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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s After Dark, My Sweet (KL Studio Classics) 

After Dark My Sweet

James Foley’s brilliant adaptation of After Dark, My Sweet is a showcase for the amazing performance of Jason Patric.  New to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber

The Film 

There’s a brutality to the work of Jim Thompson.  Not just the violence but the relationships, the dialog, the settings, the plots.  Reading his work, you’re left punch-drunk by the end, kicked in the metaphorical teeth for your troubles.  Rarely have adaptations not shaven the sharp edges away from the author’s work to make it palatable.  Just ask anyone who’s read the brilliant ending for The Getaway and watched both the Peckinpah film and the update by Roger Donaldson.  This is not the case with James Foley’s After Dark, My Sweet.  The film is as abrasive and cutting as any of Thompson’s written work.  

At the center of the story of a kidnapping scheme that goes awry.  However, it’s not within the details of the kidnapping that make it go awry but the people involved.  Collie (Jason Patric), Uncle Bud (Bruce Dern), and Fay (Rachel Ward) are all deceptively both toxic and humane in the strangest and perfect ways.  Each is uniquely a Thompson character.  Collie, a boxer with mental illness and a need for human contact.  Uncle Bud, the ex-cop that we quickly realize is not as smart as he thinks.  Fay, a femme fatale with a conscious and a soft spot for four-time losers.  How these three swirl the drain is the narrative flesh of the film that is seared, beaten, and cut until the bleak but beautiful ending.  

Anything as pitch-black as After Dark, My Sweet is only as good as its performances.  Something this dark can come off phony or worse ham-fisted if not perfectly performed.  Perfection cannot describe how good Jason Patric is as Collie.  The mannerisms, ticks, and physicality aren’t just tricks but a part of a whole fully lived-in interior performance.  Like Monty Cliff before him, Patric was beset at a disadvantage with his uncommon, good looks, which belies his almost supernatural ability to inhabit a role.  As Collie, it becomes an advantage because even at the outset people misread the character.  The way that Patric is able to connect with an audience with this performance makes the film a bit of a magic trick – though one of the most violent and darkest of ones.  

After Dark, My Sweet may not be to everyone’s tastes but one cannot deny the obvious upon even a single viewing.  This noir is one of the best of the 1990s.  Making it in contention with the very best noirs ever put to celluloid.  

The Transfer

The all-new HD Master – From a 2K Scan of the Interpositive.  The new scan is a wonderfully astute representation of the color noir photography.  The image is clear with wonderful subtle contrast levels and black detail – which thankfully doesn’t crush the blacks in any way.  Again, Kino has pushed the limitations of what’s possible with a Blu-ray transfer.  One will be shocked at how great it looks especially those who have loved this film and seen it mistreated on home video for so long.  The only way that the film could look even more strikingly cinematic is if Kino were to release a 4K disc.  Bravo to the label for taking the time and care with the film it deserves.  

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary by Director James Foley 
  • Primal Precipice: Interview with Actor Jason Patric 
  • Call Me Uncle Bud: Interview with Actor Bruce Dern 
  • Theatrical Trailer (Newly Mastered in 2K)

The all-new Audio Commentary by Director James Foley co-hosted by filmmaker Gillian Wallace Horvat begins discussing why he opened the film with a boxing scene.  Some of the other details include his preference to shoot in 2.35/widescreen aspect ratio; how he felt this wasn’t a genre film, specifically film noir; the rise of noir in the 1990s; how he cast both Jason Patric and Rachel Ward – and the reasons why they were cast beyond their talents; Patric’s shunning of the “star” roles and opting, beginning with this film, he chose “actorly roles” and how that hindered the actor’s career; a discussion about Ward’s career, or lack thereof, after this film; working with Maurice Jarre – and a larger discussion of how the sound/work differed from his other more famous scores; the eroticism in the film with the various characters – gay or straight or repressed; a discussion about Patric’s relationship with Bruce Dern, and how that informed both casting and the film itself; the relationship with his films from an obsessive emotional perspective – with the exception of Glengarry Glen Ross; a side conversation about production and budget – including his two Fifty Shadefilms he made; a side conversation about Who’s that Girl? – and the love he has for his first studio film; the Madonna videos he directed – including some details about his Papa Don’t Preach video; the central piece of the production – the house and how they dressed it and specifics to the film; the costume design and how a lot of it was specifically tailored for them – and how that effected the film and character; the great child actor that shows up during the kidnapping – some great anecdotes and additionally how difficult it is to ‘direct’ a child; Bruce Dern’s comedic timing during the second half of the film; lying on film – and how to distinguish it from “bad acting”; why he chose to write, it is his only credit, as opposed to not writing anything else in his career; how they shot and developed the sex scene in the film; and much more.  Horvat and Foley have a great conversation with side tangents to Foley’s career; anecdotes from the production; and much more.  All making it a vital piece of this well-produced special edition.  

Primal Precipice: Interview with Actor Jason Patric (17:25) – in this all-new interview Patric opens with the highwire act of doing the role and the conversation that he had with director James Foley about it.  Some of the details include the life he had as a child of the famous actor Jason Miller, and the reality of that; discussion of the various roles he took until After Dark, My Sweet – with a clarity and honesty; how he met Foley and eventually brought the project to him and they began to work on getting the film made; Patric’s theories on acting and how he approached the character; a detailed discussion of the production from his perspective; the fight coordination and training as a boxer; his relationship to Bruce Dern – both professionally and personally; and much more.  Any fan of Patric’s work should watch this rare piece – an interview with the actor discussing one of his very best performances.  

Call Me Uncle Bud: Interview with Actor Bruce Dern (12:51) – in this all-new interview with Dern begins with discussing the lessons he’s learned.  Some of the details include his family’s thoughts on acting and his actor; a note that he got from Geraldine Page on the opening night of his first stage role; his high school that included luminaires such as Ann Margret, Charlton Heston, and Donald Rumsfeld amongst others; how he met Jason Patric – through his father’s film That Championship Season; how he was cast in After Dark, My Sweet; how he built his character; anecdotes from the production – including some very interesting approaches to acting; and much more.  Dern is a fascinating and honest interview.  

Rounding out the special features are trailers for After Dark, My Sweet [Newly Mastered in 2K] (2:17); Rush (2:20); The Usual Suspects (2:28); Twilight (2:27); The Hot Spot (1:49); Color of Night (2:07); The Underneath (2:07); The Chamber (2:32)

The Final Thought 

After Dark, My Sweet is a truly astonishing neo-noir, one of the best in the last three decades.  Kino has treated it as such and delivered an impressive Blu-Ray Edition.  Highest Possible Recommendations! 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of After Dark, My Sweet is out now 

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