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Good People Blu-ray Review

Good People (2014) movie poster Good People

Theatrical Release: September 26, 2014 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Henrik Ruben Genz / Writers: Kelly Masterson (screenplay), Marcus Sakey (novel Good People)

Cast: James Franco (Tom Wright), Kate Hudson (Anna Wright), Tom Wilkinson (DI John Halden), Omar Sy (Genghis Khan), Sam Spruell (Jack Witkowski), Anna Friel (Sarah), Oliver Dimsdale (Superintendent Ray Martin), Diana Hardcastle (Marie Halden), Thomas Arnold (Duncan), Michael Jibson (Mike Calloway), Diarmaid Murtagh (Marshall), Maarten Dannenberg (Andre)

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From major blockbusters seen by many million people around the globe to small independent films selling just a couple thousand tickets, James Franco does it all. Highbrow, lowbrow. Art film, family film.
Write, direct, and act or simply act or simply cameo. Franco's résumé is one of the fastest-growing in Hollywood this side of Eric Roberts and Dean Cain. And unlike Roberts and Cain, Franco seems genuinely in demand and busy out of passion and a work ethic as opposed to piling bills. Most of what Franco acts in goes to theaters, whether it's 3 or 4 thousand domestic theaters like Oz, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and This Is the End or ten screens or less, as nearly ten of his films in the past three years have.

Good People looks like a commercial thriller and it boasts a cast and crew worthy of wide theatrical release. But this adaptation of Travel Channel host Marcus Sakey's second novel barely made the big screen last month day and date with Video On Demand, was hammered by critics, and today makes a hasty trip to Blu-ray and DVD as practically direct-to-video fare.

The English language debut of veteran Danish director Henrik Ruben Genz (Terribly Happy), a 2000 Academy Award nominee for Live Action Short, Good People sees Sakey's 2009 text translated to the screen by Kelly Masterson, whose first two screenwriting credits were the highly acclaimed Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and Snowpiercer.

In "Good People", an American married couple in London (James Franco and Kate Hudson) becomes imperiled after taking a bag full of money they found.

Franco and Kate Hudson play Tom and Anna Wright, a married couple from Chicago looking for a fresh start in London after a miscarriage. Landscape architect Tom is struggling to find work overseas and Anna's schoolteacher salary isn't enough to keep them afloat while Tom slowly fixes up the West London house they have inherited.

Meanwhile, in the urban flat they've been calling home, they find Ben, their loud video gamer tenant downstairs, dead from an apparent heroin overdose. In a bit of lazy writing, for no reason at all, Tom and Anna discover a bag in Ben's ceiling with £220,000 cash inside. The Wrights opt not to report the found money to Detective Inspector John Halden (Tom Wilkinson), the suspicious veteran officer on the scene, instead hiding it in a wall behind a wooden panel.

Though no next of kin emerges for the deceased, bad men do come looking for Ben's money and come up empty. Tom and Anna start spending some of their findings just to avoid eviction and cover some basic fertility treatment costs. Before long, Tom and Anna's acquisition turns them into targets for both the ruthless Jack Witkowski (Sam Spruell) and Genghis Khan (The Intouchables' Omar Sy), fearsome rivals who separately claim to be the rightful owner of the drug money.

Having lost his daughter to a drug overdose, Detective Inspector John Halden (Tom Wilkinson) turns his work into a personal mission. Show me the money, says homely bad guy Jack Witkowski (Sam Spruell).

Good People boasts some compelling ideas and classic themes of morality. Unfortunately, it is also features very dumb criminals, who are easily and repeatedly outwitted by ordinarily upstanding nobodies, including a 100-pound schoolteacher.
The film makes no effort at plausibility while keeping our protagonists safe. Most egregious is a completely unexplained public kerfuffle that keeps our couple alive and with their bag of dough while still being pursued, only now with their only protection presumed dead.

Crime thrillers typically have an advantage over the public in that their depictions of illicit worlds need only to look believable. The vast majority of us who aren't gangsters and detectives require little to be convinced of the realism. But here, viewers will repeatedly call into question the far-fetched nature of scenes designed to keep the plot moving in a contrived fashion. Most outrageous of all is a finale that compares directly to Home Alone. I love Home Alone more than almost any film made and even I can tell you its climax is not one you want to evoke in a completely serious R-rated thriller.

Good People Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.78:1 Cropped Widescreen
5.1 Dolby TrueHD (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($28.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Even if you're completely intrigued by the premise and talent of Good People, there's good reason not to bother with its Blu-ray: it is the latest in a long line of Millennium Entertainment home video releases to crop a 2.40:1 theatrical release to 1.78:1. Disconcertingly, there has been almost no clamor whatsoever regarding this practice, which has been going on for over a year now. A few Millennium movies -- the animated Khumba (on Blu-ray, but not DVD) and the recent Christian thriller Persecuted -- have avoided this perplexing cropping one can only assume is done with television in mind.

Good People, however, joins the likes of Rob the Mob, Killing Season, and Franco's As I Lay Dying with its visibly compromised loss of about 25% of frame width. Seemingly even a small step down from the VHS days of commonplace panning and scanning, the transfer appears to simply present the middle of the frame with edges chopped off. On several occasions, the framing looks too tight, as heads go out of frame at the middle of their faces. Other than the misframing, the sharp and clean picture is terrific. Many viewers probably won't even notice or give thought to the cramped compositions. But that doesn't make it remotely acceptable and I sure wish others (whether filmmakers or ordinary customers) would join me in taking the studio to task for this.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack poses no concerns or problems. It's a fairly engaging mix whose atmosphere and directional effects serve the film well.

Don't sweat those compositions too much. They'll be cropped for most viewers! It's no wonder the trailer's list of people phrases doesn't stop here. There's already a "Ruthless People", yo!

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The disc's main bonus feature is a short, untitled,

promotional making-of featurette (2:52, HD) which serves up some cast and director comments and a smidge of behind-the-scenes footage all clearly intended for prospective viewers. The most valuable thing about this is that it confirms your suspicions with film clips in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Its captions also give characters different surnames.

Another studio would probably preserve deleted scenes, which you expect given the short runtime and choppy presentation must have filled in some holes, but we get nothing of the sort here.

In addition, a Previews section adds access to Good People's 1.78:1 trailer (2:06, SD) to the disc-opening ones (all SD) for Rob the Mob, Are You Here, and Parts Per Billion.

The ordinary menu loops a scored montage of screen-filling filtered clips. Bad news for those wishing to revisit Kate Hudson's brief MPAA-unmentioned butt-baring scene: the disc does not allow you to set bookmarks. It does, however, resume unfinished playback like a DVD.

No inserts accompany the disc inside the slipcovered blue keepcase.

"This is my house, I have to defend it." - James Franco, "Home Alone"

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Parts of Good People are good enough to make you wonder why the film has been condemned to obscurity. Other parts explain that ignoble fate, with their ludicrous turns and Home Alone-esque sense of realism. I would still advocate a viewing for those who see a lot of movies, except that this Blu-ray is Millennium's latest to crop a film from its original aspect ratio to fill 16:9 screens. There are a lot of lapses in this film to overlook and the misframing is one too many.

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Related Reviews:
James Franco: 127 Hours • Third Person • Oz the Great and Powerful • Annapolis • As I Lay Dying • This Is the End
Kate Hudson: Clear History • Nine | Omar Sy: The Intouchables • Micmacs | Sam Spruell: The Counselor
Tom Wilkinson: The Grand Budapest Hotel • The Conspirator • The Lone Ranger • The Green Hornet
Written by Kelly Masterson: Snowpiercer | New: Persecuted • The Calling • • Still Life: A Three Pines Mystery
Only God Forgives • The Apparition • Rob the Mob • Ransom • The Guard • Shallow Grave • Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

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Reviewed October 28, 2014.



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