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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Sicilian (Director's Cut) (Blu-ray)
The Sicilian (Director's Cut) (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // March 29, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $26.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted March 25, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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THE FILM:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

Notoriously prickly director Michael Cimino won the Oscar for best picture in 1978 for The Deer Hunter, only his second feature film. Two years later, he received a Razzie for directing Heaven's Gate, the epic western whose box office failure brought to light the director's abrasive on-set demeanor and uncompromising, dictatorial filmmaking style. Time has been kind in rehabilitating that film's reputation, but Cimino never again achieved the success he earned alongside Robert De Niro, John Cazale and Christopher Walken on The Deer Hunter. The Sicilian should have been his ticket back to Hollywood, at least when you consider the Mario Puzo source material and A-list cast, which includes Christopher Lambert, Terence Stamp and John Turturro. The film ultimately flopped, in part due to wrangling over editorial control and a delayed release. The Sicilian received a critical thrashing in 1987, with many labeling the actors as miscast, the narrative muddled and pulpy, and the camera work murky. This 146-minute director's cut restores Cimino's preferred version of the film, and partially redeems some of the film's bigger failures.

Puzo's novel plays into his "Godfather" saga slightly but mainly concerns real Italian Robin Hood figure Salvatore Giuliano, who challenges the mafia as hero of the peasants. Exiled in Italy, Michael Corleone was to ferry Giuliano to America, but a bloody fate for the bandit prevents that from happening. None of Corleone's story made it into the film version, but the connection is nonetheless interesting. The Sicilian has visions of grandeur, enhanced by the beautiful Italian backdrops, but feels more like big-budget pulp. French actor Lambert, fresh off of Highlander, is not bad here, but I understand the groaning about his casting. Lambert is simply not charismatic enough to carry the overweight story on his shoulders, and he is given some truly terrible dialogue by screenwriters Steve Shagan and Gore Vidal, uncredited and litigious at the time due to this omission. Worse is Barbara Sukowa, playing an American heiress and British duchess by marriage, whose performance sounds like it was dubbed. She has a cringe-worthy scene where she encourages Giuliano to rape her, the intent of which is lost upon this viewer. Turtorro fares better, as Giuliano's sidekick Pisciotta, and at least Turtorro is half Italian.

Cimino tells his story with an odd mix of romantic drama, bombastic dialogue and bloody violence. There are few scenes that really make an impression, and the film's continuity struggles even in this longer director's cut. Giuliano rankles mafia Don Masino Croce (Joss Ackland), who has gained power playing a benevolent hand to the people. In one scene, an adversary chides Giuliano, telling him his plans of giving the poor land is foolish, as all they want is bread, which Don Croce delivers. This central protagonist is reborn after being shot stealing bread. His resurrection alludes to the Christ figure, but Giuliano is a hero many did not ask for. He kills at will based on his own notions of right and wrong, and a disastrous attempt to turn people away from the mafia turns violent thanks to duplicitous friends. Cimino fails to show what, exactly, Giuliano does to appeal to the population, and instead focuses on messy scenes of church/mafia/civilian conflict without providing much context or background on Italian politics.

There is something endearing about the sloppy, sweeping drama of The Sicilian, and the story may have fared better in a different set of hands. Cimino's pan-heavy camera work captures some beautiful images, and Lambert and company do their best with the overwrought material. There are moments of intrigue, like a scene where Giuliano threatens a priest loyal to the Don, but the arbitrariness of the scenes included reveals production and editing squabbles. I often felt like Giuliano's love interest, Giovanna (Giulia Boschi); unsure whether to hate the man or blindly follow the cause. A less pretentious, ground-level look at the mafia and citizen's hero might have made for a more compelling film. The Sicilian is not a complete failure, but it represents the kind of unstructured, big-budget filmmaking that ends careers.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is often pleasing, but is not without flaws. The Sicilian's unique appearance comes from Cimino's use of natural lighting throughout. This results in some stunning vistas, but it also causes blown-out highlights, intense shadowing on faces and a general murkiness in darker scenes. That is a production issue not related to this Blu-ray. The print here is reasonably clean and free from debris. The image has a softer appearance at times, likely a result of the film stock used. There is plenty of grain, which is pleasantly free from digital manipulation. I did spot a few waxy faces, possibly enhanced by make-up and lighting, but glaring edge halos are not a problem. Colors are often hot due to the aforementioned filmmaking style, but they are nicely saturated. Skin tones can run hot, too, like the Italian sun. Wide shots are nicely resolved and full of detail, and fine-object detail is abundant in close-ups. I was surprised by the level of detail and texture in fabrics and on indoor scenery. There is a slight dip in the quality of some scenes; likely segments originally chopped for the theatrical release. Shout! has done a nice job bringing this film to Blu-ray.

SOUND:

The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio stereo mix is also good, with nice separation of elements, balanced dialogue and immersive effects. Dubbing aside, dialogue is clear and without distortion, and the score, from David Mansfield, is deep and nicely layered amid the effects and dialogue. Crowd noise and other ambient effects surround the viewer, and action-oriented sounds, like gunfire and fight chaos, pan the sound field and are given subwoofer support. English subtitles are available.

EXTRAS:

None.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Shout! Factory releases The Sicilian on Blu-ray in its full director's cut form. This has been a difficult film to track down in the United States, so it's a welcome release for fans. Michael Cimino's film, sourced from Mario Puzo's novel, is deeply flawed, with miscast actors, bombastic dialogue and muddled storytelling. That said, many will want to own this release, which offers strong audio and video. Recommended if you are a fan.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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