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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Play Dirty (Limited Edition Series) (Blu-ray)
Play Dirty (Limited Edition Series) (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // Unrated // October 17, 2017 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at ]
Review by William Harrison | posted December 10, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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:

Andre DeToth's 1969 British war film was not well received upon its release. Looking at the picture now, it is not surprising how cynical and pessimistic Play Dirty is about war, considering it was released during the middle of the conflict in Vietnam. A controversial tale of military dishonor, Play Dirty offers excellent, tough performances from Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport and Nigel Green. As a crew of disreputable officers and crooks, the characters of Play Dirty treat war like a criminal enterprise and buy and sell loyalties at will. This might not have been the film audiences were expecting in 1969, but it is a welcome reprieve from the fungible, chest-puffing, pro-war pictures of the era.

Colonel Masters (Green) has failed several missions and is unable to breach German-occupied territory. Instead of cutting him loose, duplicitous Brigadier General Blore (Harry Andrews) offers to let him command a group of misfits to destroy a Nazi fuel dump far beyond enemy lines. Masters unleashes an eight-man patrol led by Captain Cyril Leech (Davenport) but actually controlled by Captain Douglas (Caine). Back at headquarters, Masters and Blore plot against that command, sending their own, better-equipped troupe on the same mission with the idea that the original crew should be killed in action as a diversion. They don't know this at first, but the truth becomes clear as the unlucky eight get further into the shit.

Douglas and Leech are immediately at odds. Douglas having worked for an oil company behind the scenes and Leech having just returned from a mission in which his commanding officers were killed. Masters pays Leech to keep Douglas alive, but the men remain at odds. Since this is a suicide mission, it does not really matter anyway. The mission involves traveling highly dangerous and inhospitable North African terrain ripe with sandstorms and quicksand. Yes, you're going to find similarities with The Dirty Dozen, but Play Dirty is its own beast. All the backbiting and double-dealing paints a concerning picture about military loyalty. The film suggests that when men are loosed in a foreign country to fend for themselves, capitalism rules.

The lead performances are excellent, particularly Caine's, whose character struggles to smother his honor amid a questionable mission. Davenport drips with deceit as Leech, a man used to leading turncoats and criminals. DeToth's direction is largely impressive, and Play Dirty offers several expansive action sequences and striking on-location shots. One extended sequence of the men moving vehicles in rocky terrain is impressively lensed to show both the intimate, pedestrian work and the surrounding landscape. Play Dirty is not a happy war film, but it does offer a unique, gritty story about flawed and largely unlikeable men that feels authentic, like it or not.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Twilight Time offers Play Dirty with a strong 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that complements Edward Scaife's cinematography. Shot on 35mm with Panavision anamorphic lenses, Play Dirty is impressively photographed, with wonderful wide vistas and rack-focus shots. Sharpness and clarity are good, and colors are boldly saturated. Highlights never push too far in bright outdoor shots, and black levels are good. Skin tones appear accurate, and print damage is almost non-existent. There is a bit of unsteadiness and flicker in early shots that quickly resolves.

SOUND:

The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is effective, and offers clear dialogue, mild ambience and a pleasing reproduction of the score. Gunfire and explosions are appropriately weighty, sandstorms appear to surround the viewer, and dialogue is never overpowered by the elements. English SDH subtitles are included.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release is part of Twilight Time's "Limited Edition Series," and only 3,000 units were produced. The disc is packed in a clear case that includes a booklet with stills, poster artwork and an essay. The only extras are the studio's staple Isolated Score Track, in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, and a Theatrical Trailer (2:57/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

This cynical, gritty war film offers excellent performances from Michael Caine, Nigel Davenport and Nigel Green. About a team sent on a suicide mission in Northern Africa, Play Dirty suggests that war is a game of deceit and profit. Well acted, shot and edited, Play Dirty is a nice change of pace from typical war films of the era. Twilight Time's Blu-ray offers excellent picture and sound. Recommended.

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

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