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Dying Of The Light (Blu-ray Review)

Dying-Of-The-LightAcademy Award® winner Nicolas Cage (Best Actor in a Leading Role, Leaving Las Vegas, 1995) ignites a powder keg of action in the electrifying cloak-and-dagger thriller Dying of the Light.  The film is currently available On Demand. From the writer of Taxi Driver and co-writer ofRaging Bull, Dying of the Light also features Anton Yelchin (Star Trek Into Darkness, Terminator Salvation), Alexander Karim (TV’s Tyrant,” Zero Dark Thirty) and Irène Jacob (Three Colors: Red, U.S. Marshals). Evan Lake (Cage), a veteran CIA agent, has been ordered to retire. But when his protégé (Yelchin) uncovers evidence that Lake’s nemesis, the terrorist Banir (Karim), has resurfaced, Lake goes rogue, embarking on a perilous, intercontinental mission to eliminate his sworn enemy.

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Film 

Veteran CIA agent Evan Lake has been ordered to retire, but when his protégé, Milton Schultz, uncovers evidence that Lake’s nemesis, the terrorist Banir, has resurfaced, Lake goes rogue, embarking on a perilous, intercontinental mission to eliminate his sworn enemy.

Dying Of The Light has a more interesting production history than it is a film.  And what would be really interesting is some open and honest interview sessions with those involved in the production.  The film was original only to be written by Paul Schrader and then directed by Nicolas Winding Refn starring Harrison Ford.  Through time, it would end up being Schrader directing his own script with Cage starring.  Paul Schrader, Nicholas Cage and the director of photography have all completely disowned the film, not being happy with the final result.  The studio wound up meddling with the film.  They recut the film, rescored it and redid the color timing of the film.  Its apparently nothing as it was intended.

I’m not sure if any of this would help the film.  What we have here is a 94 minute film that is supposed to be an exciting chase, but ultimately feels like a slug.  Most of that comes from the fact that we get to see what the villain is doing during our protagonist’s hunt.  We know that this white whale is indeed out there, which takes a lot of possible suspense and mystery from the script and deflates it.  Also, it doesn’t help that our villain is just sitting in a chair doing nothing whenever we see him.  Its rather boring.

Nicholas Cage, as always, commits here and gives a fine performance.  Its not high camp, he’s giving a very good dramatic turn as you can see he feels for this material (Maybe the script they shot WAS better).  Anton Yelchin is a terrific young actor and there is some fun to see him and Cage share scenes and hem and haw back and forth with one another.  Unfortunately, its not enough to keep this movie interesting or entertaining throughout.

Ultimately, Dying Of The Light is just uninteresting and looks pretty cheap and generic.  I don’t know if we can blame all that on Schrader though.  This is not the film he wants you to see.  Part of the cheapness in the look and effects could be because this film had a specific look, but was recolor timed and that could have screwed it up.  But, we have to judge what we have here, and its just no good.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Clarity/Detail:  Overall a solid looking pciture that is a hint soft.  Some scenes toward the end are a bit dust and don’t appear as impressive, but that’s the nature of the source, not this transfer.  Details on things such as clothing and surfaces appear great in close ups, but merely “okay” when pulled back to a medium shot or further back.  It does have moments where the image looks a little smooth or a tad smudgy, but overall its decent.

Depth:  Decent.  There are some interior scenes later in the movie that have a nice 3 dimensional look to them as well as a few office ones earlier on.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and decent.  Minimal detail is hidden and no real crushing issues occurred.

Color Reproduction:  Colors keep natural.  Nothing really pops and everything is given a more earthly and grounded look.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are consistent and a bit cold.  Detail is pretty good, although medium shots and further back can tend to look a tad too smooth and lightly detailed.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics:  Like the video track, this is a solid modern-day film and the 5.1 pretty much does a good job, but isn’t going to make for an incredible experience.  There’s a nice balance between score, vocals and effects on display.

Low Frequency Extension:  Action moments with punches, tackling and gunshots get a thump from the sub woofer.  Some of the hazy/mental breakdown sounds from Cage’s character also bring some woomps that the subwoofer rumbles on.

Surround Sound Presentation:  Mainly the rear speakers are for ambiance and lower volume score.  The front speakers do a okay job of placement and movement.  Nothing wowing but it gets the job done.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Clear, clean and center focused.

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Extras 

Dying Of The Light comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Behind The Scenes Of Dying Of The Light (HD, 14:27) – A making of made up of many EPK and on set interviews that obviously happened before this film got chopped up.

Deleted Scenes (HD, 23:40) – I guess this may or may not be your chance to see some of the scenes Schrader intended to be in the film as well as the possible original color timing.  I can’t confirm this though.

Interviews With Cast And Crew – These are unused interview pieces from the Behind the Scenes featurette.

  • Paul Schrader, Writer/Director (HD, 1:58) – Schrader talks about the concept of the film, working with Nic Cage and FTD which affects the protagonist in the film.
  • Nicholas Cage (HD, 6:50) – This is pretty much everything Nic had to say from the ‘Behind The Scenes’ piece.
  • Anton Yelchin (HD, 2:39) – Talks about wanting to work with Paul Schrader and Nic Cage, his role and preparation for the film, working with Nic Cage and his favorite scene in the film.
  • Alexander Karim (HD, 3:59) – Takes pretty much the same round of questions that Anton Yelchin had.
  • Claudius Peters (HD, 1:22) – The interviewer had one sheet of questions and asked them to everyone.
  • Adetomiwa Edun (HD, 1:22) – Similar different answers to the same questions we’ve heard.  Yawn.

Dying Of The Light Trailer (HD, 2:31) 

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Summary 

Dying Of The Light’s final cut is a thing of controversy, but you’ll find no hint or clue to that on this release.  We are presented with the incredibly compromised version of Paul Schrader’s film.  It has an interesting story that ultimately is not executed very well.  Cage and Yelchin are very good in a wasted effort.  The extras include a good chunk of deleted material, an ok making of that has everyone at their most positive point about the film, and an asinine amount of repetitive interviews.  The presentation of the film is decent and slightly above average.  If you must see the film, rent it, but if you bought it, its an ok release.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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