I wasn't sure what to expect of the late Sage Stallone's 2006 short film "Vic," finally arriving on DVD seven years after its initial release (considering the death of one of the film's supporting stars, Miriam Byrd Nethery in 2003, I'd wager the film is more than a decade old now). The film has always been on my distant radar for the sheer curiosity of its star Clu Gulager, whose own career hasn't seen much life apart form appearances in the film's of his son John (the film's cinematographer) since the mid 90's. All that said, "Vic" is a stunning piece of work, due to equal parts effort by director/writer Sage Stallone, writer Will Huston, and star Clu Gulager. Running an efficient 30-minutes, in which not a second of screen time is wasted, "Vic" chronicles a few days in the life of Vic Reeves (Gulager), a once prominent actor decades earlier whose days as a powerful name are long behind him and the chance of being recognized often feels like the actor's only motivation for going through the paces day after day. However, as luck would have it for Vic, a call from a John LaSalle (Tom Gulager) offers one more chance to shine at the cost of having to come read for a part, something that Vic hadn't done for years and is hard to swallow.
Stallone's direction of Gulager keeps the actor and the story moving forward at a brilliant pace, while Huston's script keeps a continual air of mystery leading to minor dread for Gulager to soak up and infect the hearts of viewers with a sense of sad empathy. Gulager's performance is multi-faceted as the fading public persona of Vic Reeves fails to make an impression on anyone in modern society, case in point a heartbreaking exchange between Reeves and an elderly store clerk (played by Gulager's late wife Miriam Byrd Nethery), highlighting that if those around for Reeves' heyday have all but forgotten him, how could he expect a younger public to have the slightest inkling of who he is. As Vic's world begins to spiral out of control leading up to the film's climax, the actual audition, Stallone's direction never falters and continues to work to give Gulager's commanding performance the respect it so rightly deserves.
"Vic" is a truly unforgettable 30-minutes of filmmaking that will speak most loudly to both film fans with deep appreciation for film history and those who have felt the painful pang of being forgotten. In it's own earnest meta way, "Vic" reminds modern audiences that the Vic Reeves of the world don't deserve to be forgotten and Clu Gulager's casting in the role resonates all the more strongly because of it. It's quite sad that only after the tragic, all to early death of Sage Stallone, does "Vic" finally see the light of day as its evidence of another example of talent taken away before it had the chance to get the exposure and accolades it deserves. "Vic" is the perfect storm of smart writing, skilled camerawork all going to support for a powder keg of a performance from an actor determined to not let his talents fade away; a must see, dare I say must own short film.
"Vic" is presented with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. It's a strikingly clean image and there are no technical hiccups that emphasize its low-budget origins. The color palette isn't overly warm, or never too cool, with color reproduction itself a great balance between natural and slightly stylized (Vic's house has that slightly warmer earthen tone that emphasizes a feeling of nostalgia). Detail is consistently above average (to mildly striking at times) and not marred by any signs of compression.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio track has a solid, warm tone from the center, but overall surround use is rather limited and the low-end feels underutilized save for the occasional moderately pulsating bursts of punctuation from the score. It's a generally solid mix, although one wishes there was more dynamic range as Gulager's voice alone should feel heartier than it does here and even transition scenes set outdoors don't contain expected atmosphere. Spanish, French, and Italian subtitles are included.
The extras consist of cast and crew biographies and a 15-minute interview with Clu Gulager.
"Vic" is the underdog, must own DVD release of the year. In its half-hour runtime it speaks volumes on both society as a whole and the film system. Clu Gulager's performance alone earns "Vic" the highest of praise. The DVD itself is a simple presentation and a solid technical production. DVD Talk Collector Series.