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Rating: R (For Violence and Strong Language)
Running Time: 102 minutes
Starring: Gary Sinise, Madeline Stowe, Vincent D'onfrio, Tony Shalhoub, Tim Guinee and Mekhi Phifer
Screenplay by: Caroline Case
and Ehren Kruger and David Twohy
Directed by: Gary Fleder
Retail Price: $29.99
Features: Original Short Film, The Impostor Files, Theatrical Trailer, Sneak Peeks
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Selections (15 Scenes)
Released: July 9th, 2002
The year is 2079. Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) seems to be living the good life, creating a new weapon which is supposed to save all of mankind. Somehow, in a twist of events, Spencer is accused of being an alien spy. Despite how ridiculous it is all to him, he escapes after being questioned and is soon on the run to clear his own name before he's hunted down. But even though he must prove it to others and to himself, he must also must save the world. But can all of that happen before it's too late?
Originally delayed from a Christmas Day 2001 opening to a near-mid January 2002 opening (afraid of competition, perhaps?), the delayed opening of "Impostor" didn't help it at all (it didn't never even cracked the top ten). One must wonder if opening it during that Christmas, it would have done better. The pans didn't help, and "Impostor" became the first dud of the year 2002. Maybe this was a lesson to be warned by Miramax and its filmmakers: when something is perfectly fine the first time out, don't ruin it (like remakes of great movies!).
As you may or may not have heard, "Impostor" was originally a short film that was to be included with two other short films in a theatrical release trilogy. Of course, since the short film came out so well, the filmmakers and honchos at Miramax thought it'd work better as a full film and could be much more. So new footage was shot and strung together.Apparently, this was a really bad idea, especially if you watch the original short film. What makes it all so terrible is that they try to stretch it out and use cheap plot devices when they really shouldn't. Here's a great lesson kids that some studio chiefs will never learn: quality over quantity. Just because a movie has more filler and is longer, doesn't mean it's better.
"Impostor" is credited to three writers and an adaptor. I don't know who wrote the original short film (included on the DVD release) and who got credit for the add-ons, but this is one murky, uneven and incredibly predictable script for a full length film. I thought the short film worked perfectly fine (more on that in the supplements section), but as a whole film, this is a no-no. I can't judge the film based on Philip K. Dick's original story since I never read it, but what could have been a semi-interesting science-fiction chase story just makes a mess with so many story parts that seem incredibly superfluous, acting as dumb filler. From the opening narrative that is supposed to inform and tug at our heartstrings to some "Fugitive"-like moments, there is a hint of originality in what becomes standard science fiction shlock that feels more like something that belongs direct to video. Horrid, clichéd scenes complete with equally horrid cheesy dialogue doesn't make any of this movie fun.
Perhaps worse is Gary Fleder's annoying, clunky and just plain bad direction. He seems to make the story a lot more confusing and murkier than it should be, as he loves to use elaborate sets that don't feel right, an overabudance of special effects and annoying, cheesy camera and editing effects such as slow motions, mysterious cutaways and the like. There's also a lot more violence and "thrilling" scenes than the film needs. I like Fleder as a director, he's done some good movies before this and fine TV directing jobs... but here, he seems to do so much wrong (I hated the choppy, whril-induced editing). It's sorta unbelievable how bad the movie turns out to be.
One can't fault the actors here, as they are pretty good. Vincent D'Onfrio is fine in his role that is a bit over-the-top, while Madeline Stowe and Mekhi Phifer have some pretty sweet supporting roles that work well in the context. One of my favorite actors and a great character actor, Tony Shalhoub, is fine in his performance as a friend/foe of Spencer. And of course, there's Gary Sinise. He's great in a somewhat ordinary role, but his intensity, his feelings toward the movie's backdrops and the way he fights through the plot and conflicts is actually really well done.
While there are nice special effects from our friends at Industrial Light & Magic and a decent score from Mark Isham, there's not much else good to say about "Impostor." If you're a science-fiction geek, go nuts and you may dislike this film. Everyone else, do pass on this "thing."
"Impostor" features an excellent 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that is bound to please. There is a good deal of edge enhancment which is not flattering, and your usual halo edges which aren't actually too bad. Color saturation is pretty good though as well as black levels and shadow detail. Still, there are some blemishes and pieces of dirt, a lot of shimmering and a whole lot of noise. That gets annoying fast. Tap that in with a mostly soft and grainy image, it tends to capture the film's flavor but could be a tad better.
"Impostor" has a strong English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Everything here is well balanced and mixed, as one sound element doesn't overpower the other. Dialogue is very clear and sounds natural, while the music be it the stuff from the opening shower scene to Mark Isham's nicely designed score also sounds well. Still, the surround effects make it all come into play. Gunshots, echos, screeches, explosions, water drops, people running, screams... all are spread out quite nicely. Fidelity is excellent and dynamic range is strong, and the .1 LFE track is pretty powerful. Overall, cool stuff. Also included are English subtitles and Spanish subtitles.
Not too much, but there is some key things here. First things first: the film is a Director's Cut. The original theatrical version, which is not included, was 95 minutes long and was rated PG-13. This one even adds more footage to the movie (seven more minutes of filler!) and it's now classified as an R. I assume there's more violence in the film, but since I never saw the theatrical version, I couldn't tell you what's new, as there are no notes or commentary to explain the additions.
The major extra on this DVD release, and wisely put, is the Original Short Film. If you want the real version of the movie, the original cut before all the special effects and explosions and crappy elements were added on, be sure to watch this. It's a lot more satisfying and it's excellent since you can compare what was originally supposed to be with the final, souped-up version of the film. It's in two channel English Dolby Digital and non-anamorphic widescreen (grr!). I found this version even more visually attractive (no special effects overhaul here!) and the print itself is a little dirty. I say watch the whole movie first, then the nicely done short. Which do you think is better? I thank Disney for putting this on the release, as it is an excellent supplement for comparisons and what could have (and should have) been. This really should have been a short... the movie overextends everything a bit too much, though it's obvious why the studio wanted to make more of this.. I sensed they thought something was missing in all of this, like a middle act as it sorta jumps to a conclusion, which I thought was nicely feasible. I give the short 3.5/5.
The rest is more promotional stuff. The Imposter Files lasts nearly twelve minutes and is in full frame. This is a promotional featurette it seems, all with behind the scenes footage, film clips and interviews with Gary Sinise and the filmmakers. They also seem passionate, even aiming for a realsitic sense to the movie. Too bad their passion didn't exactly create a more satisfying film.
Rounding it all out is the Theatrical Trailer in full frame and English Dolby Digital 5.1, and Sneak Peeks of "Reindeer Games," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back," "Iron Monkey," "Texas Rangers," "Beneath Loch Ness" and a promo for "Dimension Cutting Edge Films."
"Impostor" is sadly not as good as it once was as a short film, but this DVD is a good release if you liked the movie. The presentation is rock solid, and the supplements, particuarly the original short film (and seven minutes of bonus footage if you're a fan of the whole movie), make it all worth checking out.