KALIFORNIA Blu-ray Review

     August 24, 2010


Considering what it represents and the amazing stuff it predates, Dominic Sena’s 1993 film Kalifornia deserves a better Blu-ray release. This bare bones disc contains only a trailer and an unrated version of the film that runs three minutes longer than the theatrical version. That’s pretty insane considering the film could be considered a precursor to Brad Pitt’s crazy roles in Se7en and 12 Monkeys, Lewis’s role in Natural Born Killers, Duchovny was just about to break with The X-Files (the movie and show premiered within a week of each other) and Sena went on to super stardom with films like Swordfish and Gone in 60 Seconds. Well, maybe not the last two. Hit the jump for more.

kalifornia_movie_image_david_duchovny_brad_pitt_01Kalifornia is about Brian Kessler (Duchovny), an author who plans a long westerly road trip with his girlfriend Carrie (Michelle Forbes) to visit famous murder sites. He hopes visiting the actual places where these crimes took place will make his book more personal and realistic. However, they can’t afford the trip on their own, and decide to split the costs with a pair of strung out strangers named Early and Adele, played by Pitt and Lewis. What Brian doesn’t realize, though, is that on his journey to figure out the mind of a serial killer, he’s actually traveling one.

What’s interesting about Kalifornia is that it doesn’t exactly fit into a typical narrative structure. The entire thing is composed of rising action and the only conflict is the dramatic irony where we, the audience, know Early is a killer while the other characters don’t. We’re just waiting for it all to go wrong. This tension does, in fact, successfully end up being a through line for the film but it never allows it to explode off the screen. It always feels boxed into one eventual conclusion.

Pitt’s performance is suitably out of the box but much more interesting and entertaining when looked at through the cultural context of the 20 years following. Would the “sexiest man alive” dare to take on a role like this today? Lewis is basically doing amalgamation of her upcoming performances in The Other Sister and Natural Born Killers while Duchovny lacks the leading man confidence that he developed in later years. Forbes, on the other hand, is captivating and though she has recently started on Battlestar Galactica and True Blood, watching her in Kalifornia makes me want more of the brunette beauty.

Fans of the film will be very happy with the Blu-ray transfer. The contrast is striking and the image, overall, looks brand new. THe 5.1 DTS HD audio didn’t wow me at any moment, but was serviceable enough. Overall, though, while this might be the best version of Kalifornia anyone has ever seen, it’s certainly not the best version the film deserves.

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