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Featured Blu-ray Review: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

November 10th, 2011

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was George Clooney's first directing gig. He wasn't the first actor to try his hand at directing and he wasn't the last. This transition from acting to directing isn't always a smooth one. Additionally, the novel that serves as the basis for the story is, well, it's a strange one to say the least. There's a lot of risk here and there was real potential for this film to turn into a disaster. Did it avoid that fate? And is the Blu-ray worthy of the film?

The Movie

The film begins in 1981, with Chuck Barris in a sad mental state. He's watching Reagan's inauguration, naked, while thinking about the potential you have when you are young. Penny, his longtime girlfriend, arrives to take him home to California. However, he's in too much of a mess to deal with anyone and gets her to leave. He decides the only way to get his life together is to write a book detailing how he's wasted his life so far.

This story begins in 1941, with Chuck Barris as a kid, when he makes an unsuccessful attempt to hit on his sister's best friend. Her rejection of him led him to a life of debauchery. Other women rejecting him led to a life of bar fights. This happened till he sees an ad for NBC and decides to head to New York City to start a career in television. There are a few bumps along the way, but after becoming Dick Clark's assistant, he writes a hit song. He plans to turn the royalties into his first hit show, The Dating Game.

This is also the time he first meets Penny. It's when the pair start dating that he comes up with the idea for the show, but when the network passes on it, he gets a little depressed and, after visiting with Tuvia, he slips right back into his old habits of bar fights. This is when he's approached by Jim Byrd, who offers him a job, and offers to teach him 30 ways to kill a man. This guy isn't a crank; he's a CIA agent. He wants to hire Chuck as an independent contractor agent and work "solving problems".

His first mission, in Mexico, goes well, at least is goes as well as a political assassination can go. And when he returns, Penny is there to meet him. She wants them to get married and move to San Francisco. But she also says he got a message from Mr. Goldberg. ABC wants to go with The Dating Game after all. More missions follow, as do more TV shows: The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show. Chuck even gets to be the host of the latter show and his fame grows.

But given what we saw at the beginning of the film, you know it's all going to come crashing down sooner or later.

This is a good movie with plenty going for it. The story is weird, but in a way that keeps your attention. The performances are excellent, while fitting in with the overall strangeness. There are some problems with style. There's a little too much of it in the film. At times the style gets in the way of the substance. In many ways, this is unavoidable given the subject matter. The film's plot is too bizarre to be real, and it isn't, but it treats it as if it is established fact. A faux-Noir element to the whole proceedings, which does add style, but can also be a distraction at times. Too much of the movie feels like a distraction from a plot that never really knows where it's going. However, it's an entertaining distraction.

If you go into the movie hoping to learn more about Chuck Barris's life, you will leave disappointed. On the other hand, if you go in looking for great performances, a story that is strange and engaging, then you should really enjoy this movie. It has some very funny moments, some very sad moments and is a very complex experience.

The Extras

The Blu-ray is shovelware, but does have an audio commentary track with George Clooney and Newton Thomas Sigel, the director and cinematographer. It's an informative and energetic track that's worth listening to. The pair also sit down to do audio commentary for 23 minutes of deleted scenes. There's a 23-minute multi-part making of featurette, that includes a significant discussion on whether or not the film is true. It's not. There are seven minutes of Sam Rockwell's screen tests. Chuck Barris is the focus of a six-minute featurette. Finally, there are five segments from The Gong Show.

The video is strong, when it needs to be. There are interview segments in the film that were filmed with infrared film, so they look like the brightness has been cranked up and the colors are bleeding. And there are some flashback scenes that are heavy on grain for aesthetic purposes. However, outside of those shoots, the detail is great, colors strong, blacks are deep. The film is closing in on a decade old now and there are some scenes with a touch too much grain and the very rare speck on the print. The audio is clean and there are some directional effects, but it is mostly rather uncomplicated.

The film only costs $11 on Blu-ray, which is a good deal for this type of release.

The Verdict

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind wasn't able to find a large audience theatrically. It did well in limited release, but soon as it expanded, its per theater average was only mediocre. It is a strange film and one that is hard to market to a wide audience, but it deserves to be seen by more. The Blu-ray is shovelware, but it is also a bargain at just $11. Worth picking up.

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