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©1998–2017
Dustin Putman




The Commitments  (1991)

Reviewed for TheBluFile.com by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: August 30, 2016) – "The Commitments" is a film of great music and exuberant youthful naiveté, leading to an anticlimactic whimper. Perhaps that is director Alan Parker's entire point, that the talented ragtag band members at the center of the story (based on Roddy Doyle's 1987 novel) are too different and too volatile, getting in the way of themselves and their burgeoning success. Watching them, it is easy to see how fame is within their grasp and why, simultaneously, it couldn't be farther away. If "The Commitments" doesn't add up to much, observing but not really digging deeply into its characters or their exploits and squabbles, there is no denying the film's naturalism and energy. Predominately using untrained actors, Parker's ensemble feel like real people, going (mostly) through real experiences. This—and the music they sing—is where the picture buzzes and sparks to life.

In a standout big-screen debut that, surprisingly, didn't lead to a longer movie career, Robert Arkins (striking a passing resemblance to James McAvoy) is terrific as Jimmy Rabbitte, a music lover with a wild but possible dream of creating a rock-and-roll soul band in his North Dublin hometown. Holding auditions out of his parents' home, he gradually gathers together his group, a cover band specializing in soul called The Commitments. Acting as manager, he begins the intensive rehearsal process, his members—among them, lead singer Deco Cuffe (Andrew Strong), whom he discovers drunkenly singing at a wedding; lead guitarist "Outspan" Foster (Glen Hansard); bass player Derek Scully (Kenneth McCluskey); Commitmentette backing vocalists Bernie McGloughlin (Bronagh Gallagher), Natalie Murphy (Maria Doyle) and Imelda Quirke (Angeline Ball); and elder, more experienced trumpet player Joey "The Lips" Fagan (Johnny Murphy)—working toward playing their first gigs around town. The closer they get to hitting it big, however, the more their warring egos begin to get in the way.

Throughout his career, director Alan Parker has made films that are more serious and hard-hitting (1988's "Mississippi Burning"), more visionary (1982's "Pink Floyd: The Wall"), and more ambitious in scope (1996's "Evita"), but the cultural and locational milieu he portrays in "The Commitments" feels authentic and lived-in. The unforced liveliness of the cast is infectious, but the wall-to-wall soundtrack (featuring covers of classics by Sir Mack Rice, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, The Marvelettes, and Wilson Pickett) is arguably the biggest star, the loose narrative frequently moving out of the way to make room for another musical performance. In spite of its rhythmic charms, there is a slightness to "The Commitments," the story never burrowing beneath the surface, the characters underutilized, and the climactic unraveling of their relationships striking one as obligatory rather than organic. Still, the film is memorable, lingering in one's mind after it has ended. Perhaps, in the end, it's a tad wiser than it initially lets on.

Blu-ray Picture/Sound
 A/A

"The Commitments" is twenty-five years old, but one would never know it based on its sterling 1080p transfer. Looking young and refreshed, this cult musical drama appears to have gone through a noticeable restoration, and the results are pretty remarkable to behold. Image depth is eye-opening, finding dimensionality in its gritty Irish surroundings. Detail and clarity are vivid, accurately observing fine textures on surfaces and clothing, as well as every line and strand of hair stubble on the actors' faces. Colors appear healthy, and black levels are solid. Age-related issues are, well, a non-issue; the image is clean and clear with little to no noticeable specks of dirt or damage. Without a doubt, the film has never looked this good on a home entertainment format. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is every bit the picture's equal, showcasing with range, clarity and overall fullness its staggering 68 music cues and 52-song soundtrack. Dialogue is on point within the mix, always clear even through thick Dublin accents.

Blu-ray Features
  • Audio Commentary with director Alan Parker
  • "25 Years Later: Interview with Alan Parker and the Cast" Featurette (19:09, HD)
  • "The Making of Alan Parker's Film The Commitments" Featurette (22:37, HD)
  • "The Commitments: Looking Back" Featurette (47:11, HD)
  • "Dublin Soul" Featurette (14:53, HD)
  • "Making of The Commitments" Featurette (8:05, HD)
  • "Treat Her Right" Music Video with Alan Parker and Robert Arkins Introduction (5:51, HD)
  • Production Stills
  • Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Bottom Line
Image Entertainment has pulled out all the stops with its Blu-ray release of "The Commitments," labeled "The 25th Anniversary Edition." Love and care and attention to detail have been paid to this catalogue title, resulting in a fantastic, features-stacked package that fans should be all over. Highly recommended.

Buy Now at Amazon

© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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