Sound: B- Extras: C Film: B-
Michael Winner is the director of such controversial films
as the original Death Wish films, Chato’s Land, and The
Sentinel, often categorized as reactionary Right Wing films, even dubbed
fascist by some very Left writers.
However, that is often an oversimplification of his work and though it
is not above some of the criticism, you would think he was Ted Nugent on speed
the way these writers talk. In real
life, Winner is a gentleman British director and not all of his films are
action pictures. Parting Shots
(1998) is one of his more elaborate comedy films, the kind of film he has been
shooting more recently.
Pop singer Chris Rea, known in the United States for his
one hit Fool (If You Think It’s Over) from 1978, plays Harry
Sterndale. Harry is a photographer who
never saw his work take off, only for his doctor to tell him he’s only got
weeks left to live. He has many enemies
and people he blames for not making it, so he decides he will sneak around and
“take care of them” while he can. This
is a dark comedy, but it is not of the “dysfunctional fatal slapstick” variety
that too many bad Hollywood films since the mid-1980s have given us.
More outstanding is the all-star cast, which includes no
less than three stars of TV’s The Avengers. Diana Rigg (Mrs. Emma Peel) is “the bitch” of the story who Harry
despises, Joanna Lumely (Purdey from The New Avengers) is the
barmaid/owner who is an old friend of Harry who is helping him more than she
knows, and Gareth Hunt (Mike Gambit on The New Avengers) is the
detective trying to solve the murders.
Lumley & Hunt even have a scene together. Other stars include Felicity Kendal (better known in Europe), Bob
Hoskins, Ben Kingsley (in another one of his quirky odd roles no one seems to
talk about), Oliver Reed and John Cleese.
This is a great cast and they are not wasted, but the film
looses steam towards the end, making me wish Charles Bronson showed up and set
off a cluster bomb. I liked the pacing
until then and how enjoyable each performance was. It looks like the stars were having fun and it shows. Sometimes, I did to.
The 1.33 X 1 image is not bad, but lacks some detail, yet
plays well if you have a 16 X 9 set that zooms into said center of that
frame. Cinematographer Ousama Rawi does
not overdue the shooting to be wild or silly.
If anything, the shooting is more standard and narrative, which works to
the film’s advantage. Color and Video
Black is also consistent. The Dolby
Digital 2.0 Stereo has Pro Logic surrounds and is not bad, with Rea singing
several songs in an almost tongue-in-cheek way. Unlike his one-hit-wonder status in the states, Rea had many hits
in Europe, where he is a much bigger star.
His big U.S. hit was especially big on Adult Contemporary radio where it
still gets airplay. Les Reed does the
rest of the score. Extras include a
funny trailer that sells the film as if it is one of Cleese’s outrageous
entries, and you get text on just about all the actors and Winner, plus trivia,
quotes and a text commentary section from Winner in place of an audio
commentary. As of this posting in late
2004, this is Winner’s last feature film.
Maybe it was intended to be his parting shot, but the film is worth a
look on its own and one you might want to check out for something different.
- Nicholas Sheffo