Directed by Doug Liman in 1996 and written by Jon Favreau, Swingers was one of those rare breed comedies that actually went on to garner not only deserved critical acclaim but to develop a serious cult following as well. The story is based around the exploits of two twenty-something guys - Mike (Favreau) and his best pal Trent (Vince Vaughn). Mike has been down in the dumps for months now since the end of a long term relationship and Trent is doing everything he can to pull him out of his funk. He decides that what the two of them need is an impromptu trip to Vegas, so they ditch Los Angeles for a night and head to sin city for a little fun. Though the gambling heads south fast, the pair wind up picking up a cocktail waitress and her friend and heading back to her trailer for a little fun. While Trent comes close to getting lucky, Mike just can't stop talking about his ex and how broken hearted he is over al of this.
Mike's career isn't going much better than his love life, and while he's still hoping to make it as a comedian, he can't even seem to land third tier roles, let alone headlining gigs. This doesn't stop him from trying, however, and after Trent and a few other friends basically drag him on a tour of Los Angeles parties and nightclubs and make him play hockey on a video game system, he finally starts to pull out of his bad spot and come into his own.
Very much a character piece, Swingers doesn't have a particularly complicated plot - it's really quite simple, it just follows Mike as his friends rally around him in their own quirky way and try to support him during a tough time. That said, it's plenty effective and anyone who has ever been in a funk over a broken heart will certainly understand not just where Mike is coming from but where Trent and the rest of the guys are as well. It's only natural to want to pull your friend out of a funk and get him back to the 'fun guy' he once was, and the movie taps into this. It also taps into the pitfalls of trying to make it in Hollywood. There's a reason Vince Vaughn's character uses the word 'money' as an adjective to describe everything good in life and there's a reason he's so hung up on looks and on scoring with all the 'beautiful babies' around him. The film makes some interesting statements about L.A.'s shallow culture but also points out that there are people out there who supersede that and who are worth spending time with. The whole thing has an interesting personal touch to it, and Favreau's script and Liman's direction certainly give you the impression that there's more than a little autobiographical insight working its way into the story.
Ultimately the film manages to find a nice balance between funny and cool, goofy and sweet, sincere and superficial. The performances of Vaughn and Favreau anchor the film perfectly, the first about as cool as they come, dashing and handsome and charismatic, the second a little awkward and maybe not quite as comfortable in his own skin. They make a great team here, their friendship entirely believable and their dialogue a big part of what makes the movie work as well as it does. Supporting efforts from John Livingston and a completely charming Heather Graham stand out as well, helping to flesh out the cast nicely. The film is well shot, capturing some great locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles and features an appropriately cool soundtrack made up of some from the likes of Dean Martin ('You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You' being a pretty appropriate choice to open the movie with!) and Tony Bennett to Heart, Lawrence Welk, George Jones and, of course, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (whose career got a pretty big boost when this movie came out).
Swingers probably looks as good here as the source material is going to allow for, given that it was a fairly low budget independent production and all. Grain lovers will appreciate the fact that this aspect of the movie's look hasn't been tinkered with or turned into a smeary noise reduction fest, and detail is certainly improved over the previous DVD release. Color reproduction looks good when compared to that past release as well, though it isn't on par with bigger and brighter Hollywood productions. Skin tones look nice and natural and black levels are fairly good as well. There aren't really any obvious problems with the encoding here, the image is pretty strong for what it is. This isn't going to be your 'go to' disc for video quality, but those who are used to how this movie looks will be absolutely fine with this Blu-ray presentation even if those new to the film might be a bit taken aback. The picture probably could have been cleaned up more than it has been here, but this is part of the movie's 'look' so most fans will probably be okay with the image.
You've got your choice of English language audio tracks in DTS-HD 2.0 and DTS-HD 5.1 and honestly the 2.0 track sounds better and more suitable to the movie. The 5.1 mix does do some nice things with the score and plays around with a few directional effects (the casino scene being a good example) but it sounds a little forced. The 2.0 mix seems to have just as much depth but also benefits from better balance and seems to feature slightly more impressive dialogue.
There are no new extra features here, sadly, but carried over from the special edition DVD release are some good extras starting with the Making It In Hollywood documentary that is broken up into a few different parts. The first is the eleven minute featurette Art Imitates Life - Writing Swingers in which the likeable Jon Favreau talks to us for a little bit about how he cast the picture, what his writing process was, where a lot of the ideas came from for this movie and how certain actors played a bigger part in getting the movie's tone right than others. Life Creates Art - Getting Swingers Made is a seventeen minute featurette that lets the filmmakers talk about how they pitched the movie and, as the title implies, got it made. Those with an interest in how various low budget indy films do manage to get a shot in between all the blockbusters and bigger Hollywood productions that the studios churn out will appreciate this. Life Imitates Art - Swingers Culture is an eleven minute bit about how the dialogue and catch phrases in the film went on to influence pop culture and Art Creates Life - Life After Swingers is a nine minute segment that shows how Swingers was essentially a launching pad for Favreau and Vaughn who have obviously gone on to much bigger things since this movie was made.
If the featurettes weren't enough, there's also the commentary from director Doug Liman and editor Steve Mirrione that does a good job of shedding some light on the technical side of things and explaining the ups and downs of low budget filmmaking. Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau also pop up in another commentary in which they discuss their exploits that inspired this film, what it was like writing the picture, the importance of character development in the film and more. Both tracks are worth listening to if you haven't already checked them out on the standard definition release. Subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.
Aside from that, we get five deleted scenes totaling roughly sixteen minutes in length, a three minuteSlingblade / Swingers short film parody called Swingblade, a trailer for the film, some animated motion menus and chapter stops.
Swingers holds up really well and is just as funny and charming today as it was when it first came out fifteen years ago. Of course, the novelty of seeing Hollywood bigwigs Vaughn and Favreau in their younger days counts for something but it's the characters here that really make it work. There aren't any new extras on the Blu-ray, but all of the supplements off of the special edition DVD have been carried over and the high definition transfer and lossless audio definitely trump past releases, even if they're not perfect. 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.