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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Geronimo: An American Legend - Limited Edition (Blu-ray)
Geronimo: An American Legend - Limited Edition (Blu-ray)
Twilight Time // PG-13 // May 22, 2018 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at ]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted June 12, 2018 | E-mail the Author

Not to be confused with the made-for-TV movie that debuted five days before its theatrical release, Walter Hill's Geronimo: An American Legend (1993) offers a reasonably accurate dramatization of the Native American icon's life and times. Or at least part of it: like The Last of the Mohicans and last year's Hostiles (both of which feature veteran actor Wes Studi, who portrays the title character here), Geronimo takes a fairly even-handed look at two cultures in the midst of a brutal, bloody conflict, albeit as more of a snapshot than a full-on biopic. Yet Hill's movie, penned by none other than John Milius with a great supporting cast including Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, and a young Matt Damon, wants to be an epic anyway but never quite feels much bigger than an abridged TV mini-series.

For obvious reasons, it's worth noting that Geronimo has its heart in the right place: the title character's story is well worth knowing, so it's no surprise that Geronimo has been featured in three other films as well as countless radio programs, books, TV shows, and that one poster your activist roommate had in college. As such, Hill's film focuses on one of the most memorable chapters in the Native American's life: when he resisted the United States government after being urged to join an Apache reservation. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of resentment on both sides, yet a certain amount of acceptance is occasionally displayed as well; perhaps the best example of the latter is mutual respect between Geronimo and Lieutenant Charles Gatewood (Jason Patric), who has been recently tasked by Brigadier General George Crook (Hackman) after Geronimo has announced a surprising intent to surrender. Joining Gatewood on the detail, among others, are scout leader Al Sieber (Robert Duvall) and young West Point graduate Britton Davis (Matt Damon).

There's an awful lot going on here, but Geronimo has as much trouble maintaining a consistent tone and flow as the film lurches towards its conclusion after a surprisingly flat 115 minutes. None of the characters -- and, by extension, the actors portraying them -- make much of an impact, for starters: Studi and Duvall come awfully close, while Hackman and Damon are largely underwritten or stuck in somewhat thankless roles. Jason Patric, though top-billed for some strange reason, barely even registers due to his ultra-serious and sleepy delivery, and I've got a sneaky suspicion that almost anyone else in the lead role would've yielded better results. Bottom line: if you've never heard of Geronimo: An American Legend but got excited by its cast, chances are you'll walk away disappointed.

Luckily, it's not all bad news. Lloyd Ahern's cinematography is outstanding and captures great location footage in style -- and though it's occasionally masked by orange filters, the excellent natural lighting creates a memorable mood and atmosphere. Seminal guitarist Ry Cooder (no stranger to film soundtracks by 1993, having already completed a dozen including Paris, Texas and Trespass) also provides a great musical backdrop here, carefully toeing the line of familiarity without feeling too derivative. The core story, by John Milius with contributions by Larry Gross, is an interesting and suspenseful one despite some of the end product's pacing issues.

Still, first-time viewers of Geronimo: An American Legend will likely find it to be a decently entertaining production that's nonetheless easy to forget once the credits roll. This is a clear case of the whole being less than the sum of its parts, or a film being underwhelming for reasons you can't quite put your finger on. Still, Geronimo's technical merits and core story make it worth watching at least once, which makes Twilight Time's new Blu-ray a tough recommendation to buy sight unseen. It's certainly impressive in the A/V department, but the lack of bonus features and questionable replay value don't sit well with the boutique label's price point. Still, established fans of Geronimo looking to retire their 1998 DVDs (!) will likely want to make the upgrade sooner rather than later.

Typing in white text is is a cheap fix if you suck at page layout.

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Geronimo: An American Legend looks better than ever thanks to a sparkling new 1080p transfer that easily outshines Sony's 1998 DVD (no surprises there...it was a flipper disc, and likely non-anamorphic). The film's excellent cinematography leads to plenty of memorable shots; Twilight Time's Blu-ray squeezes out a strong amount of image detail, depth, and texture, with plenty of natural color saturation and a few deep orange filters that pop nicely during the plethora of outdoor sequences. Blood is almost fluorescent red and quite surprising once those squibs explode. Damage, dirt, and debris are basically absent, while no other glaring imperfections (noise reduction, compression artifacts) could be detected either. A one or two frame interlacing jump, spotted right around the 37:11 mark, is so brief that most viewers won't even notice. Overall, this is fantastic treatment of a film whose strength lies mostly in the visuals, so die-hard fans of Geronimo will be extremely pleased with the results.

DISCLAIMER: The still images and screen captures on this page are decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.

The audio is presented in its original DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 format with an optional lossless 2.0 mix; both add more than enough weight to give Geronimo a formidable presence from start to finish. Surround activity is frequent with discrete channel separation, plenty of LFE punch, a strong dynamic range, and crystal-clear dialogue that's balanced fairly well for smaller home theater setups. Dialogue and music are largely clear and well-balanced, there's modest depth at times, and overall Geronimo sounds appropriately intense and sweeping during most of the right moments. Twilight Time's exclusive Isolated Music Track showcases Ry Cooder's memorable score in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, which is also balanced nicely during the film without overpowering dialogue and effects.

Menu Design, Presentation, & Packaging

Twilight Time's standard interface is clean, simple, and easy to navigate; options are available for audio/subtitle setup and extras, which are limited to the film's Theatrical Trailer (2 minutes). This one-disc release is packaged in a clear keepcase with appropriately orange-tinted artwork and a nice Booklet with production stills, technical specs, and another insightful essay by Julie Kirgo.
If you can read this, you've got a lot of free time.

A historical drama with its heart in the right place, Walter Hill's Geronimo: An American Legend is ultimately less memorable than its source material, cast, and crew are typically capable of producing. The film's rhythm is very choppy and it's not long before the juxtaposition of quiet, introspective discussions and loud, violent shootouts feel more numbing than effective, even though a few solid moments and supporting performances are scattered along the way. Genuine highlights, however, are limited to the cinematography, music, and sound design, which are luckily served well on Twilight Time's new Blu-ray: featuring an excellent A/V presentation but a complete lack of extras, it's mildly recommended to established fans but not worth a purchase sight unseen. Rent It first.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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