Four-color crime-fighting faithfully adapted to the screen
Set against a city that's basically a Chester Gould drawing come to life, Tracy (Beatty) is dealing with two main problems. His city is being overwhelmed by organized crime, led by Big Boy (Al Pacino) and his gang of misshapen gangsters, and thanks to rampant corruption, he seems to be the only man on the force capable of slowing them down. Meanwhile, on the homefront, things with his best gal Tess Trueheart (the delightful Glenne Headly) are on the rough side, as his never-ending war on crime is fought at the expense of their relationship. It only gets worse when she ends up watching over a smart-mouthed orphan Tracy meets on the beat. In a movie full of punches and gunfire, not much hits harder than hard-boiled Tess' sharply-delivered lines.
The story focuses on Tracy's attempts to take down Big Boy, and Big Boy's attempts to rid himself of Tracy's meddling, as well as the arrival of a shadowy figure working at cross purposes, but the presence of pop superstar Madonna may be as memorable as anything in the film. As Breathless Mahoney, the club singer who finds herself under the unwanted command of Big Boy, she's certainly not the finest actress, and despite giving voice to the Oscar-winning Stephen Sondheim song "Sooner or Later," she's not the best singer, however she's darn right for the part, delivering lines like "You don't know if you want to hit me or kiss me. I get a lot of that" with just the correct mix of moxie and self-pity. In another movie, she might be considered laughable, but in the world of Dick Tracy, she's just about perfect.
So much of what makes Dick Tracy so entertaining is the over-the-top spectacle of it all, from the uniquely-designed sets, illustrated to look like the comic strip, to the old-school dialogue to the all-star cast, which, in addition to Beatty and Pacino, includes Paul Sorvino, Dustin Hoffman, Mandy Patinkin, Kathy Bates, Dick Van Dyke, Catherine O'Hara and James Caan, though most of them are plying their trade behind a lot of freaky make-up. No one is as enjoyable as Pacino though, who gets the best lines as the main baddie, including what's essentially a monologue to Headly toward the end of the film that's probably among the best things Pacino's ever done. If you've never been a fan of Pacino's hammy overacting, he finally puts it to good use here, in a feature-length game of "Can You Top This?".
Though the movie is better remembered for its visuals, Dick Tracy gives your receiver plenty to work with, as the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track brings gun battles, explosions and a great deal of music to the table, while the dialogue is clean and crisp (unless Mumbles is on-screen.) In addition to driving home the score and Sondheim's songs, the surrounds have some fun placement and movement in them, and the bass is strong throughout.
Aside from that, there's a digital copy available on the DVD.
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