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I Am Steve McQueen

Shout Factory // Unrated // April 14, 2015
List Price: $29.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted March 24, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

For more and more people these days who were not around or aware of the era of Steve McQueen in movies and/or auto racing, it seems like (admittedly, without looking) resources have been scarce in devoting enough time to "The King of Cool," but it would appear the additional retroactive appreciation is slowly starting to take hold, with the latest installment being I Am Steve McQueen.

The film originally aired in the summer of 2014 on Spike TV and was produced by McQueen Racing, which was founded by Steve's oldest son Chad. Using interviews with friends, family and admirers of McQueen, the film tells his story starting from his early days, and weaves in and around the memorable moments in McQueen's movie life and some production anecdotes about what occurred on some of those sets. It also shows Steve McQueen at play. His love for racing cars and motorcycles is given attention, along with some looks at McQueen the father. It covers his time after movies when he was more of a traveler and explorer, and his tragic death at 50 from mesothelioma is recounted.

I Am Steve McQueen includes some famous admirers, such as Pierce Brosnan, who remade The Thomas Crown Affair three decades after McQueen wowed folks in the role. Another Brit actor in Gary Oldman shares his thoughts on the man too. More logical choices like former Magnificent Seven co-star Robert Vaughn and Cincinnati Kid director Norman Jewison share their respective memories on McQueen as an actor. Each of McQueen's three wives are given some screen time to discuss how Steve was, with an occasional wart thrown in to make sure people know he was not an angel. It should be noted here that McQueen's grandson Steven is interviewed for the film. Younger fans who know him know him from The Vampire Diaries which a) Holy Cow and b) Going to sleep now, old.

Chad gets a good portion of the time, and the guy who played Dutch in The Karate Kid is now 54, carrying himself curiously like a Tom Sizemore talking about his dad, and driving some of his Dad's cars. There is additional perspective given to these cars and their value outside of emotional reasons and it is impressive, but it certainly does not call for any sort of forced epiphany as to why Steve McQueen was great.

If there is a problem with I Am Steve McQueen, it's that despite the present of a biographer and a film critic, there is not THAT much new ground that is covered when watching the film. Now, watch as I segue into saying that I didn't know he trained to become a pilot and did some flying (perfectly natural, considering McQueen's nature), but what is covered in the film about McQueen is generally known or so I think, though the stuff about the cars is nice. The film is the equivalent of a father's day gift; nice packaging, but once you dig into it, ultimately disappointing.

I like that more people will enjoy what makes Steve McQueen so appealing decades after his death, and in his (GULP) grandson, another generation may get to see some of this also. At the end of the day, I Am Steve McQueen is neither a mantra nor a way of living. It is a paint by numbers look, with barely the energy captured to serve as an entry drug into his films and his racing. Here is hoping that the next attempt is the best.

The Blu-ray:
Video:

I Am Steve McQueen is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen consistent with how it first aired on Spike. It juggles a myriad of film sources and oodles of black & white (and color) photos, and the colors look nice and some film grain can be discerned from the clips. On the recent interviews, the detail is ample in Chad's stubble or Ali MacGraw's (GULP) wrinkles, and graphics look vivid and sans noise or blocking. Pretty solid presentation.

Audio:

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track is especially appreciated in the moments of the low idle/roar of the vintage Mustang, Porsche and Jaguar in various moments. Dialogue is consistent and the film clips even sound good. The directional affects and channel panning is wanting a little, but considering the material, not a huge deal.

Extras:

Some added footage rules the day. "McQueen's Garage" (15:50) looks at the cars in Steve's life, why he liked them, and an occasional anecdote, including driving Bruce Lee one time. Some of this footage appears in the feature but in one place for the gearheads, this is nice. "Yucatan" (4:48) is a look from Chad at a film that his dad had scripted and storyboarded but never filmed, and the trailer (1:10) completes things.

Final Thoughts:

I Am Steve McQueen is a nice look at one of cinema's icons of the latter half of the 20th century. That said, how much you will enjoy the film depends on what one knows about McQueen coming in. And even if you are a blank slate, the tribute feels uninspired. Technically, it certainly looks and sounds purty, and the supplements are okay but nothing entirely special. Definitely worth checking out, particularly if Spike is into re-runs.

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