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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s The Package (KL Studio Classics) 


The Package is an elite 1980s Cold War thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones and Gene Hackman.  The Andrew Davis-directed film has been updated on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.  


The Film 

They don’t make ‘em like they used to.  

This cliché of a statement is true of Director Andrew Davis’ brilliant Cold War Thriller The Package.  The film’s secret weapons are Tommy Lee Jones and Gene Hackman in peak form. Though it’s Davis’ taunt direction that would later make The Fugitive a massive success.

At the end of the Cold War, nuclear disarmament has begun with meetings in Germany.  American and Russian Contingents are there when a series of what seems like unrelated events begin to occur.  Master Sargent Johnny Gallagher (Hackman) is the only one thinking there’s something rotten in Denmark (well the Potomac to be exact).  When a routine prisoner transfer goes awry with the prisoner (Tommy Lee Jones) seeming more than he is, it’s all Gallagher needs to begin his journey down the political rabbit hole.  With the aid of his ex-wife Lt. Colonel Ruth Gallagher (Joanna Cassidy) and a few others, they begin to unravel a plot that would end the tenuous peace and begin the cold war all over.   

The Package is as astute a thriller as anything that came out in the 1980s or even the 1990s.  The way that Davis relies on visuals rather an “info dumps” could be a lesson many current directors could use.  There’s both a workman-like quality and a refined elegance to the way that the story unfolds.  As though Davis and his film understand what they’re doing is special but rather than be showy, keep to the business of telling a story.  The result is a film that only upon reflection and a second or third viewing becomes clear just how intelligently made it is.  

Many films will preach the talking points of members of the military being the best of the best but rarely show it.  Here a cast includes not just Hackman and Jones as military officers but the likes of Joanna Cassidy, John Heard, and Pam Grier as capable and effective members of the military.  Of course, the best is a great supporting turn by Dennis Franz playing what else but a Police Detective, though there is some variance here instead of playing an NYPD Officer he’s one in Chicago.  

It all ends very concisely and tautly with a race against time that will have one wondering if the heroes will actually save the day.  The Package is a testament to the storytelling prowess of Davis who would go on to make not only The Fugitive but the best Steven Segal film Under Siege, Schwarzenegger’s Collateral Damage, and the Disney film Holes but none were as clean and concise as The Package.

The Transfer

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.  Having compared the two and I can say that the larger disc and compression software updates since the original disc that Kino released have improved giving us a fresher fuller transfer.  The image is crisp and sharp.  The grain structure and contrast levels are beautifully rendered giving us a transfer that feels more like a 35mm print than a Blu-ray.  Bravo to Kino for going back and allowing the most important part of any disc, the visual representation thrives on a more spacious disc.  

The Extras

They include the following; 

  • Audio Commentary by Director Andrew Davis and Actress Joanna Cassidy
  • Interview with Actress Joanna Cassidy
  • Optional Intro by Director Andrew Davis
  • TV Spot
  • Theatrical Trailer

The archival Audio Commentary by Director Andrew Davis and Actress Joanna Cassidy opens with introductions and how Davis was attached to this film after the success of Code of Silence.  Some of the details include being the first to film the Russian War Memorial in East Berlin; filming most of the film in Chicago – and the reason why it was a match for East Berlin; the work of composer James Newton Howard; the editing work of Don Zimmerman and Billy Weber; the working relationship between Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones during the production; some of the directors (Milos Foreman) and actors (Jessica Lange) that were working in the Chicago Studios during their production; the various “conspiracies” throughout the years that informed Davis’ work here in the film; each’s perspective on work with Hackman; there is a discussion throughout about the various actors who worked on the film – not only lead actors but people Davis has worked with as a part of his “stock company” and others that were cast from real life; and much more.  Davis and Cassidy deliver a relaxed but informative track.  

Interview with Actress Joanna Cassidy (6:10) – in the interview with Cassidy she begins with not just going after the role but wanting it and as she describes it “a dream role”.  Some of the details include what it is like working with Andrew Davis – including his ties to Chicago where they filmed; working with Gene Hackman – also a side note about working on the great (and very underseen) Under Fire; working with Tommy Lee Jones; and much more.  

Optional Intro by Director Andrew Davis (2:09) 

TV Spots (1:04) – 2 30-second TV Spots 

Rounding out the special features are trailers for The Package (2:19); Prime Cut (2:34); Mississippi Burning (1:37); Narrow Margin (2:01); Company Business (2:03); The Park is Mine (2:08); Black Moon Rising (1:30); Blown Away (1:35); Bank Shot (2:44); Code of Silence (2:39) 

The Final Thought 

The Package is a winner.  Kino’s original disc was good but this newly pressed disc with more space to allow the transfer to “breathe” is worth the price of admission or upgrade.  High Recommendations.  

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of The Package is out now 

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