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Organization, The

Kino // PG-13 // May 12, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Justin Remer | posted April 26, 2015 | E-mail the Author

The Movie:

Unfortunately, The Organization is never better than its opening. The film is the third and final outing by Sidney Poitier as Virgil Tibbs, after the Best Picture winner In the Heat of the Night and then They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (that first sequel is also coming to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber on May 12). This last movie is not without ambition, as it tries to tie up San Francisco police lieutenant Tibbs in a tricky moral conundrum, while delivering the goods genre-wise, but it mostly plays like an overheated '70s TV cop drama.

That opening sequence, though, is a brilliantly tense heist, executed with almost no dialogue, as it unfurls over ten or twelve minutes. It's full of strange and striking images that plant plenty of questions that the movie will answer at various points throughout its story. Why is that man pole-vaulting into a furniture warehouse parking lot? Why are his collaborators erecting a ladder specifically to the fifth floor of the enclosed office building? Who is that other man that they have blindfolded and gagged? Why did they set a bomb to blow up the entrance gate after the heist?

The short answer as to why any of this is happening turns out to be drugs. This perfectly organized heist was put together to rip off several million dollars worth of heroin from the "Organization," the movie's WASP-ier version of the mafia. It was done by a group of well-meaning vigilantes who wanted to get a big shipment of smack off the street, while calling attention to one of the Organization's fronts. This backfires horribly when the man they kidnapped and left to be discovered at the scene of the crime is brutally murdered in the few minutes between the bomb going off and the cops arriving. Was somebody else already in the building? Or did they somehow get in, shoot this guy, and get out in four minutes flat?

Meanwhile, this well-meaning vigilante gang, much like this well-meaning movie, seems to have put absolutely no thought into what happens after that daring heist. They decide to contact Tibbs, because they figure he's a cop who is not crooked, so he might be able to help them implicate the Organization without getting themselves nabbed by police or murdered by gangsters first. Tibbs, as always, is a moral man, wary of corruption in his own department, so he agrees to help.

What follows after they partner up is a convoluted mess of plans and counterplans gone awry, as members of the vigilante gang are taken out one by one by ruthless Organization hitmen. It would be easier to sympathize with their plight if any of them seemed like human beings. There are some recognizable faces in this crew, like Kiss of the Spider Woman's Raul Julia and Superfly's Ron O'Neal, but none of them seem able to act their way out of a paper bag in this particular outing. Poitier easily shows all of them up, like Al Pacino playing scenes with Sofia Coppola in The Godfather Part III -- except that Poitier has to respond to six Sofia Coppolas at once.

The film rallies for an exciting money handoff-turned-foot chase near the end, but by then it's a case of too little, too late. The Organization is never outright stupid or inept, but its mediocre story squanders a great premise, a great main character, and most of all, a great leading actor.

The Blu-ray

The Video:
Pretty good. This AVC-encoded 1080p 1.85:1 transfer hasn't been cleaned-up, so there's minor and major speckling throughout. Still, the overall image is pretty strong, considering the era and budget of the film. Blacks are typically pretty deep and satisfying, with good shadow detail. Fine detail fluctuates but is satisfactory overall. There are a few police station scenes that look excessively pink, but I suspect this is a flub in the original film that might be the result of too many pink gels used during shooting to counterbalance the greenish practical fluorescent bulbs (and they still look green in the background!). Otherwise, color balance and skin tones look good.

The Audio:
Similarly pretty good. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio gets the job done with no drastic flaws or defects.

Special Features:
Just trailers for all 3 Virgil Tibbs movies.

Final Thoughts:
Author John Ball managed to make an entire series of Virgil Tibbs novels that were fairly popular, but the only movie version that seems to have stuck with audiences is the original In the Heat of the Night. If you've seen that film, but never bothered to catch up with the follow-ups, you're not missing much. However, if you have a tendency toward completism, there are admittedly some solid action setpieces and a good performance by Poitier in this film. If you must check out The Organization, Rent It.

Justin Remer is a filmmaker, oddball musician, and frequent wearer of beards. His new single, Don't Depend on Me, is now available to stream or download on Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon, Apple, and wherever else fine music is enjoyed.

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