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Category:    Home > Reviews > Crime > Drama > Revenge > Mexico > Heist > Bank Robbery > Spy > Espionage > Action > British > Days Of Grace (2011/Cinema Libre Blu-ray)/The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973/Paramount/Criterion Blu-ray)/The Scorpio Letters (1967/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)

Days Of Grace (2011/Cinema Libre Blu-ray)/The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973/Paramount/Criterion Blu-ray)/The Scorpio Letters (1967/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)

Picture: B-/B/C+ Sound: C+/B-/C Extras: C+/B/C- Films: B-/B-/C

PLEASE NOTE: The Scorpio Letters DVD is now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for three crime dramas you should know about...

Everardo Gout's Days Of Grace (2011) is an ambitious look at crime in Mexico City through three intertwined tales from three closely-connected years that tries to paint a larger portrait of the dark side of such activity today with a somewhat complex narrative approach that we have seen before in everything from The Red Riding Hood Murders to Pulp Fiction, to Traffic and more. This is not to say it is derivative, as we get some uncomfortable moments you would never see in most U.S. (let alone Hollywood) films, but it never adds up to making the big statement.

That does not mean it does not have its merits, including simply taking itself and the audience seriously in intelligence and mature content, which we see less and less these days. Irony is intended as all three events are when the World Cup (not celebrated enough in the U.S.) is going on, as the cops and criminals think each other's guards will be down. Amusing. All in all, it is worth a look and just a cut above most such films in the genre over the last few decades, even when it falls short.

Extras include Original Theatrical Trailer, Photo Gallery and four decent Behind The Scenes featurettes, especially one on shooting the various film formats that make up the final film.

Peter Yates' The Friends Of Eddie Coyle (1973) has Robert Mitchum in the title role of an old criminal who wants to make some kind of deal to stay out of prison and have the rest of what peaceful life he has left with his life, including agreeing to supply a cop (Richard Jordan) with information about an upcoming heist that is part of a series of bold bank robberies where people have been killed. He thinks he has a deal, but something darker is going on behind the scenes.

Another smart film from the 1970s that not enough people saw, talk about or was the hit it could or should have been, Yates is in comfortable form here and has a great supporting cast including Peter Boyle, Alex Rocco, Joe Santos and Steven Keats as a gun dealer named Jackie Brown. Yes, the film is influential as several of Yates films have been besides Bullitt. Though I think there are a few flaws here, it is one worth going out of you way for and it is additionally great Criterion took it on.

Extras include a very thick booklet on the film with an essay by critic Kent Jones and a 1973 on-set profile of actor Robert Mitchum from Rolling Stone Magazine, while the Blu-ray disc adds a feature length audio commentary by Yates and a Stills Gallery.

Richard Thorpe's The Scorpio Letters (1967) is one of MGM's British productions with Alex Cord as an investigating agent trying to find out why a spy killed himself. He finds some odd letters and starts investigating, but finds trickery everywhere he turns. This includes a seductress (Shirley Eaton, whose Goldfinger connection is played up in the advertising), Laurence Naismith, Antoinette Bower, Arthur Malet, Oscar Beregi Jr. and a brief turn by Eric Pohlmann.

The script wants to be smart and serious, then goes wrong trying to be witty and Hitchcockian, leading Thorpe to lose control of his film and resulting in a disappointment that could have worked. At least it was decent early on.

A trailer is the only extras.

The 1080p image in Grace has various aspect ratios within its 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition presentation, shot on Super 8mm, anamorphic Super 16mm (at a 3 X 1 aspect ratio!) and 35mm that is well shot, edited and well melded together, but the big error the makers pulled was to decolor the images in an attempt to not be in the Hollywood mode. Instead, they landed up looking like post-modern Hollywood films from Soderbergh's Traffic on down. If they had just kept some of the natural color throughout, it would have been amazing. Still, ambitious and it pays off still enough despite some visual limits.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Coyle can show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and often has some exceptional shots just the same coming from a combination of 35mm interpositive and 35mm reversal internegative from the original camera negative. Originally issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints (very valuable now if you have one), you can see in many places how good it must have looked in such copies. Director of Photography Victor J. Kemper, A.S.C., (Dog Day Afternoon, ...and justice for all, Magic, Audrey Rose, The Hospital) uses the framing to be big, yet confining. This creates a density indoors and outdoors that adds to the narrative heft already in the script and situations. Thanks to Blu-ray, you can see, feel & experience this all as intended.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Scorpio is good for the format in its original MetroColor and has some good shots, but could use some restoration work.

Grace oddly only offers a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 when one would expect a lossless track with Blu-ray, but it is not bad. It just could have been better. The PCM 2.0 Mono on Coyle comes from a 35mm magnetic soundmaster and is actually better throughout with warmer, fuller playback, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Scorpio is a bit compressed, has its share of distortion and is not loud enough throughout. Be careful of volume switching and high levels in this case.

To order the The Scorpio Letters Warner Archive DVD, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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