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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Harlan County War
Harlan County War
Showtime // Unrated // July 1, 2001
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Phillip Duncan | posted August 10, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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This is a hard movie to write about from an objective perspective. It deals with a subject that I find a little more interesting that others might because my wife's family is from this exact place. I've been to the Harlan, Kentucky that is portrayed in the film Harlan County War and therefore I went in wondering how it would come across. I'm familiar with the people and traditions of the area and have to say they are accurately portrayed in the film and this may cause the only problem with this film.

Everything is portrayed accurately, but the language and mannerisms seem almost too exaggerated. The exceptional Holly Hunter plays Ruby Kincaid, the wife of a striking miner in Harlan. Hers is the main fault in the film, at times her accent is so thick that it's hard to understand and at times it is less so. The people of the area do talk with a thick accent that seems unnatural and her accent coming and going at times is bothersome. Ted Levine of Silence of the Lambs fame plays her husband, Silas Kincaid, and his accent is continuous through the film. Finally Stellan Skarsgard plays Warren Jakopovich, the union lawyer sent to help these people with their troubles.

At times the film seems almost hard to believe. Set in the year 1973, the treatment and situations these people had to live through seem unreal in today's time. There was no plumbing, little electricity and less than $2 an hour in wages. The film does its job, it gets across the dire situation they faced and the methods they used to overcome it, but it's a slow film to watch. The pacing is a continue crawl, with little happening most of the time. I was not expecting an action film, but the dramatic elements are even uninteresting at times. Overall, I would find it a bit dull if I were not interested in the subject beforehand.

The DVD
The Video: The video is presented in the full frame that it was aired in originally on Showtime and therefore noting is cropped or exaggerated. The colors run along the cool palate and there is no noticeable jaggedness in the films many nighttime scenes.

The Audio: It is presented in a standard Dolby Mix that is extremely calm. There are little to no rear effects and the vocals at times were mixed lower that the other audio. There is nothing great to mention, but nothing that takes away from the enjoyment of the film as well.

The Extras: There are little extras added on this disc and most are that eventful. There are two short biographies on Hunter and Skarsgard that are amazingly incomplete and they along with director Tony Bill are feature in three short interviews. The most interesting extra is the three or four pages of text that tell a few more details behind the strike and clear up a few inconsistencies in the film. There are also trailers for four more Showtime original movies that I couldn't bring myself to watch based solely on the titles alone.

Overall: This was an interesting film to someone who was interested in the subject, but may turn off those not. The performances are all around good, especially that of Levine. It's worth a slow night rental if anything else.
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