Yeah, I know that The Crying Game has been spoofed to the point where it almost makes the twist ending seem comical, but the first time I saw this movie it took me completely by surprise. It sucked me in, and held me there for just a smidgen under two hours. Having not seen the movie in a few years, and already knowing how it was going to end, I wasn't sure how well it would hold up for a repeat, but thankfully, my fears were put to rest and The Crying Game remains a great movie.
Forest Whitaker (Ghost Dog: Way Of The Samurai) plays Jody, a British soldier who winds up the victim of an IRA kidnapping in Northern Ireland. The Irish terrorists that are holding him are lead by a man named Fergus (Stephen Rea of Michael Collins) who, though very much committed to his cause, isn't exactly your typical guerilla soldier. He's a man of some morals, and doesn't want to have to execute Jody in the name of a free Ireland, but he will if the British government doesn't release some IRA members that they are currently holding in prison.
As Fergus keeps watch over Jody in their remote hideout somewhere in the woods, the two start to get to know each other through a few conversations. Jody shows Fergus a photograph of his girlfriend and asks him to find her if he is to be executed, to let her know and make sure she's all right.
Fergus soon relocates to London, where, under the guise of a construction worker, he begins to track down Jody's girlfriend, Dil (Jaye Davidson of Stargate). He finds her working in as a hair stylist and after having his hair cut, he follows her from work to a local pub. The two have a conversation and their attraction to one another is soon made quite apparent by the way that they interact with each other – through their body language, and through some rather curious glances.
As Fergus and Dil get to know each other a little bit better and start develop a relationship together, things start to get a little odd between them. Though there's an obvious affection towards one another, there's also a sense of distrust that seeps up and bubbles just above the surface of it all. Part of that stems from Fergus, in that he's partially responsible for her boyfriend's death, but it isn't completely one sided at all, as Fergus will soon find out. To further complicate things, the IRA isn't completely done with Fergus – they still consider him a member, more specifically a member with a job to do – and one of his former comrades, Jude (Miranda Richardson of Sleepy Hollow) is going to make sure he knows it.
What's so remarkable about the film is how it makes you care about Fergus without really telling you anything about him as a person. You don't get much background information on him at all but in spite of that he makes for a great lead. The film does an admirable job of blurring the lines between love and revenge (what was Jody's motive for telling Fergus about Dil in the first place?), and between man and woman.
The biggest strength of The Crying Game, though it has many, are the two leads – Stephen Rea and Jaye Davidson were both award Oscar nominations for their parts, and deservedly so. They both do an excellent job of portraying their characters' emotions not only through the scripted dialogue but also, quite convincingly, with their body language. Not only are they able to act the part, but they each look the part as well and as we all know that can make a big difference in the believability factor. Forest Whitaker and Miranda Richardson are also excellent in their supporting roles. Whitaker is sympathetic despite his rugged looks, sometimes resembling a rather menacing teddy-bear, while Richardson is cold, calculating, and just a little bit on the sexy side as one of Fergus' IRA cohorts.
The accolades don't end there though – Neil Jordan, who wrote and directed the film, took home an Academy Award for his screenplay (adapted from an Irish short story entitled A Guest Of The Nation that was originally written by Frank O'Connor. The script allows the actors to build tension the way that they do and doesn't muddle things down at all with obviously plot driven dialogue – the conversations that the two leads conduct sound like real conversations rather than forced 'let's get the story going' trite so common in most 'by the books' screenplays, often times riddled with cliches and the like.
Finally, it wouldn't be fair to praise the film without mentioning the languid and dark cinematography from Ian Wilson, who cut his teeth on a couple of Hammer horror films like Captain Cronos Vampire Hunter and Quartermass. His experience in low budget horror movies pays off in the look of this film (also of a rather modest budget), also a very dark movie that Wilson ensures has a great deal of shadowy intrigue in its appearance.
The brand new 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks very, very good. In previous home video releases the blacks always looked kind of smudged and the image wasn't as clear or clean as it should have been. Lion's Gate has cleaned up the picture considerably and now the film looks very good indeed.
Aliasing issues are almost completely eliminated and edge enhancement is minimal. Mpeg compression artifacts are never a problem and print damage is only really noticeable in one or two spots and that's if you're looking for it in the first place. The color reproduction looks very natural, as do the skin tones. The nasty shimmering effects and compression artifacts that plagued the earlier Region One DVD release from Artisan have thankfully pretty much been shown the door on this new release. Considering how much of the film takes place in dimly right rooms and smoky bars, it's important to make sure that the authoring properly represents the darker scenes properly, and thankfully Lion's Gate has come through this time.
The audio for this release has also been improved since the previous release. Three separate English audio mixes adorn this DVD – Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and DTS 5.1 Surround Sound. Closed captioning is also available in English.
While I was hard pressed to notice too much difference between the two 5.1 mixes, they do both sound better than the 2.0 mix. Bass is maybe just a tad bitter more powerful on the DTS mix than on the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but other than that the two mixes are very close in terms of quality. Both mixes do a nice job of handling directional effects. Background music never overshadows the dialogue, which always comes through nice and clear without any hiss or distortion. The lower end comes through well enough though there are few scenes where it seems like the bass levels are just slightly too low – that's probably more of a personal bias on my end than a problem with the mix though. Keeping in mind that there isn't a lot of explosions or action scenes or car chases or shoot outs, the DTS 5.1 mix might seem like overkill but it really does open up the movie a lot more and give it some nice ambience when viewed on a surround sound system.
Underneath some fancy animated menus is a decent selection of extra features that vary a little bit in quality, though thankfully most prove to be quite worthwhile.
First up is a feature length commentary track with writer/director Neil Jordan. The director is very upfront about his experiences on the film and he does a fantastic job of covering all the bases on this track. He discusses everything from the bizarre discover that was Jaye Davidson and some of the unusual traits he had, as well as some of the reasons he decided to cast Jaye in the role in the first place. He covers the financial problems that the film had while the production was rolling, as well as the influences that certain specific pieces of Irish literature had on the writing process while the movie was still in pre-production. Jordan proves an interesting subject for a commentary, and this track has got a great sense of humor to it but also proves to be extremely informative at the same time – the way all good commentary tracks should be.
Up next is the alternate ending, available with or without optional commentary from Neil Jordan. For what it's worth, if you're interested in this segment you should check it out sans commentary first, then watch it again to get Jordan's thoughts on it, and for shades of studio interference on a level almost on par with what happened with Terry Gilliam and Brazil. I'm not going to go into detail on the alternate ending as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it or doesn't know what happens, but let it suffice to say that it would have completely changed the tone of the film altogether. This was taken from a VHS source and it doesn't look so hot at all, but better to have it in bad condition than to not have it period.
After that we find the Northern Troubles featurette which is a look at the conflict in Northern Ireland through two men who lived through it – an Irish cab driver and an English soldier who later worked as a construction laborer. I suppose given the political climate in which the film takes place that this feature sort of relates to the film, but it felt a little bit out of place here. It's interesting in the sense though that the men offer a bit of a critique towards some of the inaccuracies portrayed by the characters in the film. This segment also details how the effects of the IRA have hurt Belfast and Ireland in general. From a political or historical perspective, this is good stuff. Essentially they drive around the affected areas of Belfast as they speak about the experiences, as the camera cuts from the men to the scenery and to some murals and back again.
The Making Of The Crying Game: Irish Luck, English Love, The Marketing Of An American Independent & Discussing The Crying Game is a four part segment that examines the making of the film, the casting, and the pre-production woes in quite a bit of detail. It begins by taking a look at the troubles the film ran into with financing (this takes up a good chunk of the segment but it isn't boring in the least, even if it sounds like it might be). The movie almost ran completely out of money during production (in fact, Stephen Woolley, one of the producers, had to borrow against his own personal business to get the money to finish the movie), and once it was finished it was rejected not once but twice by the Cannes Film Festival. When it played in the United Kingdom, it initially flopped but it went on to do huge business in its American release and it's home video release.
Neil Jordan, Stephen Woolley, Stephen Rea and a few other crew members are all on hand to offer their account on the making of the film and to share some of their personal experiences working together and with the other cast members. This segment finishes with a discussion covering the political and social issues that the film tackles, which makes for a pretty interesting listen. This featurette is a great companion piece to Jordan's commentary track, and it runs over fifty minutes in length.
Modern Day At Madame Jojo's is a segment that clocks in at about five minutes and essentially it is a behind the scenes look at a quartet of real life drag queens who perform in a night club that isn't too far off from the one that Dil performs at in the film. These four drag queens discuss their work, their personal lives, and some of the difficulties that they've had to overcome to succeed in their chosen field.
Finally, Lion's Gate has supplied trailers for a few of their other DVD releases. Sadly, for completists at least, the Boy George music video for the title song has not been included, likely for reasons pertaining to rights issue, and the film's theatrical trailer is also conspicuously absent (odd, considering that it was on the original Artisan release).
The Crying Game holds up really well – it's a fine story with great performances, beautiful cinematography and some truly suspenseful and dramatic scenes. This new DVD from Lion's Gate puts the previous Region One release to shame in every possible way. It looks really nice, it sounds really good, and the extra features do a great job of complimenting the feature itself. Highly Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.