TLA Releasing // 1998 // 93 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // January 10th, 2004
A bungling bank robber meets an overbearing hostage in a madcap adventure.
Domenico (Silvio Orlando) is a blue-collar worker driven to crime by unemployment. When his bank robbery goes terribly wrong, he ends up with a hostage named Tommaso (Diego Abatantuono), a businessman in the throes of financial difficulties. Domenico plans to flee north to Switzerland with the loot he's taken from the bank, but Tommaso quickly takes charge of things and insists on going south. Eager to escape his own problems, which include an overbearing wife as well as his money hassles, Tommaso hatches a scheme to whisk Domenico to safety in Egypt despite the fact his kidnapper has no desire to go there. What follows is standard road picture shenanigans as the mismatched duo meets up with Tommaso's gay policeman lover; his adult daughter Rita (Valentina Cervi, James Dean); Domenico's blind, punk rocker sister Carmela; and Ermes, the barely competent captain of the Federico Fellini, the boat that's to deliver them to Africa.
The movie is a mild, often silly, but frequently funny crime farce/road picture whose primary asset is its leading men. Silvio Orlando's droopy-faced, none-too-bright, neurotic sad sack is the perfect match to Diego Abatantuono's suave, take-things-as-they-come comic persona. Each has a strong sense of comic timing, and as a duo they're somewhere between Laurel and Hardy and Martin and Lewis. The script provides them with funny, witty dialogue throughout, not to mention the occasional sight gag. And the actors have enough charm to carry the show when the writing fails them, which it does from time to time.
Director Davide Ferrario and cinematographer Giovanni Cavallini deliver mostly clever and engaging shots in tune with the film's comic tone, though their overuse of fast motion ramping in transition shots serves no particular purpose and grows tiresome in short order. Unfortunately, their work is wasted in a DVD transfer that makes watching their charming little film a chore. Think of a potential problem with a DVD's image and this one's probably got it. Colors are undersaturated, and there's nary a solid black in sight. There are loads of flaws from the source, primarily in the form of dirt though there are signs of minor wear and tear (a good cleaning prior to performing the transfer would've alleviated the most blatant problems). Edge enhancement haloing is ever-present, running the gamut from mild to severe, yet there's also an abundance of heavy grain. In isolated shots, the image is distorted at the left and right sides of the frame (I couldn't tell you whether the distortion is transfer-related, or rooted in the anamorphic lenses used to shoot the movie). And, though the film was shot at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the edges of the image are slightly cropped on the DVD (the right side more than the left, it appears), leaving us a transfer that's somewhere between 2.2 and 2.25:1, I'm guessing. The compositions of most shots don't suffer greatly for it, but there are some two-shots in which the frame is clearly crowded and out of whack, one actor or the other cut partially out of frame.
The Italian soundtrack is far too muted, hollow, and lacking in midrange for Dolby Stereo. There's loads of hiss, too. There's no reason a five year old film should sound as bad as this one does. It's a shoddy job, pure and simple. Another pet peeve: the English subtitles are burned into the image, and cannot be shut off.
The only supplements on the disc are trailers for four other films in TLA Releasing's catalogue: Suicide Club, Between Your Legs, Km.0, and Possible Lovers.
Children of Hannibal is a lightweight but entertaining little comedy. Unfortunately, its mild charm doesn't mitigate its atrocious presentation on this DVD. I can't recommend it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: TLA Releasing
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
* English (burned in)
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated