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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 3/20/00

Random Hearts
1999 (2000) - Columbia TriStar

review by Chris Maynard of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Random Hearts Film Rating: C+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B+/A-

Specs and Features

105 mins, R , letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:22:46, at the end of Chapter 18), Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailers, HBO First Look featurette, commentary with director Sydney Pollack, deleted scenes, isolated film score, cast and crew bios, film-themed menu screens, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

I'm a certified sucker for a good romantic drama with just a hint of mystery to it. Movies like that make for great Saturday evening snuggle sessions on the couch with the significant other. It's much better than being tortured through 90 minutes of movies like Beaches. And before you send me e-mail informing me of the importance of that film, realize that I'm not saying that Beaches is a bad movie. It's just that I'd rather have that hour and a half of my life back.

With that said, in comes Random Hearts. Here, Harrison Ford plays Dutch Van Den Broeck, a hardened but fair D.C. Internal Affairs officer. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Kay Chandler, a Congresswoman fighting for re-election. Chandler and her family portray the idealistic American Dream, and she and Dutch would have no reason to ever meet... if it weren't for a tragic plane crash that claims the lives of their spouses. Dutch becomes suspicious of the event, when he finds out that his wife did not board the plane under her own name. And after looking at the facts even closer, Dutch notices that Chandler's husband didn't board under his own name either. Since the two were sitting together and boarded as a Mr. & Mrs... well, Dutch shows us he has solid math skills. Driven by an almost annoying obsession to find out every dirty little detail of the affair, our main character tracks down Kay to inform her of the situation.

This movie just never really clicked for me. I found the sub-plot concerning Dutch and his job too distracting. Usually the sub-plot and main storyline will converge by the end of the movie, or simply compliment the story. In this film, I really can't see how either come together. Still, given all the problems I have with Random Hearts, Harrison Ford still delivers a excellent performance, really showing why this guy is still a top box office draw.

I was stunned to find the 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer on this DVD to be less than stellar, and definitely not up to Columbia TriStar's usual high standards of quality. The print is clean, but riddled with an inconsistent black-level. Some blacks looked washed out and "alive" with noise, while other parts of the presentation looked solid. The occasional compression artifact shows up on some of the low light scenes. Colors tend to look muted in certain scenes and very vibrant in select others. This could have been a style decision, but with the problems in black level, I'm doubting that. This is not normal for Columbia TriStar, as they generally deliver some of the best quality video on DVD that the technology can offer. It all goes to show that even the best of DVD production studios can have a bad day.

The disc is encoded in 5.0 Dolby Digital, leaving no dedicated LFE channel. This is not a problem, as the movie has very little high-intensity audio, showcasing mostly dialog and musical score. The audio is clean and open sounding, with the dialog coming across perfectly through the center channel. The surrounds are used sparingly and compliment the movie just enough while never being a distraction.

There are plenty of extras on this disc to spend your time on. One of the most interesting ones I found were the deleted scenes. Normally, deleted scenes are interesting enough to go through, but you're not always sure why they were removed. A nice addition is the director's narration that runs during the cut pieces of film, giving you insight to his reasoning for omitting the clip. There can also be found an HBO First Look: Making of piece, director's commentary, an isolated musical score, talent bios and theatrical trailers. This is a fairly loaded disc for your enjoyment.

Random Hearts may not be the best film to come along on DVD, but it's worth checking out. It might win some of you over but I must highly recommend renting it first. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Chris Maynard
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