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Urban Cowboy

review by Zach B.



Rated: PG

Running Time: 134 minutes

Starring: John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn

Screenplay by: James Bridges and Aaron Latham
Based upon the story by: Aaron Latham

Directed by: James Bridges


Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Outtakes, Rehearsal Footage

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Mono, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Brazilian Portuguese Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (25 Scenes)

Released: October 8th, 2002



Bud Davis (John Travolta) heads out to Houston to have a nice extended visit with his uncle. He gets a job at the oil refinery around there, and starts hanging around the rather popular nightspot called Gilley's, owned by country superstary Mickey Gilley. Yet soon he meets Sissy (Debra Winger), and the two fall in love and do get married. However, to put a lot of strife in Bud's life, Sissy starts spending a lot of time with Wes (Scott Glenn), an ex-con who's after Sissy and plans to rob Gilley's. Can Bud save the day and his love?

"Urban Cowboy" is by no means a cinema classic, but the film is held to dear to a lot of people. I really don't see why. I guess if you're a country music fan of a wide era then there are little knicks to be found, but this is just an interesting attempt on a love story that does fall flat and becomes too much for the most part. I do enjoy the films of the late James Bridges, but I think "Urban Cowboy" falls somewhere along the middle of his career. It has some nice camerawork, but the story is often told in a clunky and somewhat tiresome manner, even if I like the premise. It's just too bad it becomes rather standard... there probably could have been more drama throughout.

The acting is certainly quite good though. Even if Debra Winger is rather reclusive now, no one can deny her star power in the 1980s and "Urban Cowboy" was part of that rise. This is certainly an excellent, true performance that is filled with charm and quick wit. She and John Travolta, who is also quite charismatic here (complete with southern accent), have fine chemistry. Travolta nicely shows off the complexity and vulnerbility of bud, while Scott Glenn has some nice moments as the man who comes between what Bud holds dear. In all, there have been many worse movies, particuarly by Travolta (*COUGHstayingaliveCOUGH*), but if you're a country fan and want a good time romance with its own unique flavor that doesn't always add up, then you can certainly do worse than "Urban Cowboy."


This is actually a pretty nice transfer. Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, I've never seen "Urban Cowboy" look better (or even in widescreen for that matter). The grissly look of the film is actually captured in a nice fashion, such as the somewhat dusty and foggy bar look of the hottest Huston nightspot, that being Gilley's. There are some nice exterior shots with decent detail, but sometimes the film looks way too grainy which becomes distracting. Fleshtones and color saturation hold their own, but you also have scratches, blemishes and dirt pieces among some noise. Overall, it's pretty average, but I guess it's nice to see the film in widescreen... I apparently missed a lot when I saw the film the first time.


"Urban Cowboy" comes with a new 5.1 Dolby Digital remix. Despite the musical sequences, which do shine to an extent with the peformances at Gilley's from the likes of Bonnie Raitt and The Charlie Daniels Band, this track is rather weak with not so thrilling subwoofer use and very limited surrounds that are mostly rather subtle in the annoying kind of way. Dialogue is clear and easy to hear... but it's overall pretty disappointing given the material. It barely felt like a surround track at all. I was expecting for some jumps and excitement here and there. Also included are Brazilian Portuguese subtitles (a first for Paramount?), Spanish subtitles, English subtitles, English closed captions, a French mono track and an English Dolby Surround track.


Die-hard fans of the movie may be disappointed, but at least this release has SOMETHING on it. The Outtakes are merely short clips of B-roll footage of Debra Winger and John Travolta dancing and just Travolta dancing himself (nicely presented in anamorphic widescreen), while Rehearsal Footage, also in anamorphic widescreen (and how rough it is!), shows Debra Winger on the mechnical bull, John Travolta on the mechanical bull and both on the mechanical bull. Personally, I think you could have combined both of these sections into one, but whatever.


"Urban Cowboy" is remembered as a strong John Travolta and groundbreaking 1980s flick, for reasons I still don't know why. The film finally makes its way on DVD with a passable transfer, weak 5.1 remix and some rather sparse, if pointless extras (better than nothing I guess). If you're a fan of this movie, then go nuts.