes a contentious shrew, yelling at Dave and blaming him for inconveniencing her when essentially all he is doing is being altruistic in the community. When Dave suggests having children, Clarice rolls her eyes. A lot of young women empowered by their career feel that way, but it is painful to watch. You wouldn't want a friend opening your ear and dumping every detail of his or her domestic problems into your head, so why would you expose yourself to such things in a movie about fictional characters?
As the marriage seems to be on a path headed for destruction, Clarice and Dave suffer a serious auto accident caused by the other vehicle. While Clarice had seemed like a shrew, the aftermath of the accident brings forth an even bigger bitch--her mother Mary Clark (Jennifer Lewis)--who promptly blames the accident on Dave's little league dedication. This blame game plays out at the hospital just as Clarice is being prep'ed for surgery. Talk about a drama queen--now we know where drama princess Clarice got her genes. No sooner is Clarice conscious again when the contentiousness continues. Physical therapist Julie Sawyer (Maeve Quinlan) gets the same treatment from Clarice that Dave got: nasty responses and more eye-rolling. To be fair, there are pleasant scenes--particularly featuring Dave and his buddies Brock Houseman (Eddie Cibrian) and Tree (Kevin Hart). Even Clarice seems amicable when chumming it up with her homegirl Michelle (Niecy Nash). Despite those highpoints, the film features numerous lows, beyond Clarice's eye-rolling exercises, such as Dave's narration. At its core, Not Easily Broken is a rather tired, clicheed portrayal of a marriage.
Not Easily Broken Blu-ray, Video Quality
The video performance of Not Easily Broken is interesting. Beyond the typical Sony emphasis on yellows and blues, some scenes appear even further stylized in terms of color variation. In one scene in particular, the effect is almost as if the picture is printed on litho film, but admittedly with less grain. Watch the sequence where Dave shows up for the one-on-one basketball game, featuring heavy cyan weight. The video certainly creates a mood here--suggestive of a duotone presentation. But most of the movie showcases a truer color palatte, and good detail. Throughout, the realism is startling. The wedding scene appears almost glossy in its treatment of distant shots and close-ups. The gorgeous picture quality helps transport us into the ceremony.
In addition to the tonal range and colors that are characteristic of Sony's transfers, the sharpness and resolution also contribute to the detailed presentation. These factors help render lifelike definition, revealing that the focal point of the camera, as well as the details in skin and clothing textures. Fine grain is visible, which also contributes to the film-like definition. The transfer is so clear that it highlights a different "look" between consecutive shots--probably the result of the scenes being shot on different days, in different locations or angles, using different cameras, emulsions, ambient light or camera aperture. But the editing ensures these differences are not jarring, and the honesty of the picture makes the imagery even more powerful. Sometimes it appears that the yellow and cyan colors are oversaturated, but the aren't. The picture is within the limits of natural color accuracy. Colors in nature can appear vibrant and Not Easily Broken features a color scheme that is neither muted nor exaggerated.
Not Easily Broken Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 24-bit 48-kHz Dolby TrueHD track is impressive and occasionally immersive, with the rear channels and LFE employed during key parts of some scenes. While the film's religious theme is dispelled early in the narrative, the soundtrack keeps the theme alive in some of the music. The songs include "17 Reasons" performed by Mumblin Jim, "The Lords Prayer" performed by Jesse Campbell, "Back to Even" performed by Dennis Nelson, "I Rock", "Hollywood Workout" and "My Throne" performed by Pimp Da Pen, "Fly Away" performed by C. Holiday, "Sunshine" and "Blue Skies" performed by Terry Dexter, "Can You Feel Me" performed by To Be Continued, "No Danger" performed by Rahsaan Patterson,"You're in the Right Place" performed by Denetria Champ, "Oohs & Aahs" performed by The Caldwell Plus Vocal Ensemble, "Into My Dreams" performed by Kurt Farquhar, "A House Is Not a Home" performed by Rob White, "Medieval Times (Great Pretender)" performed by Cee-Lo, "Love Is Still Here" performed by Jaheim, Touch Me" performed by Nikki Grier, "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" performed by Jesse Campbell, "Days of Our Lives 5710" performed by Brent Nelson, "Have to Go Through It" performed by Tamia and Eric Benét and "Lord Give Me a Sign" performed by DMX. Instrumentation and vocals feature rich and detailed midrange, and extended highs that allow the drums and other percussive sounds to appear natural. The instrumentation and dialog has good presence over the entire dynamic range. Overall, the track is heavily weighted toward the center, as one would expect for a drama such as Not Easily Broken. The dialog is balanced well with the soundtrack and other elements of the mix.
Not Easily Broken Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
As one might expect from a Blu-ray release of a movie in theaters this year, the supplementary content of Not Easily Broken is all in high definition. While this is welcome, there is precious little content available--not even the standard commentary audio track--which is fine if the emphasis is on quality over quantity. Unfortunately, both are lacking. The supplementary content is as follows:
Making "Not Easily Broken"--Featuring cast and crew, this 13-minute documentary is not particularly informative. It doesn't even do justice to the one difficult scene in the film from a technical standpoint: the car crash.
Five Deleted scenes--If you thought there were scenes in the movie you would have liked to edit out, just wait until you see these.
Film Trailers--Seven Pounds, This Christmas, Hancock, Hitch and The Pursuit of Happyness
Not Easily Broken Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
While the message of Not Easily Broken is powerful and commendable, the film's reliance on cliches and painful or contentious relationship dynamics made me want to shut off my PS3 after just a few minutes. I also continue to be mystified that a story written by a pastor and starting out with a strong message about God's involvement in the marriage between a man and a woman became a completely secular Hollywood movie. I was hoping for a more gutsy statement that had religion play more of a redemptive and renewing role in the marriage between Clarice and Dave. At least it would have made for an original narrative. But the film went in more mundane directions. I can recommend the Blu-ray on the basis of the quality transfer, appealing picture quality and solid audio presentation.
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