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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Uncovered
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // R // March 16, 2004
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 15, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that people are reading this review for one of three reasons. You may be a search engine, indiscriminately spidering everything in your path. Perhaps you blindly click on the more recent DVD Talk reviews in the hopes of uncovering an unjustly overlooked cinematic gem. More likely, I'd imagine, is that you've heard Uncovered is that movie where Kate Beckinsale gets nekkid, and you'd be right. This 1994 flick was an early film role for Beckinsale, who would go on to star in Pearl Harbor and Underworld, and yup, she bares her breasts a couple of times. I feel it's my responsibility to warn anyone interested in viewing Uncovered strictly to see Kate's beckinsales that you're also subjecting yourself to her unshaven armpits, a terrible DVD release, and what's probably the most boring movie I've seen so far this year.

(I'd show more, but...)
Uncovered is adapted from Arturo Perez-Reverte's novel The Flanders Panel. I haven't read the book, but skimming through a few reviews, it generally seems to be well-liked. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, even though its film incarnation is excruciatingly dull. The premise revolves around Julia (Beckinsale), a young woman who may barely be old enough to drink stateside, but in Europe, she's an immensely respected art restorer. Her latest project is "The Game of Chess", a five hundred year old painting being sold off by a once-wealthy family that's found itself mired in debt. As Julia toils away, she discovers an inscription hidden underneath a layer of paint and varnish: "Who killed the knight?" The chess game portrayed on the painting appears to contain the answer to a centuries-old murder mystery. A hustler with an uncanny capacity for chess (Paudge Behan) is recruited to recreate the game, and as seemingly everyone who comes in contact with the painting begins to keel over, Julia suspects the chess game bears a more contemporary influence as well...

At 102 minutes, Uncovered is only a little longer than average, but it plods along at such a glacial pace that I'm not exaggerating when I say it seems like three times that length. It just completely failed to generate any interest or suspense, and without those mildly important elements, a mystery tends to flounder lifelessly. Despite tossing in a few quirks -- Julia strolls around Barcelona chomping on celery and sneezes whenever she gets close to a man, Domenec somehow sustains himself financially by hustling people at chess, Cesar refers to himself in the third person and has sex with exotic young men -- there's nothing to really draw myself into the characters. Beckinsale's spotty acting doesn't help matters much, and she's not much of a crier, something I'd have thought she'd eventually get the hang of considering that she's bawling every few scenes. Domenec would be more believable as Captain Ron than a chess savant. The mystery kind of predicates on giving two shits about chess, which I don't, so...yeah. The identity of the killer is painfully obvious, so there's not even any interest that could possibly exist there. Just...bad. Its release on DVD isn't any better, but since it is a catalog release from Artisan...

Video: The back of the keepcase claims that Uncovered has been "formatted from its original version to fit your screen" and that it's "presented in the original 1.33:1 format". The title sequence is windowboxed to 1.66:1, but the remainder is fullscreen. The compositions seem too tight to allow for much in the way of matting, so I'll guess that it's a crop job rather than open-matte. Readers hellbent on viewing Uncovered in its original aspect ratio might want to check out the Japanese release, which apparently is properly letterboxed throughout.

Even disregarding the aspect ratio, the DVD looks awful. Uncovered was originally released in '94, but the softness, lack of detail, bland palette, and ample specks look like a warmed-over video master from the mid-'80s. I was tempted to rent the VHS to do an A/B comparison just to see how incremental the difference would be, but I figured I'd wasted enough time and energy on Uncovered as it was. The DVD also continually sputtered on my set-top player around 1:37:18 in, devolving into an assortment of multicolored digital chunks. I couldn't duplicate the problem on my DVD-ROM, so I don't know if it's a player-specific hiccup (I use a Toshiba SD-3109), an error with my particular disc, or a widespread authoring concern.

Audio: The flipside of the case lists "2.0 surround audio" as a special feature, although the soundtrack (Dolby Digital 2.0; 192Kbps) isn't expressly flagged as taking advantage of the rear channels. The audio is fairly bad as well, marred by a piercing high-frequency squeal in the background of several scenes. The quality of the dialogue depends on the given scene, sometimes sounding hollow and echo-ey as if little effort had been invested in recording the actors on-set. The score is credited to Philippe Sarde, who was nominated for an Oscar back in '81 for his work on Roman Polanski's Tess. The cues here have a generic public-domain feel, bouncing between sounding completely inappropriate for a given scene and almost laughably overwrought. At least most of the flaws with the audio owe more to the original production than anything specific to this DVD. Uncovered is closed captioned, and no dubs or subtitles have been tacked on.

Supplements: There's nothing at all related to the movie, just a smattering of trailers for other Artisan releases. Twenty chapter stops, keepcase, static 4x3 menus, and, yes, there is an insert.

Conclusion: If you're that desperate to see Kate Beckinsale uncovered, there are plenty of places online that'll show you the goods, and the scores of popups and incessant prompts to download Banzai Buddies are much more bearable than this exceptionally dull, ineptly made dreck. Skip It.

To Save You The Trouble: Okay, I'm sure at least a few readers out there are inevitable going to disregard my advice and pick up Uncovered strictly for the small amount of pre-celebrity nudity. At least let me spare you a little hassle. The timecodes are approximately 0:22:25 - 0:22:49, 0:39:41 - 0:40:15, 1:01:59 - 1:02:01, and 1:18:53 - 1:19:10.
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