There is nothing simple when a triple homicide takes place in Moscow’s famous Gorky Park. The Russian based Crime Thriller starring William Hurt and Lee Marvin gets a new Blu-Ray edition thanks to Kino Lorber
Some films feel like they were adapted from a book. Gorky Park feels like a movie that’s based on a truly fascinating and great novel. One of those novels that feels revelatory at the time of release. One that words like “unadaptable” come to mind when discussed. They evoke a mood and a place and time that cannot be replicated by a 2-hour film.
That is not to say the Michael Apted film isn’t good. The adaptation done by Dennis Potter (of The Singing Detective and Pennies from Heaven fame) is acceptable but doesn’t feel like the kind of work that you expect from Potter. The eccentricities are not there in the way that you’d like them to be.
Apted comes from documentaries, and one expects that kind of microcosm level of detail that isn’t here. The film feels hampered by the plot mechanics of the mystery in a way that a sprawling novel does not. One would have liked Apted and Potter to push the sociological aspect of the film harder. Showing us life in Cold War Era Russia in a way that we never have seen. It doesn’t and settles for a procedural that is often confusing and detoured ladened.
Though one would think by the above that the film is a methodical piece of filmmaking which it isn’t. There’s a speed and force that’s accentuated by the score by James Horner that’s an echo of his work on 48 HRS.
Additionally, the film is aided by the work of William Hurt in his prime. As the investigator Arkady Renko is tasked with finding who murdered and (literally) took the faces of his victims, Hurt is a method-acting beast. There’s an electricity to the performance, a ‘think Russian’ (to steal from Eastwood’s Fire Fox), emotionality that takes what could have been another boring Cop/Detective and flips it into something that we don’t see in American films. A Russian who is proud of being Russian but flexible in understanding nothing is perfect. Hurt makes Renko a human with all his faults. His work with Brian Dennehy adds to the tension and at times raises the film to a top-notch thriller.
The weakest link is the most legendary one in Lee Marvin. Cast as American Jack Osborne, the center of Renko’s investigation, the performance is a flat line. The actor doesn’t seem interested in anything he or anyone else is doing. There’s a lifeless quality that’s heartbreaking to watch, as one can see the possibilities of a truly great Marvin performance. Though it should be stated in the last five minutes where everything goes “wordless” and “guns blazing” we see the Marvin of old.
Gorky Park is more about the possibility of what could have been. Though the film itself is still a solid thriller, it is the “what could have been” that will bother you after seeing this adaptation.
The Transfer is the same one from the prior release but with the added benefit of a dual-layered BD50 disc which the original was not. The larger disc and compression software updates since the original disc that Kino released have improved giving us a fresher fuller transfer. The transfer is an older one but with better compression in the decade since the release of the original Kino disc, the transfer actually looks better. Comparisons definitely show an uptick in the finer details of the transfer including contrast, grain, and sharpness. Bravo to Kino for going back and allowing the most important part of any disc, the visual representation thrives on a more spacious disc.
They include the following;
- Interview with Director Michael Apted
- TV Spots
- Theatrical Teaser Trailer
- Theatrical Trailer
Interview with Director Michael Apted (16:03) – in this all-new interview begins with how he got the job and the challenges of shooting the film. Some of the details include trying to shoot in Russia – and Russia’s response to the book; the intrigue of making a movie about Russian life during a time it was something westerners had no knowledge of; filming in Finland because of the similar weather; the production and challenges turning Finland into Moscow; working with Dennis Potter on the adaptation; the casting of William Hurt as the lead – challenges that came with his casting; the relationship between Hurt and Lee Marvin; the casting of Lee Marvin and his excitement over the role; working with James Horner; the advice that production designer Paul Sybert gave him; and much more.
TV Spots (1:36) – 3 30-second TV spots
Rounding out the special feature are the trailers for Gorky Park [Teaser Trailer] (1:31); Gorky Park [Theatrical Trailer] (2:24); Prime Cut (2:34); Dog Day (2:29); F/X (2:36); Ffolkes (2:14); The Final Option (1:47); Runaway Train (1:58); The Hunter (3:15)
The Final Thought
Kino has done justice by Gorky Park giving it this upgraded edition. Recommended.