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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Hi-Line
The Hi-Line
Creative Light Home Video // PG // January 9, 2001
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted July 21, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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Rachael Leigh Cook has enjoyed quite a bit of time in the spotlight, but despite becoming a household name over the past couple of years, her best-known lead roles were in She's All That and Josie and the Pussycats. Neither of those movies really showcased Cook's talent, as both Laney Boggs and Josie McCoy were little more than awkward pretty girls who found it difficult dealing with attention on any sort of scale. By and large, even the more obscure films in which she's appeared have been supporting roles of some sort, but with the DVD release of The Hi-Line, her legions of fans finally have a film to prove to others that Cook is more than just another cute face. The Hi-Line was written and directed by Ron Judkins, whose sound work for Spielberg was so impressive that he was nominated for two Academy Awards in the same category in 1994, bringing home an Oscar for Jurassic Park and another one five years later for Saving Private Ryan. Judkins' first effort in this expanded creative capacity was similarly successful, as The Hi-Line was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in '99.

The Hi-Line stars Rachael Leigh Cook as Vera Johnson, a Montana girl desperate to claw herself out from the one-horse town where she's wasted the twenty years of her young life. A glimmer of hope arrives in the form of Sam Polvino (Cook's real life sweetheart Ryan Alosio), who claims to represent an employment agency from Chicago scouting for retail talent, though it never once dawns upon the enthusiastic but naïve Vera how bizarre it is for a Chicago retailer to randomly visit someone from hundreds of miles away to work as a clerk. When Sam's true motivation for contacting her is revealed, it tears Vera's world asunder, catapulting the two on a road trip that changes them both more than they possibly could have anticipated.

The Hi-Line makes the dangerous move of introducing its characters early on, but not delving into what the plot is exactly until nearly a third of the way into the film. With lesser actors or substandard material, this would be excruciatingly dull, but Judkins and his gifted cast pull off this difficult task effortlessly. Judkins' background in the auditory side of filmmaking has clearly taught him that sound can have the greatest effect when it is not present, and often moments of silence have as much impact as the dialogue itself. Though the ending may leave some unsatisfied, I thought it was a fine conclusion, certainly fitting for a romantic character with such an unconfined mind as Vera Johnson. The DVD presentation from Creative Light Entertainment compliments this expertly crafted film, offering much in the way of quality supplements.

Video: The Hi-Line is letterboxed to approximately 1.85:1, and although the disc is not enhanced for 16x9 televisions, it stands out as one of the better non-anamorphic widescreen transfers I've seen, particularly for a film of its relative obscurity. The image is crisp and clear throughout, and no print flaws of any sort were evident. One of the more dimly-lit exterior scenes seemed the slightest bit softer than the remainder of the film, alongside the faintest trace of grain that didn't rear its head elsewhere. Color balance and fleshtones remain largely natural and pleasing throughout, with excellent black levels and shadow detail. I'm not sure if this was my eyes giving out in the midst of a movie marathon, but in a handful of shots, portions of some objects seemed to subtly flicker, infrequently taking on a sort of light green hue, but at no point was this particularly distracting. Definitely a solid effort.

Audio: Though not quite the sonic barrage one might expect from a film helmed by an Oscar winning sound mixer, the soundtrack is pretty respectable. As is generally the case with character pieces, The Hi-Line is driven by dialogue, and those lines are never drowned out by music or hindered in any way by other aspects of the stereo surround audio. Some of the shouted dialogue sounds lightly distorted, but these moments are few and far between. The various songs used throughout tend to sound rather nice, most notably at the film's opening and conclusion.

Supplements: The highlight of the supplemental material is a 15 minute behind-the-scenes featurette. The majority of puff pieces that litter DVDs nowadays consist mostly of lengthy clips of the film interspersed with insubstantial "Working with [insert name of actor, actress, director, or writer] was great" interviews and five-second long peeks at filming. Thankfully, this featurette offers real interviews with seemingly everyone involved with production, and it's evident that these people are passionate about the material, despite the occasional hardships that accompanied filming. There is an extensive amount of behind-the-scenes footage, and (gasp!) no three-minute segments from the finished product included. This is the way a featurette should be, and it's disappointing that so many other companies can't seem to get it right. Though the lack of a commentary is mildly disappointing, this featurette provided enough information to whet my appetite.

Though there isn't a feature-length commentary track, Ron Judkins does provide commentary for a few deleted scenes, along with a brief video introduction. The commentary isn't optional, but Judkins times his comments so that he interrupts very little dialogue. There are also four interview segments with Rachael Leigh Cook and her mother, focusing primarily on the character of Vera.

Rounding out the supplements is a trailer, which for some reason wouldn't play on my set-top player or my DVD-ROM.

Conclusion: The Hi-Line is a skillfilly directed and marvelously acted character piece that would be worthy of a purchase even without the number of quality extras provided. I hope this disc is indicative of what to expect from Creative Light Entertainment in the future, though I wouldn't complain if they made the jump to anamorphic enhancement. Highly recommended.
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