8 Heads in a Duffel Bag
MGM // R // $14.95 // October 8, 2002
Review by Earl Cressey | posted October 23, 2002
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Graphical Version
8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, originally released theatrically in 1997, was written and directed by Tom Schulman. With mixed reactions from critics, the film only pulled in $3.6 million and left theaters rather quickly. Starring in the film are: Joe Pesci (Tommy), Andy Comeau (Charlie), Kristy Swanson (Laurie Bennett), Todd Louiso (Steve), George Hamilton (Mr. Bennett), Dyan Cannon (Mrs. Bennett), and David Spade (Ernie).

Working for the mob in L.A., Tommy is assigned with bringing Big Sep the heads of eight recently murdered men who made the mistake of crossing him. While on the plane, however, his duffel bag containing the heads gets switched with Charlie's identical bag. Charlie, a traveling college student on spring break, is trying to spend his vacation with Laurie, his girlfriend, and her parents in Mexico. Tommy soon discovers the error and goes ballistic, as he was given only twenty-four hours to deliver the heads. With Tommy trying to track him down, Charlie attempts to get the heads across the border to avoid Mexican prosecution. But when the mob comes after them, they find that only by working together can they solve their mutual problems.

Mostly overlooked at the box office, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag was one of those films that I discovered several years ago in the 'gallery' section of a local video store. Joe Pesci, for me at least, has always been hit or miss he's usually great if he's working with other great actors, though with few exceptions (notably My Cousin Vinny) the films he leads are mostly forgettable. Not that 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag particularly bucks that trend, but I found it to be a decent black comedy that is hindered by some unrealized characters and mediocre acting on the part of the supporting players. Pesci's character of Tommy doesn't vary that much from the gangsters he's portrayed in other films, at least initially, but towards the end he does soften up a bit, which seems uncharacteristic. The film also boasts two cringe-inducing moments, one being Pesci's character singing along with the radio early on and the other being Louiso's 'spoof' on the infamous monologue from Taxi Driver. Despite these flaws, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag has some really funny moments, though certainly isn't the finest entry in the black comedy sub-genre.

Video:
8 Heads in a Duffel Bag is presented in both 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 1.33:1 full frame on opposite sides of the disc. As with many other catalog MGM releases, the transfer here is great, with the picture crisp and detailed throughout. Print flaws are rare and consist of only a few minor specks. Colors are natural, with accurate flesh tones and modest blacks.

Audio:
8 Heads in a Duffel Bag is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 in English and Dolby 2.0 Surround in French. The 5.1 track works fine for the dialogue-heavy film, with fronts handling the majority of the dialogue, music, and a few instances of surrounds and the rears supplying the background ambience. Dialogue throughout is clean and crisp, with no distortion. Optional subtitles are available in English, French, and Spanish.

Extras:
The film's trailer is the only extra.

Summary:
For my money, MGM produces some of the best DVDs for overlooked catalog titles, providing 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag with a great audiovisual presentation, two viewing ratios, the film's trailer, and a low MSRP. Fans should definitely consider picking it up and newcomers might want to give it a try if you're interested in black comedies or are a fan of the leads.



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