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Don't let the cover art fool you. While the front of the case might make Gary Lennon's .45 look like a 'girls with guns' shoot'em up action film, the fact of the matter is that the movie is actually a character driven drama about a woman and her abusive boyfriend. That's not a bad thing, per se, but the cover doesn't represent at all what the film seems to be going for with its theme and its story.
Kat (Milla Jovovich) is a pretty young woman dating a New York gun dealer who goes by the name of Big Al (Angus Macfayden). It's a seriously dysfunctional relationship in that she sells guns behind his back and uses him for money and security while he periodically beats the crap out of her and uses her for sex. Al's friend and confident, Riley (Stephen Dorff) has long had a crush on Kat, though she's closer with a girl she once had a fling with, a Jewish lesbian named Vic (Sarah Strange) who would love nothing more than to see Al dead.
When a Puerto Rican man that Kat sold a gun to behind Al's back shows up at their bar and makes a pass at her, Al takes Kat home and beats her within an inch of her life, cutting off much of her hair with a butcher's knife. Kat seeks help from a woman's crisis worker named Liz (Aisha Tyler) who tells her that the best thing she can do is to use her feminine charms to her advantage to make a better life for herself and to get away from Al once and for all. Kat sets out to do just that, though the results aren't at all what Liz, Riley, Al or Vic could have ever seen coming.
Stylishly directed and laced with some acidic moments of effectively black comedy, .45 is an interesting if fairly flawed feature debut from writer-director Gary Lennon. The strengths of the film lie in the performances from Milla Jovovich and Angus Macfayden and the interesting dynamic that their chemistry brings to the picture. One moment they can be involved in raw, sensual intercourse and the next moment he can be drunk out of his mind and beating her almost to death. Their's is a very passionate relationship, one that, like many dysfunctional couplings, goes very quickly from one extreme to the other and back again. As she becomes more and more disillusioned in the pathetic life that they've built with one another, she beings to coyly turn the tables around on him and start controlling him while letting him think he still retains his grip on her. Jovovich is quite good at moving from the sexy and playful brat to the sympathetic victim of horrible domestic abuse and Macfayden is convincing as the man who doles it all out to her. At the same time, Kat's character isn't as fully developed as she should have been, and the problem is that she's the brat as much if not more than she is the victim, and as such it's difficult to identify with her at times even if we obviously feel for her and her situation. The supporting cast is uniformly good, with Aisha Tyler doing fine as the initially noble girl out to help the victim while Sarah Strange is fairly believable as the aggressive Vic. Dorff isn't given a whole lot to do but his performance has a few stand out moments, most of which involve his interaction with Strange.
Ultimately, the ending and the change that occurs in Jovovich's character feels too rushed to be completely realistic, but even with that said, the film moves along at a decent pace, it successfully pulls us into the world that the characters inhabit, and it always looks great. A little more fine tuning in the script department would have helped but .45 is still well worth a look.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer shows some mild grain and is a bit on the soft side but it otherwise quite strong. Flesh tones look very lifelike and natural and color reproduction is realistic and not overdone. Black levels stay fairly strong and are consistent throughout and there are no problems with mpeg compression artifacts. A little mild edge enhancement can be spotted in a few scenes and sharpness tends to vary from one scene to the next but detail in both the background and the foreground of the image is, more often than not, quite good.
You've got the choice of watching the film in an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix or in a scaled down Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Surround Mix with optional subtitles available in Spanish and with optional English closed captions. For the most part, the surround sound mix is very good. Dialogue is clean and clear and there are no noticeable problems with hiss or distortion. Levels are properly balanced and the rear channels are used well in the action scenes to provide some surround effects and also in the quieter moments to provide some ambient background noise. Bass response isn't as strong as it could have been but you will notice it when you need to.
The only extra feature of any actual worth on this disc is a commentary track from writer/director Gary Lennon. He comes across as a likeable enough guy who really seems to have a lot of enthusiasm for the film he made. He spends a fair bit of time explaining the specifics of certain scenes in the movie as they play out in front of us but he also details what it was like working with Milla as well as other casting decisions, where certain scenes were shot and what he was going for while writing the script. It's a fairly enjoyable track and if you dug the movie, this is an ideal way to learn more about it from the man who made it all happen.
Aside from that we get some nifty menu screens, a chapter selection option, a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other completely unrelated DVDs available from Sony.
.45 is far from a perfect film, in fact it's quite flawed. That being said, the dynamic between the male and female leads is handled well and the story has a few interesting twists. It's stylishly directed and a nice piece of eye candy that happens to tell a decent story as well. Recommended for Jovovich fans, a solid rental for everyone else.
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.