Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
In Theaters
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
Horror DVDs
The M.O.D. Squad
Art House
HD Talk
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info



Columbia/Tri-Star // R // March 16, 2004
List Price: $24.96 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted April 19, 2004 | E-mail the Author
"There are two ways to do something: my way and the right way. They are one and the same."

John Turturro is an immensely talented actor, perhaps best known for an unforgettable lead role in Quiz Show and his frequent collaborations with the Coen Brothers. In 1992 with Mac, Turturro expanded his resumé to include screenwriting and directing. Although largely unseen in the United States, Mac won the Camera d'Or, a prize oriented towards exceptional works from first-time filmmakers, at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as nominated for "Best Director" and "Best First Feature" at the International Spirit Awards. Last month, Columbia/Tri-Star released Mac on DVD, and perhaps given the increased prominence Turturro has enjoyed since its original theatrical release, the film will have a chance to win over a larger audience.

Mac is the tale of three brothers living and working in New York in the 1950s -- the corpulent Vico (Michael Badalucco), young, college-educated Bruno (Carl Carpotorto), and, of course, the determined Mac (Turturro). The children of Italian immigrants, they toil away constructing houses for a sadistic builder named Polowski (Olek Krupa), who cuts corners wherever possible to keep his costs down. Mac is uncompromising, unwilling to build a shoddy home to save his boss a couple of extra bucks. He takes some money he scrounged together, pools it with a childhood acquaintance and new lady love Alice (Katherine Borowitz, also Turturro's off-screen wife), and manages to eke out a plot of land despite Polowski's best efforts. Mac quickly discovers the agony of a builder's life -- lazy, union-leaning contractors, long workdays with little downtime, trying to sell houses when external factors over which he has little control continually turn away prospective buyers... The stress makes Mac much less of a pleasant person to be around, which puts a heavy strain on the relationship between the three brothers.

The basic premise may not sound all that compelling, which owes more to my shortcomings as a reviewer than Turturro as a filmmaker. Mac is a movie that's driven less by plot than by its characters. With ample talent on display, anchored by John Turturro himself, and an effective, emotional script, Mac pulls it off successfully. The movie was heavily inspired by Turturro's father, also a builder, and centers around integrity...pride in one's work. Think a blue-collar Howard Roark with a few hundred pretentious pages excised. Family and loyalty are also significant themes, and it's an interesting contrast to see Mac working himself to the bone in part because of his loyalty to his brothers, yet it's that tenacity that drives them away from him. I was equally intrigued by the fact that Mac stands by Vico and Bruno so steadfast even though if they weren't blood, he'd dismiss them as worthless in the same way as the union contractors who poured a foundation littered with boots and assorted junk. Mac constantly displays the artistic sensibilities of its characters, but frequently through painting, a more traditional form. The pride and passion Mac invests in building houses indicates that for him, construction isn't a means to a paycheck, but a form of art itself.

For his directorial debut, Turturro shied away from convention. Mac isn't the type of movie that can easily be distilled into three distinct acts, and though there is an introduced conflict and subsequent resolution, the expected sunny Hollywood ending is nowhere to be found. At the same time, it manages to close with optimism and pride, which I find more appealing than everyone simply living happily ever after. It requires strength to suffer and emerge happy despite the current state of situations; suffering and then everything becoming idyllic in the space of two hours is a lighter load to bear. Mac isn't a "...but what I'd really like to do is direct!" flavor of project, and casting himself in the lead role doesn't come across as self-serving either. For one, Mac isn't a warm, particularly likeable character. He's the type of person that's easy to respect, but not someone you'd want to grab a beer with after a grueling day of work. He knows what he's capable of accomplishing and pushes himself to the breaking point, and it almost seems baffling to him that others are completely disinterested in doing the same.

Mac is a difficult movie for me to really do justice in the space of a text-heavy review. It's the sort of film that has to be seen to be appreciated, and it makes my job easier in that Mac is a movie worth seeing, even if it's just a weekend rental. Although Columbia/Tri-Star didn't exactly pull out all the stops with this DVD -- despite Turturro's involvement in nearly every facet of production, he doesn't contribute any supplemental material whatsoever -- Mac is a wonderful, unconventional film that deserves to be discovered.

Video: The anamorphic widescreen presentation, letterboxed to 1.85:1, varies, but mostly looks great. Some shots look phenomenal and could pass for having been filmed last Tuesday rather than twelve years ago. A handful of others, particularly some of the more dimly-lit sequences and a climactic confrontation near the end of the movie, are grainier and don't exhibit quite as much detail. The rest of the movie falls somewhere in between, but typically appears impressively sharp without any concerns of note. The source is in great shape, with a few specks bouncing around, but not to the point of distraction. Not having seen Mac before, I'm unsure if what few inconsistencies were present in the original theatrical presentations or if they stem from the use of multiple sources for this DVD.

Audio: Mac sports a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track, encoded at a bitrate of 192Kbps. The surrounds are used to decent effect, especially in the many exterior sequences throughout the film. The emphasis is on the dialogue, which comes through cleanly and clearly, though there's enough whispered dialogue that I did crank up the volume higher than I normally do. No subtitles or dubs are tacked on, although closed captions have been provided.

Supplements: The DVD opens with trailers for Anger Management, Big Night, and Boyz N the Hood. Why those three seemingly random choices, I have no idea. Stranger still, when I whacked the 'Menu' button on my remote to skip past them, it would just move onto the next trailer. Whatever. There are no extras related to the movie itself. The disc includes a set of static 16x9 menus and twelve chapter stops. It comes cradled in a keepcase, and no insert has been provided.

Conclusion: The lack of extras is a disappointment. Considering what an intensely personal film Mac is, I would've thought John Turturro would have a lot to contribute. The price tag is a little too high for me to suggest as a purchase sight-unseen. Prices online seem to hover a few bucks shy of its $24.96 MSRP. I would highly recommend it as a rental, though, and fans of Turturro's should consider adding it to their DVD collections. Recommended.
Buy from







E - M A I L
this review to a friend
Popular Reviews

Sponsored Links
Sponsored Links