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Goin' South

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rating: PG

Running Time: 108 minutes

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Mary Steenburgen, Christopher Lloyd, John Belushi

Screenplay by: John Herman Shaner & Al Ramrus and Charles Shyer & Alan Mandel
Story by: John Herman Shaner & Al Ramrus

Directed by: Jack Nicholson

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: None

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Mono, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (12 Scenes)

Released: June 4th, 2002

 

 

Hollywood, in all its mixed-up glory, can be divided up into many ways. You have actors, directors, producers, actor-singers, actor-singers-producers and all sorts of combinations in so many different job catagories. One of those catagories are actor-directors. There are many actors who have always been acting, writing and directing (Albert Brooks comes to mind). There are many directors who try their turn at acting but are much better off behind the camera (Quentin Tarantino, anyone?), not to mention directors who cameo themselves in their films and have short parts in their own movies and other movies (Kevin Smith).

Of course, some actors we know are plain great directors (Clint Eastwood, Warren Beatty). While other actors have interest behind the camera and want to try it out. Why though? Do something else? Add to their egos? Immense interest? Those are all good reasons. But there are some actors who are better off in front of the camera, such as Jack Nicholson.

"Goin' South" tells the story of a crappy outlaw named Henry Moon (Jack Nicholson). Moon is about to be hanged for his crime in a small western town circa the 1860s, but a law that states a person who is commited of a crime can be saved by a woman who is single. So, right before his hanging death, a woman agrees to marry and look after him. However, she dies and Julia Tate (Mary Steenburgen) steps in to marry him. Julia needs someone to help her work her mine, and that man is Henry. Henry is warned what will happen if he abandons Julia, and so, the two try to make the best of their relationship.

Credited to four screenwriters, "Goin' South" is supposed to be a unique western of sorts. It almost plays out like a modern "opposites attract" romantic comedy. There are some decent laughs, but jokes that are supposed to be funny usually end up falling flat on their face and feel akward. The story itself is pretty predictable, and there is some decent writing throughout. But it's supposed to be funny... and it's really not that funny at all. How the story is shaped and conformed together, some of it feels a bit out of place. I'm also a bit puzzled at the PG rating... there's some sexual stuff here that should go right over younger viewers' heads, assuming that parents think "PG" means a family film.

Jack Nicholson's directing for the movie is decent. It feels a bit standard, but that's okay. My impressions were that Nicholson didn't know what to do with the movie exactly. The pacing and balance between the dramatic elements, romantic elements and comedy elements are incredibly uneven. Sometimes I was bored in the movie, other times I was pretty entertained. I don't think Nicholson is a terrible director, but I do think his acting talent is incredbly superior.

The performances in the film itself are pretty solid though. Nicholson does a fine job playing Henry with some wacky broadness and slick intensity. Christopher Lloyd is his usual great self, while debut performances from the late John Belushi and Mary Steenburgen (who's quite lovable and stern at the same time) are very solid and quite good (there's also a nice turn from Danny DeVito). I suppose the acting in the movie makes the film better than it is, and while it started slow for me, I ended up really getitng into the film and enjoyed it somewhat at the end. Not everyone will care for it, but Nicholson fans, it's worth checking out.

 

The film is nearly 25 years old, and Paramount didn't bother to clean this one up (it's not like it's a major classic or anything). Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the movie is constantly plagued by many different flaws. You can tell no care went into this... they just put it and rushed it right out. Still, it could be worse. Blemishes, nicks, dirt pieces and a ton of scratches are all over the print. It can also be soft, grainy and really faded (I found that pretty annoying too). There's also some noise and shimmering, but the transfer has some good detail, fleshtones and decent color saturation. It's a bit disappointing, but I've seen much worse. Still, it could have really captured the movie's true west flavor if more work was put into this transfer. Average, at best.

 

Only English closed captions and English subtitles for you readers, and an English Dolby mono track to listen to. Obviously, it's not that flattering. There are some nice sound effects like horses galloping and water splashing, but those sound a bit drowned out. The music sounds decent, while dialogue is easy to hear and is pretty clear. Still, fidelity is awfully low, I heard some distortion in the track here and there and as you'd expect, there's not really much to this. I can deal with mono tracks and enjoy them usually, but this one feels quite weak.

 

A Jack Nicholson commentary? Ha, you wish! Nothing here.

 

"Goin' South" is a decent movie, but it never reaches the mark it's aiming for. It does have its moments, but it's more of those "take it or leave it" kind of movies. Still, if you're a Nicholson fan, it's worth checking out. The DVD's presentation is quite lacking, and there are no supplements to speak of. If you're interested, it's a fine rental, but for the rest of you, die-hard fans should only purchase it at a 24.99 retail price.