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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Gift (Blu-ray)
The Gift (Blu-ray)
Universal // R // October 27, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted November 7, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Every year or two we get a film with a similar premise yet unrelated to one another. You know the one, where a mysterious stranger befriends a story protagonist and the latter finds themselves in a bind from the former more than they expected. It can work really well (Fatal Attraction) or not (The Boy Next Door). With The Gift, we see another entry into this genre, and wonder how it stacks up to the competition.

The film is written and directed by Joel Edgerton, whom many would recognize most recently from his appearance in Black Mass. Edgerton plays Gordo, a quiet loner who runs into Simon (Jason Bateman, Identity Thief) again for the first time in 20 years. Simon and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall, The Town) have moved to Los Angeles (in Simon's case, back to LA) after living in Chicago for the last few years. Gordo quietly begins coming around the house and meeting Robyn, and Simon grows increasingly exasperated by Gordo's presence in their lives, as he was dismissive of him ever since seeing him again at a clothing store on a chance encounter. Once Gordo learns about Simon's true feelings about him, Gordo becomes a more threatening presence for the couple, and their upcoming child.

While the superficial rundown of The Gift sounds like something you've seen a few dozen times before, there are a couple of things which differentiate it from the pack. Chief among those is that we learn that Gordo's relationship to Simon goes beyond one of psychological manipulation. The difference between films similar to it and The Gift is that it puts guilt on both sides of the metaphoric fence; and in a way some empathy for Gordo can be gleamed as a result. Edgerton's script is aware of the mechanisms that other films have used to help convey terror, and he does use them, but differently and not to their full realization. Those are key differences in The Gift.

Adding onto Edgerton's work on the script, his work in front of the camera is clever. He appears to sport different color contact lenses to complement a dyed goatee, and inhabits Gordo with some generosity, but not without the shifty resources that the spurned friend would have, like quietly sneaking into a house that's not his, or poisoning animals. Gordo's simplistic nature is balanced with menace that goes underestimated by many. Bateman's dramatic turn (his second in recent memory after Disconnect) is solid in its own right, though the scene in the trailer that shows him in an emotional state feels a little forced. Hall is the center between both characters and her performance is the best of the three, which is not a slam on Edgerton and Bateman, she balances what she knows about Gordo and eventually learns about him and later her husband and conveys it all effectively.

While being another entry into a genre known for crazy people, The Gift takes that assumption and spreads out the bad behavior to not just the bad guy, and gives it a psychological suspense level that is pleasantly surprising to experience. It's a little more of the same, but what it makes its own works very well in this commendable writing and directing debut for Edgerton.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

Universal presents The Gift with an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 widescreen transfer that should look better than it does. A couple of the shower sequences have nice detail in water beading on the glass, and there are other moments of decent detail, but black levels in the film fluctuate and when you get into brighter lit moments such as the hospital hallway, the whites seem to run a little hot. The color palette of the film isn't broad so you don't get a chance to see if it handles anything demanding, but the disc underwhelms for something of such recent production.

The Sound:

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless surround of The Gift sounds pretty good, as was Edgerton's intent. The family dog barking outside startles, as does a large piece of glass that shatters into hundreds of pieces. The soundstage is largely quiet and dialogue-driven and sounds consistent with no drop-offs or chirping to gripe about. It's quality work without standing out.

Extras:

Edgerton and his friend/the film's editor Luke Doolan team up for a commentary that is a little dry at times, but does have some good production recall behind it. Edgerton discusses the scene intent, some of the locations and how they approached the film from various aspects. Edgerton recalls yelling at a EPK representative during one scene (which would have been cool to include for yucks) but otherwise the track isn't that special. Next is an alternate ending (4:38) which you can play with an introduction from Edgerton that puts Gordo in a slightly darker mood. Four deleted scenes (7:55) include optional commentaries from Edgerton, but the scenes are redundant. "Karma For Bullies" (1:54) examines Edgerton's inspiration for the film, and "The Darker Side of Jason Bateman" (1:05) includes Edgerton's thoughts on Bateman. Two trailers (3:59) are next, and the second is pretty good, but gives a little more of the shop away. A standard definition disc and digital copy round things out.

Final Thoughts:

In The Gift there's a film that at first glance looks to be more of the same old thing, but as it turns out is better than that. Technically the disc could have been better, and the supplements are decent. But the performances from the main three actors are polished and have a fair amount of range to each. It is definitely worth checking out to see how Edgerton plays with conventional norms in the genre and turns them into a good movie.

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