Sony Pictures // Unrated // $19.94 // November 13, 2007
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 4, 2007
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"Flywheel" is a micro-budget picture that was put together by a Southern church for $20,000, partially thanks to the help of the church members. The film did well enough on video that the directors were able to go back and put together this director's cut, which features additional work on color correction and sound - work that - I'm guessing - wasn't in the budget the first go-around.

The picture is a tale of redemption, but I was pleased to find that it wasn't too overly heavy-handed in the way it delivered its messages. The picture focuses on Jay Austin (Alex Kendrick), a small-town used car dealer who uses underhanded tactics (as the movie opens, he manages to sell a formerly-wrecked car for a higher price without telling the buyer the car's past) in order to get cars moving off the lot.

His son Todd (Richie Hunnewell) and wife Judy (Janet Lee Dapper) are low on his list of priorities, and his relationship with them remains strained. Church, as his wife points out, is not a high point on his list either, and he even drops an empty envelope in the church donation bin when it's passed around. He even scams his own reverend (the co-workers sit in the office, betting on whether Jay would actually scam his own reverend) when he comes shopping for a car for his daughter.

However, when his reverend actually does something nice for him after he belives Jay actually treated him well, it hits Jay hard, causing him to begin to rethink his ways. This is cemented when he turns on the TV and clicks on a religious program that talks about elements of our lives suffering because of the choices we make. There's also the matter of the bank, which is about to close shop on Jay's lot because of $32,000 owed.

The movie does focus on Jay becoming a good person because he has found God. While I'm not against religion or movies that promote it, even those who are not interested in the religious backing of the story will find that this is still an involving small-town redemption tale. The performances really aren't anything beyond amateur - director Kendrick offers the best effort in the lead role, and even he's somewhat wooden - but the actors certainly seem to believe strongly in the material. Kendrick should have believed a little more in the material in regards to the score; the material isn't that sentimental, but the score sure is. Overall, this film isn't without its faults - it is clearly an amateur effort - but there's definitely heart behind it, and that does make up for at least some of its shortcomings.

This new re-edited cut of the picture actually runs a few minutes less, at 114 minutes versus 120.


VIDEO: The film is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen on this presentation. The picture appears to have been shot on low-budget video and has been color corrected for this new edition. The presentation quality is really about as good as one would expect from a micro-budget picture such as this one. Sharpness and detail aren't great, but definition at least remains consistent throughout the show. While the image does look soft, at least it remains clean in appearance, with little in the way of artifacting, grain or other issues. Colors remain natural and appear accurate.

SOUND: The film's stereo soundtrack seemed fine, if unremarkable. Audio quality was satisfactory, with clear dialogue and score. Audio did seem rather flat and there was some minor background noise/hiss, but taking the budget into consideration, the audio seemed just fine when taking the production into consideration.

EXTRAS: Alex and Stephen Kendrick pair together for an all-new commentary for the picture. The duo offer a pretty enjoyable commentary, which offers both some insights as to what the two were going for with the film, as well as how they were able to accomplish the movie on a very small budget. The two do talk throughout much of the movie and provide some great insights as to working with the actors, technical issues and mentioning those who pitched in to help out on the movie.

9 minutes of outtakes and a couple of minutes of bloopers offer some laughs as the cast makes a few stumbles. Several minutes of deleted scenes are entertaining, although it's understandable that they were dropped in order to keep the pace of the movie, and they are not necessary. Alex and Stephen Kendrick come back for a new little featurette promoting their new movie, "Fireproof". Finally, we get an in-depth (33:46) "making of" for "Flywheel", as well as a special message about religion from the director. The documentary also goes over a lot of the budget and low-budget filming issues mentioned in the commentary.

Final Thoughts: "Flywheel" certainly remains an amateur effort and elements of the film do start to become rather heavy-handed at times, but one can certainly tell this was a labor of love for those involved, and the passion apparent in the performances does make up for a few of the issues. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality (considering the micro-budget production level) and a nice set of supplements.

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