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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Brewster McGee: Special Edition
Brewster McGee: Special Edition
Other // Unrated
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Randy Miller III | posted January 21, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

"God, protect me from my friends; I can take care of my enemies."
-Voltaire

Such is the case with Brewster McGee, a loud-mouthed slacker who hangs out in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. He's convinced that by copyrighting his new catch-phrase ('Son of a fuck!'), he'll make a living by collecting royalty payments. In the company of his 'friend', the submissive and soft-spoken Malcolm (Reid Edwards), Brewster has strong opinions on anything and everything that comes to mind.

In short, he speaks just to hear his own voice.

At first glance, you'd be correct in comparing this film to Kevin Smith's Clerks...the two have much in common. Both were produced with shoestring budgets. Both feature two leads whose main purpose in life seems to be commenting on what goes on around them. Both feature a heavy amount of swearing. However, there's much that seperates this film from Smith's now-legendary debut effort (and not just because it takes place in Canada). Brewster McGee has a very pronounced theme of friendship, as evidenced by the movie's opening quote above. More specifically, it examines the distorted results that can occur when one is cursed with a blind sense of loyalty, and just doesn't know when to quit. Through the actions of the main character, it's almost disturbing to see how a man's ego and sense of personal pride can turn ugly if he's not careful.

Above, Brewster (on the left) and Malcolm are sharing a chat over lunch in the parking lot, as usual. They've been following the life of one of the workers there, Oliver (Don Ackerman), and decide to take him under their wing. Brewster seems to do this on a regular basis...in fact, that's the sole reason for his friendship with Malcolm. He feels the need to latch onto a seemingly helpless person, and uses his overpowering gift of gab to literally turn them into his own disciple. From here, everything goes downhill for Oliver...he's already in a low point in his life, and this new-found 'friendship' only seems to cause more trouble. In Brewster's company, it seems no one is safe. Played wonderfully by Brent Neale, the title character may remind you of someone in your life...he's a person who holds loyalty above all else, no matter what the situation. He takes this to almost dangerous extremes, but has no idea of the damage he inflicts upon others. Malcolm seems blind to these dangers as well, but eventually comes around (ironically enough, through Oliver's actions).

Needless to say, Brewster McGee is a strange beast of a movie. This is director Ross Munro's 1998 debut film, and was produced for the paltry sum of $50,000 Canadian (which translates to roughly $38,000 US, about the same budget as The Blair Witch Project). It gets done only what it needs to, clocking in at just over 60 minutes. However, with a budget at low as it has, there were a few shortcuts that had to be made. The acting is occasionally rough, as some of the lines seemed like they could've used another take or two. Some of the delivery was also spotty, resulting in some dialogue that sounded as if it was being read right from the script. A few of these lines suffer the same fate as in Kevin Smith's (or even Quentin Tarantino's) movies: they're very wordy, and ocassionally become a little distracting (Malcolm is the chief offender). Thankfully, the most solid performance was delivered by Brent Neale, who speaks for roughly 75% of the film. Speaking in a sharp, slightly-Southern American accent, Brewster just won't shut up...and he wouldn't have it any other way.

For the last 5 years, Brewster McGee has made the rounds in Canada, but it's new to me (and I'll bet most of you too). Appropriately for an independent effort, this new Special Edition DVD is only available at director Ross Munro's official website. It's not a bad effort overall, and does a decent job of presenting this low-budget film in the best possible light. Here are the details:

Quality Control Department

Video:

Shot on 16mm, Brewster McGee looks just as you'd expect it to. There's a fair amount of grain to the overall image, but the contrast was handled well. On the whole, the image seems a little dark, but that's probably because Ross Munro and company weren't utilizing million-dollar lighting equipment. There's also some dirt present, but this 1.33:1 black-and-white full screen transfer is pretty clean, all things considered. A little more work, and it would have been as good as possible.

Audio:

The audio was very straightforward on this disc, much like the video. Brewster McGee is presented in its original mono, a perfect fit for this dialogue-driven film. While the music is surpisingly full and well-balanced, some of the dialogue is a bit muffled. This is only problematic when a character off-screen is talking...without a face to go with the words, it almost sounds as if they're speaking through a telephone. Nothing too major, but this was occasionally distracting. Subtitles would have helped clear this up, but they sadly weren't included.

Menu design and presentation:

The menus are very simple and non-animated, but they feature the main theme playing in the background. Navigation is a little on the slow side, but it gets the job done. Seperate sub-menus are also provided for each section (chapters, extras, etc.). The packaging itself is also basic, featuring color-tinted photos and scenes from the film. No frills, which complements the movie just fine.

Bonus Features:

There's a few nice extras provided here, but it's still pretty light for a 'Special Edition'. The main bonus feature is an Audio Commentary with director Ross Munro and star Brent Neale (Brewster). The director himself seems well prepared and shares his experiences not only making the movie, but some of his earlier efforts too. He has no trouble filling the 60-minute running time, and never comes off as boring or egotistical. Brent Neale (who actually sounds very similar to Munro) is less of a presence during this track, but also contributes some nice stories. My favorite comment of his? He based the character of McGee on "a combination of Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper's character in Blue Velvet) and Foghorn Leghorn." Overall, this is a very satisfying track and definitely worth a listen. Also on board are two Theatrical Trailers, in either English or Spanish. The Spanish one seemed like an odd inclusion at first (since the movie is only playable in English), but this one turned out to be a send-up of dubbed trailers in general, and wasn't meant to be taken seriously.

Should anything else have been included?

Juding by the extremely low budget, I'm surpirsed we got anything at all. The commentary was a nice supplement, and really carries the ball for this DVD release. Even though I didn't care for some of the actors involved, it would be nice to have another few contributors to the track (especially since there were only a handful of people involved). Maybe if Brewster McGee develops a larger cult following, well see a slightly more substantial release in the future. In the meantime, this isn't a bad effort.

Final Thoughts

This is a decent effort, but it's difficult to highly recommend any low-budget independent film as a blind buy. In light of the limited release, you're not likely to find this for rent anywhere...so consider this disc Recommended. It's hard not to compare this to Clerks, so any fan of profane dialogue centered around social commentary might get a kick out of Brewster McGee. While some of the acting performances are a little rough, it's a striking movie that doesn't pretend to be anything it's not. Again, the commentary track is also recommended...it really helped me understand how much different of an appoach it takes with independent film. Overall, Brewster McGee is a promising debut feature from Ross Munro that examines the fine line between 'friend' and 'raving lunatic'. Come to think of it, I'm suddenly reminded of a few people I know...

Other Links of Interest

Ross Munro's Official Website
Brent Neale Filmography at IMDb


Randy Miller III is an art instructor based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.
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