Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/25/00
1992 (2000) - MGM
review by Brad Pilcher of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/A/C
Specs and Features
98 mins, R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), single-sided,
single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer,
film-themed menu screens, scene access (32 chapters), languages:
English & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & French,
"A hustler has to
get out of town as quick as he can, but a good con-man - he doesn't
have to leave until he wants to."
Professional wrestling is so similar to the art of film, it's
scary. Some movies are more like pro graps than others, I admit, but
the comparison still rings true. Both rely on a certain suspension
of disbelief. In most cases, both are designed to entertain the
audience, and send them home happy. Sure, there are the films that
are more about being art and social commentary than entertainment,
but I'm talking about your usual Hollywood, money-raking, big
budget, entertainment thriller.
There is, however, one much more important comparison to be drawn
between professional wrestling and film. It's the formula. You start
off with an engaging character or two. They're going to need some
charisma and maybe a good gimmick. Then you pit them against an
equally charismatic and engaging foe. This character, however, is a
vile and sneaky heel (to use wrestling terms). It's your
prototypical bad guy. Well, the good guy and the bad guy get
themselves into a very interesting little story. The bad guy keep
foiling the good guy and throwing various obstacles in his path.
They do this in such a nasty way as to make the audience absolutely
hate them. Then, the good guy corners the bad guy in an epic
showdown, with equally high stakes. The battle goes back and forth
until it looks as if the bad guy will triumph over the good guy.
Then, some element will arise to give the good guy just enough edge
to overcome the heel and triumph. That's called the pay-off, and it
involves all the good getting back at all the bad, thus leaving the
world in perfect balance so the audience can leave their seats as
happy customers. The point is to make them happy enough to come
That, you see, has been the standard formula for that scripted
pseudo-sport everybody likes to laugh at called professional
wrestling. But how many films have followed the same formula?
Plenty, believe me, and Diggstown
is perhaps the best representation of the wrestling/film parallel.
In this particular film, we have Gabriel Caine (played by James
Woods) as the likable con artist just being released from prison.
Louis Gossett, Jr. plays "Honey" Roy Palmer, an
over-the-hill boxer who may be the most underrated heavyweight of
all time. Oliver Platt and Heather Graham serve as the sidekicks to
round out this little stable of babyfaces (wrestling speak for good
guys). On the other side, we have Bruce Dern playing the dastardly
heel John Gillon. All of these characters enter Diggstown, where
Gillon is the corrupt man who owns everything and the babyfaces are
a bunch of cons set to bilk him out of most of what he owns. This
may seem like the flip-side of what should be good and what should
be bad, but trust me it works. After all, Gillon is just dastardly
enough to make you hate him and root for the other guys.
So what is the interesting story? Well, the babyface cons are going
to make a rather large wager. They bet that Palmer can beat any ten
men from Diggstown in one day. He's 48-years-old, cranky, and not
even in on the whole scheme when it gets started, which makes the
odds seem pretty favorable for the bad guys. From there on out, the
dastardly heels keep throwing obstacles like murder, fixed fights
and more in Palmer & Co.'s way. At the end, we have the epic
showdown promising all the pay-off we want. I'll leave it to you to
go watch and find out if we get to go home happy or not, but I will
say this - no film follows the formula so well and in such a fashion
as to make the audience really get attached to the characters as
this one. You're literally cheering obviously fixed fights, rooting
for your guy no matter what. Just remember one thing - this is what
professional wrestling does all the time.
The video on this disc is good, but nothing special. The color
tones are off in some cases, allowing the blacks to go a little
blue, for example. The grain here is high, and that's a distraction.
It makes the film look much more dated than it really is, and the
lack of an anamorphic transfer is disheartening. This film is an
uproarious combination of humor, drama and action. It's too bad that
it didn't get to look as good as it could have. All of that said,
this DVD could also have been much worse.
The audio is a different story entirely. The 2.0 mix is just
replete with small sound effects and encompassing range. Tiny ropes
being dropped on tables came through clearly. The dialogue was clear
and vibrant. The punches were dead on, with just the right amount of
bass. The crowd was great, and you could feel their energy without
having any of the other sounds drowned out. This is just a good 2.0
mix, and I cannot, in good conscience, lament the lack of a 5.1 mix
in this case. There really is hardly anything to complain about on
The extras are a different story. Despite being a really solid film
with a great cast, this didn't exactly rake it in at the box office.
The lack of popularity on this title has made the extras
non-existent. We get a nice little fold-out which gives you a small
insight into the film. But I will not call a two-page fold-out a
booklet, I don't care what the packaging says. The trailer is here,
but that's it. Nothing else, not even talent files. It's not like
this film was packed with supplemental material that could have been
used, but still.
With a great audio and a good film, I can only complain so much
about this disc. Diggstown, as
a film, is absolutely great. At the end, it caused me to jump out of
my seat cheering and then fall back down when my heroes got dealt
another blow. That's great acting. That's a funny script. That's a
good movie. Maybe I'm alone here, and I wouldn't be surprised to get
e-mail questioning my thinking, but I'm giving this film two boxing
gloves up. Go out right now. Buy this.