Around the Bend
Warner Bros. // R // $27.95 // February 22, 2005
Review by Scott Lecter | posted February 13, 2005
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The Movie:
You might be surprised to know that a movie starring Christopher Walken, Michael Caine, and Josh Lucas (Sweet Home Alabama) barely became a blip on the radar when it opened on several screens in October 2004. It's not the kind of film that attracts a lot of attention. It is, however, a quiet little tale of four generations of men struggling to find some connections. What comes across as a quirky comedy in the opening minutes soon segues into an endearing road movie about what it's like to have a little bit of someone else inside of you (and inside of your family), even though you may barely know them.

Around the Bend is clearly a very personal film for first-time Writer/Director Jordan Roberts. Written not long after the passing of his own father, the film finds Walken, Lucas, and the young Jonah Bobo on a road trip to carry out the last wishes of Caine's Henry Lair. The strange journey, however, leads them to unexpected places as they discover more and more about each other (and the truth about their family's past) along the way.

Shot on location in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the film showcases some beautiful landscapes and Roberts gives the viewer plenty of long shots to soak in the breadth and width of it all. For an inexperienced filmmaker working with some of cinema's greatest actors, Roberts does a fine job of developing his characters and letting his actors play.

Caine - though, admittedly, he's not around for much of the film - shows his lighter side in a role that is probably one of the quirkiest of his career. Lucas holds his own, as does newcomer Bobo, but the real star here is Christopher Walken. I'll be the first to admit that I'd watch pretty much anything Walken does, but his performance in Around the Bend is the kind of acting that makes you remember just why he's such a great actor. He creates a Turner Lair that is, at once, believable and heart wrenching. He's the kind of tortured character that you can't help but root for, and although his performance walks a tightrope of going over-the-top at times, Walken is still able to inject character with that oddball sensibility that only Christopher Walken can achieve.

It takes a few minutes to really warm up to Around the Bend, but once the film really gets going it's hard not to enjoy. By no means is it a perfect film - it sometimes becomes borderline melodramatic and sappy - but it certainly has enough good aspects to warrant calling Jordan Roberts's first effort a success (even if hardly anyone saw it on the big screen). Walken alone is worth the price of admission.


Around the Bend is presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that does a good job of handling all aspects of the film. The first fifteen minutes, or so, is where most of the problems arise. The dimly lit opening reveals a substantial amount of grain and detail is a bit underwhelming in the darkness. The rest of the film, however, really shines. Aside from a bit of edge enhancement, this transfer does a great job of handling all the vibrant colors of the Albuquerque sunsets. The landscapes come across as vivid and detailed, and the black levels are solid throughout. The extremely clean print and lack of pixelation also help make this a fine visual presentation.

The audio on this disc is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 format that doesn't hold up quite as well as the video. For an independent film that is mostly dialogue-driven, the audio track does an adequate job where it really matters. Dialogue is loud, crisp, and clear. And for a film like this, that's really all you need. Most of the track remains in the front soundstage while the surrounds are predominantly used to pump up David Baerwald's score and the wonderful soundtrack. The surrounds might have been used once or twice for a sound effect, but don't expect to hear much of anything from your LFE channel. The track certainly misses a few instances where a surround effect would have been nice to have, but overall the audio presentation does exactly what it needs to do. As long as you don't expect a mind-blowing aural experience, there's not a whole lot to gripe about with this track.

Included on this disc is a commentary by Writer/Director Jordan Roberts. The track is mostly screen-specific, but Roberts does take the time to tell a few anecdotes about how his first feature film came to be made after ten long years of shopping the script around Hollywood. He tells of how nervous he was the first time he had to direct Caine and Walken, and even provides some insight into just how personal Around the Bend was for him.

Also included is a 50-minute long making-of documentary called "It's a Good Day: The Making of Around the Bend." The documentary can be viewed as one large featurette or in pieces, by clicking on a small camera icon underneath each chapter selection in the scene selections menu. Not your typical press-kit fluff, the documentary includes a lot of behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with most of the principles, and information on how the film came into being. It wanders a bit at times, but nevertheless stands as an excellent companion piece to the film itself.

There are fourteen minutes of deleted scenes that include optional commentary by Roberts. They include some nice performances and a lot of backstory, but (as Roberts explains in his commentary) would not have done much to advance the story. It's easy to see why these scenes were excised, but it's great to have them included on this disc.

Finally, rounding out the DVD is a soundtrack spot and the theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts:
What I initially thought would end up being a predictable, sappy melodrama or a quirky comedy with some good performances, Around the Bend really surprised me with an endearing tale of a four generations of men struggling to make amends with themselves and each other. The film is a testament to what a few great actors can do to elevate the performances and story around them. Those very performances (Walken's especially) and the inclusion of some very nice extra material - that provides even greater insight into the film - make this disc one that I would easily recommend.

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