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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Tiger's Tail
The Tiger's Tail
MGM // R // August 11, 2009
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted September 20, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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The Film:

Imagine a Hitchcock-like stab at a semi-serious infusion of Face/Off and Trading Places. Now, imagine that it carries neither dramatic credibility nor much of a sense of human logic, and you've got John Boorman's The Tiger's Tail. Honestly, that's about the best way to describe this fizzled attempt at identity mystery, crafting stone-faced humor that's overtly dark and wish-wash suspense that neither thrills nor compels.

Brendan Gleeson takes the lead here as Liam O'Leary, a wealthy Irish entrepreneur and philanthropist on the pathway to constructing a multi-million dollar soccer stadium. He's respected by his colleagues and workers -- showing by an event planned in his honor, the opening stage for The Tiger's Tail -- while also maintaining a cold yet buoyant relationship with his gold-digging wife (Kim Cattrall) and potentially-Communist son (Briain Gleeson, Brendan's son). Starting one stress-filled night, he begins to be haunted by a look-alike individual, at first seeming like a superstitious apparition that harks to Liam's fears of death -- until this copycat starts to physically finagle with his life.

Something just feels off with The Tiger's Tail from the get-go, making us feel like we're in a tonal stand-still pattern much like the drivers stuck in traffic at the beginning of the film. It feels heavily sardonic at the front end, with Brendan Gleeson lugging around a horribly-painted picture of himself and his ungrateful son mumbling on about redistributed wealth and the like. His relationship with his wife feels empty, yet mutual in design to a degree that could be plump for satirical jabs and pokes upon some progression -- especially with Gleeson and Kim Cattrall in the driver's seat. Even at his celebratory event, Liam's slight cockiness and passive-aggressive stabs from his wife dance close to humor -- all muted by the dour tone following his maddening encounters with his "double". Plus, the mini-reunion of Braveheart actors (Gleeson, Sean McGinley, and John Kananagh) in a shot of the dining table offers a cute nod to the audience.

But early on, we learn an absurd dual-layered twist about Liam's family, especially revolving around his relationship with his sister Oona (Sinead Cusack), and the film never comes close to recovering from this folly. It's a trite Jerry Springer level screwjob that's been juggled in many ways for many years across many artistic mediums, ranging from serious suspense films to silly animated cartoons. John Boorman would probably like The Tiger's Tail to be a clash between Vertigo and the cage-rattling tension in John Woo's Face/Off, but instead it's little more than a slab of humdrum cartoon-level spoofing that forgets to be satisfying amid all its coarseness. This oddness manages to wrangle the Cathlic church into the film, which thankfully gives us the chance to see CiarĂ¡n Hinds -- recognizable from Road to Perdition and Munich, but more so recently with his turn as Julius Caesar in HBO's "Rome" -- try his hardest to persuade our rapidly-fading attention as Father Andy. It's a welcome diversion, even if it doesn't work.

Sadly, this reveal occurs nearly one-third the way in, leaving the rest of the picture to rely on an avalanche of tension-minded infuriation and an uneven turn from the otherwise reliable Brendan Gleeson. Poor scripting leads to an odd steam of tones that switch between slightly comedic and slightly dramatic, leaving us completely uncertain of what to make of either the story or Liam's convictions. Elements are thrown in our faces, like an interaction between Liam's wife and the elusive "double", and the swerving attitude of the picture leaves us uncertain whether to laugh at it or not -- naturally defaulting to laugh-less discomfort, aside from the irregular chuckle at the film's absurdity.

As the plot throws more and more of these somewhat foreseeable yet sloppily-handled quirks at us, a deeper and deeper hole continues to be dug for John Boorman's film. It only allows glimmers of guilty indulgence into situational razzle-dazzle, mostyl around the double's attempts at "being" Liam. The Tiger's Tail thankfully ends after much watch-gazing, closing up in a fashion befitting its gaggle of misanthropic character gouging -- which, essentially, means that sense can't really be made behind many of their decisions. It's just an odd, unsatisfying mess, and certainly not befitting the talent of the same director who gave us Deliverance and Point Blank. Chalk The Tiger's Tail up as a doused fuse, Mr. Boorman, and light us up with something else.

The DVD:

The Tiger's Tail comes presented from MGM in a bare-boned digital presentation with coverart constructed in a fashion that might appeal to Kim Cattrall fans.

Video and Audio:

At least The Tiger's Tail looks decent in its 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Somewhat cold yet well-textured visuals fill the cinematography, all of which stand out with plenty of detail refinement and grace of motion. Grain in darker elements does get a bit heavy, teetering between the levels separating digital and intentional grain. Close-ups look rather exquisite, showcasing very strong skin tones and attention to detail that mirror the transfer's color timing, while only very, very faint remnants of edge enhancement crop up from time to time. In all, The Tiger's Tail offers a strong visual treatment.

Audio, available in English Dolby Digital 5.1, is an uninteresting yet able sound option. Dialogue sometimes reaches difficult-to-hear levels amid scenes with thicker accents, but most of the film's speech remains crisp to the ear and well-synched. Musical accompaniment also has its moments where it balances oddly with the rest of the action, though it generally sounds pleasant enough. Dynamics aren't paramount in regards to rear-channel activity, but it satisfies well enough for the film's needs. Subtitles are only available in optional English.

Final Thoughts:

Director John Boorman certainly has one or two strong films left in him, but The Tiger's Tail is undoubtedly not one of them. Featuring worn-out plot mechanics cradled by uninteresting drama and ho-hum turns from the actors, it's a not-so-thrilling suspense film with little in the way of redeeming qualities for its formulaic yet aptly-constructed situational excitements. Enthusiasts of Gleeson and Cattrall might want to give this a look for their mixed bag of performances, but this is by-and-large a dud that's worth a Skip. Watch Deliverance if you never have, and then give some of the aforementioned films in this review a spin to see more strongly-realized identity pictures -- both comedic and suspense-driven.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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