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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 5/25/00

1992 (2000) - MGM

review by Brad Pilcher of The Digital Bits

Diggstown Film Rating: A

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, Closed Captioned

"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 back.

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 this end.

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.

Brad Pilcher
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