Director: Taylor Hackford

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Al Pacino, Charlize Theron

A young lawyer sells his soul to work in a powerful New York law firm.

Kevin Lomax (Reeves) is a ruthlessly ambitious young prosecutor who is lured from Hicksville to a big New York law firm by it’s mysterious senior partner, John Milton (Pacino). At first all is well, but before long Lomax’s new job and new-found wealth causes a rift with his wife (Theron), who suspects that he is being groomed for something altogether more sinister and dangerous.

Taylor Hackford’s film is an all too rare example of a thoughtful modern horror film. Although slickly executed, it’s still not as subtle as one might hope, and there are several fundamental flaws that prove impossible to reconcile. For example, the film starkly contrasts one of the cinema’s most charismatic actors with one who’d not cause ripples if you threw him in Lake Michigan (and yet, he's the one you're supposed to identify with). The script is wordy and eloquent, yet the characters are shallow and the story is threadbare.

There are two  quite different versions of the film available on disc. A lawsuit meant that Warner was forced to modify certain shots to disguise a large sculpture that adorns the wall of Milton’s apartment (the lawsuit was brought by the artist Frederick Hart, whose work 'Ex Nihilo' inspired the mural). The original theatrical version of the film was briefly available on VHS, laserdisc and DVD in the US, but was quickly replaced with the modified version for all subsequent releases, including the British rental, retail and DVD copies.

The film was shot by Andrzej Bartikowiak in Panavision (2.35:1) ratio, but only the DVD versions preserve the original compositions (enhanced for 16:9 TVs). Incidentally, the UK’s “widescreen” VHS tape is a worthless 1.78:1 compromise. The Region 1 version is preferable, since about half an hour of deleted scenes have been dropped from the UK disc, (although it does still feature Hackford’s informative commentary track, as well as the usual inconsequential production notes, English and foreign subtitles, etc). Both versions are dual-layered discs with excellent picture quality. The colours are a little paler on the Region 2 disc, but seem to be more natural and altogether better balanced. The film’s Dolby 5.1 sound mix is rarely flashy, but is generally involving.


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