Mill Creek Entertainment // 2006 // 595 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // October 21st, 2009
For every decision there's a consequence.
Think Groundhog Day, only with car chases, drug dealers, gangs, guns, and murder. That's Day Break: The Complete Series.
Detective Brett Hopper (Taye Diggs, Private Practice, How Stella Got Her Groove Back) is about to have a very bad day, over and over again. He wakes up on a fine Los Angeles morning next to his girlfriend Rita (Moon Bloodgood, Terminator: Salvation) then heads out to hunt bad guys. Only he quickly finds out that he's the one being hunted by both the police who suspect him of murdering an Assistant DA, and by at least two other groups of dangerous villains.
At the end of each day, Hopper wakes to start it all again, but he still has the memories and the wounds from the previous version, which allow him to make new choices each time around. The question is, which set of choices will lead him to the real murderer while still keeping his friends and family out of the line of fire.
Tangled up in the mess in addition to Hopper and Rita, are Hopper's sister Jennifer (Meta Golding), his partner Andrea (Victoria Pratt), detectives Shelten (Adam Baldwin, Chuck) and Spivak (Mitch Pileggi, The X-Files), and a cast of other great character actors including Jim Beaver (Supernatural), Jonathan Banks, and Ian Anthony Dale.
There are 13 episodes in the set. Only six episodes aired on ABC, the rest were shown online at ABC.com.
* "What if They Run?"
* "What if He Lets Her Go?"
* "What if He Can Change the Day?"
* "What if They're Stuck?"
* "What if They Find Him?"
* "What if He's Not Alone?"
* "What if She's Lying?"
* "What if They're Connected?"
* "What if He's Free?"
* "What if He Walks Away?"
* "What if She's the Key?"
* "What if It's Him?"
When I first slipped Day Break into the DVD player, I was curious as to how they could sustain the replay of single day over and over again without it becoming boring. I quickly discovered that boring was not going to be a problem. The series gets off to an action packed start that has Hopper in the right place at the right time (which is pretty much the underlying concept of the show) in order to save a random woman from being plowed into by a runaway bus. From there on in, it's pretty much down hill as Hopper goes from hero to scapegoat when he's framed and arrested for the murder of the assistant DA.
The power of the pilot is in the idea of how quickly a person's life can fall apart through no fault of their own. I doubt many people have woken up to a murder accusation but a car accident or natural disaster can have the same effect. Diggs does a great job portraying a man who is used to being in control but is now being swept away by the tide, but all of that changes when he wakes up to relive the day again and realizes that he can make changes that effect the outcome -- but not always in a positive way. That leaves him scrambling to build the perfect day, a day where all the good deeds are done, like saving the woman from the bus, and the bad things, like the death of his loved ones, don't happen.
While Diggs handles most of the heavy lifting in the series, the supporting actors all turn in fine performances, which isn't as simple as you might think. All of the characters begin at point A, but in each version of the day, they move off in different directions and their characters change based on those decisions. Someone who betrays Hopper in version three, might not go through with it in version four. And though Hopper remembers what he's learned with each new day, those around him don't. Keeping track of who knows what and in which version had to have been a writing nightmare but the actors make it work.
Helming Day Break is X-Files and Reign of Fire director Rob Bowman, which is maybe why I felt like the two shows were close cousins. Even in the commentary track, Bowman accidentally refers to Diggs' character as Mulder, leading him to confess that he had just started principal photography on the The X-Files: I Want to Believe.
There is at least one commentary track for every episode in the season with three or more people on each track. Bowman is prominent, as is Taye Diggs. You also have writers, producers and even the editor who is an even more crucial part of the team on a show like this. There's a lot of information here and it's very casual and chatty.
Additional bonus features include interviews with the cast and crew and behind the scenes footage. Both of these are light on content.
The pilot episode of Day Break looks like a TV show that's trying to hard to be a movie. The colors are over saturated, there are too many fancy camera shots and edits, and it's almost too big. It's as if they didn't trust the story to pull in the viewers. All of this settles down after the pilot and you'll find more attention paid to character as the show goes on.
What doesn't improve, though, is the contrast. The show is very dark in spots and the contrast is so poor that there were times when I couldn't see the expression on the actors' faces. It was annoying enough to cut into my enjoyment of the show.
One reason for the poor video quality could be the way this set was packaged. When it was originally released by BCI last year, the 13 episodes were spread over four discs. Here you only have two discs and that includes more than 15 hours of commentary and several featurettes. I don't know how or why they did this, but it can't be good.
This DVD also has the strangest packaging I've ever seen. Instead of flipper discs inside the plastic snapcase, there are two paper sleeves, which are held in place by a series of tabs. The episode titles are printed on the discs and there is no episode guide or any printed material inside the box.
A minor point, but very annoying, is the music that plays over the navigation screen. I couldn't scroll through the menu fast enough. Please, make it stop.
If you like complex thrillers, then Day Break is the show for you. You'll need a score card to keep track of who, what and where but there are sweet little payouts throughout the series as one-by-one the secrets are revealed. Stick with it until the final episode and you will get answers -- not all the answers -- but enough to make it a satisfying run.
This court finds Day Break: The Complete Series innocent...guilty...mistrial...hung jury...All rise, court is now in session.
Review content copyright © 2009 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 595 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries