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Package, The

Kino // R // December 2, 2014
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted December 11, 2014 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

After a low budget horror film (The Final Terror), a Chuck Norris movie (Code Of Silence) and then a Steven Seagal movie (Above The Law) director and co-producer Andrew Davis upped his game a bit with 1989's The Package, co-starring Academy Award winners Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones. Like the two action movies he'd made prior, this is hard edged R-rated thriller, a genre that Davis showed a real knack for in the eighties.

The story, written by John Bishop (who would later write the Wesley Snipes action film Drop Zone) tells the complex tale of Sargent Johnny Gallagher (Hackman), a special forces type in charge of security at a nuclear arms talk going on between the United States and the Soviet Union. Things seem okay until some terrorists attack a car carrying some important diplomats. Not surprisingly, Gallagher is blamed for this, the lapse in security pointing to a failure in his command.

Somewhat perturbed by all of this, Gallagher is reassigned and is asked to head back to the United States. His next missions is to escort a high profile military prisoner named Thomas Boyette (Jones) back home via plane and it should be a cinch. After all, this job seems normal enough, but then so did the security gig at the arms summit. Gallagher can't help but going back to things in his head, trying to sort out what went wrong and in turn, trying to ascertain what's up with his new assignment. Did it have something to do with what seemed at first like a random encounter with a spy named Glen Whitacre (John Heard)? All of this comes to a boil when Gallagher and Boyette land in Washington. Gallagher is attacked in a washroom and Boyette seemingly escapes but again, everyone's motives are now in question and who was the real target? Gallagher knows there's only one person he can go to for answers, his ex-wife Eileen (Joanna Cassidy), but even then, can he completely trust her any more than the rest of the players in this game?

With a plot that twists and turns almost a little too much, it's the cast that make this one work as well as it does. Hackman was made for roles like this, his character is maybe/maybe not a little too paranoid but you wouldn't want to mess with him. He knows his business and he knows it well and he's got enough to his bad side that you probably wouldn't want to see it. Tommy Lee Jones is his typically reliable self here too, playing the ‘prisoner' role with enough enthusiasm to make him an interesting character but never taking it too over-the-top. He and Hackman have an interesting chemistry in the scenes that they share together. The supporting players can all take a bow too. Cassidy as the ex-wife and Heard as the spy that Gallagher obviously doesn't want to trust both turn in fine work, and you can throw into the mix small roles for Dennis Franz and even Pam Grier!

As convoluted as the story can and will get, however, there's some well thought out execution on display to keep us interested. This is one of those movies that demands you pay very close attention, if not you're going to miss an important clue or piece of dialogue but if you do stick with it, it's a rewarding watch. There are layers to the plot here that mean the movie works as both a politically tinged thriller and an action movie but also as a bit of a character study as well. We learn enough about Hackman's character and how he's dealing with and relating to all of this that it definitely qualifies, at least. Add to that some slick camera work and location photography courtesy of cinematographer Frank Tidy (who would work with Davis again on Under Siege) and a solid score from James Newton Howard (who collaborated with Davis a few years later on his best known film, The Fugitive, that once again starred Tommy Lee Jones) and this turns out to be a solid watch.

The Blu-ray:


The Package arrives on Blu-ray from Kino in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer from in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85.1. There is a bit of obvious film grain here, as you'd expect, but for the most part the source used for this transfer is otherwise nice and clean, there's no serious print damage to complain about. Color reproduction is strong here while skin tones look lifelike and accurate. The image is free of any compression artifacts and there aren't any noise reduction problems or edge enhancement issues to gripe about. Detail and texture both quite strong.


The only audio option for the feature is an English language Stereo track presented in DTS-HD lossless format. There are no alternate language options, subtitles or closed captions provided. There are no issues here, this track is just fine. Balance is good, depth and range are solid and the dialogue and score both sound quite nice. No issues with any hiss or distortion to note.


Extras start off with a commentary track from director Andrew Davis who is joined here by actress Joanna Cassidy. Davis has a bit more to say about things than Cassidy does but both contribute a fair bit to the talk. The discussion covers shooting scenes on location in Chicago (and in Berlin), some of the themes of conspiracy and paranoia that run through the story, working with the various cast and crew members on the shoot and their thoughts on the effectiveness of the film as a finished product. It's quite obvious that they enjoyed themselves on this picture as they look back on it quite fondly. Cassidy also pops up here for a quick six-minute long on-camera interview that covers some of the same ground as the commentary but allows her to go out on her own a bit and share some stories about working with Davis and her co-stars. Aside from that we get a two minute intro to the film from Davis, a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

The Package is a smart, complex thriller with some great performances, a nice sense of style and a genuinely engaging plot. It's not a light film or a picture to be put on as ‘background noise' so be sure to watch it with the lights down and minimal distractions, but it is definitely a film worth seeing. The Blu-ray release from Kino looks and sounds very good and contains some decent extras as well. This is one that's easy to recommended.

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.

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