Paramount // 2005 // 85 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // February 7th, 2012
2005 was a busy year for Quentin Tarantino. Not only was he working on Sin City with Robert Rodriguez, but he also managed to film some of the best episodes for a little show you may have heard of: CSI.
It was just another typical day for the Las Vegas CSI team. Nick Stokes (George Eads, Evel Knievel) heads out alone to look at some entrails that have been left out in a parking lot. Unfortunately, the whole thing is a cunning trap! Nick is knocked out and when he comes to, he's been placed inside a plexiglass box and buried somewhere. The box has some ventilation, as well as a camera hook-up that is perfect for providing a live video feed.
So when Gil Grissom (William Petersen, The Contender) and the rest of the team receive a the ransom demand of One Million dollars, they can see Nick's suffering in vivid detail. Now it's up to the team to pull out their best tricks to figure out who kidnapped Nick, why the kidnapper targeted CSI, and save their comrade before time runs out.
Even though I'm not a huge fan of CSI, it makes for entertaining television. I enjoy an episode every now and again, but this version of the cast is my favorite, with Petersen still at the helm of the team.
I never would have guessed Tarantino's style would fit in with the series' oh so Bruckheimery goodness, but it's a truly solid match. The plot plays like a typical episode with a bit more tension and higher stakes. Nick's predicament continues to escalate, starting from the pure horror of being buried alive and getting worse from there. The kidnapper has thoughtfully left a gun in the box and we see Nick sorely tempted to end his suffering. Eads gets to do some solid acting in these episodes, dealing with some difficult shooting situations.
I like how Tarantino managed to work in key moments for the entire cast. Everyone gets a scene or two to shine, playing a key part in saving Nick and solving the case. We also get some great Tarantino dialogue. There's also a host of celebrity cameos to keep an eye out for including Tony Curtis (Some Like it Hot), Frank Gorshin (Batman: The Movie), and Lois Chiles (Moonraker). My favorite is John Saxon (Black Christmas) in a small but key role. He looks like he's having a blast.
If you don't like Tarantino (and plenty of folks don't) this won't change your mind, as all his idiosyncrasies and oddities are on display here. If you don't like CSI, then you'll find the show not changed enough to make it any better.
The 1.78:1/1080p high definition transfer is solid stuff. The visuals are incredibly sharp, the blacks nice and dark, and the establishing shots of Las Vegas (a staple of the show) are breathtaking. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is good, but could have been a little more punchy in places (we do get a couple of good explosions). Added to the mix are songs Tarantino loves to use, and the musical score balances the dialogue. As an extra, we get a 17-minute behind-the-scenes look of the making of these two episodes, now merged into one feature-length adventure. It covers how Tarantino was pulled into directing (he's a huge fan of the show) and continues into filming the challenging buried alive sequences.
All that said, let's acknowledge the elephant in the room. Who is CSI: Grave Danger (Blu-ray) for? CSI fans are going to pick up the full season sets (being released oh so slowly on Blu-ray), so it's not for them. I supposed more casual fans who caught these episodes on television wouldn't mind revisiting them, and Tarantino completists might just want to add this to their collection. For them, it might be a good buy.
One hell of a two-parter. Not Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Copy
* Official Site