Hollywood Pictures // 1992 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Sean Fitzgibbons (Retired) // September 8th, 1999
He turned his back on civilization only to discover he had the power to save it.
One of director John McTiernan's weakest films, Medicine Man is given absolutely no additional help from Buena Vista in terms of DVD quality.
John McTiernan holds my high respect for directing some of the greatest action films of all time; namely Die Hard and Predator. McTiernan has also been behind other great non-action-centric films like The Hunt for Red October and the recent remake of The Thomas Crown Affair. Unfortunately, McTiernan has directed a few films I'd rather forget; particularly Last Action Hero and Medicine Man.
Medicine Man is set in the Amazon rainforest where Dr. Robert Campbell (Sean Connery) has stumbled across the cure for cancer. Campbell's only problem is that following the discovery for the cure he has been unable to replicate the process by which a native Medicine Man had extracted the cure from an exotic plant. Dr. Rae Crane (Lorraine Bracco) is sent to the Amazon by the corporation both she and Campbell work for to locate Campbell. After a long journey, Crane eventually finds Campbell and informs the doctor that she is there to evaluate his work. With reservation, Campbell reveals to Crane that he has located the cure for cancer but refused to disclose his findings in fear of the corporation destroying the rainforest in order to obtain the cure. Crane offers her assistance in finding the cure again but soon learns that she and Campbell must find the Medicine Man to discover how to obtain the life saving serum. With a construction company looming behind the two doctors, ready to drive a road right through the heart of the Amazon, both must locate the Medicine Man and find the cure for cancer before it is destroyed forever.
This time around Buena Vista has done even worse than their typical DVD release (if you can believe that) with this version of Medicine Man. Presented at 2.35:1 non-anamorphic widescreen, Medicine Man offers a higher resolution transfer for the film than on any other format; but the positive facts about the video transfer end there. Meanwhile, the Dolby Surround track on Medicine Man is comparatively better than the video transfer. Occasional surround effects kick in throughout the film (most notably crashes of thunder) but, as usual, Jerry Goldsmith's superb musical score is the true highlight of the audio track.
As for extra content, Buena Vista provides the DVD hungry viewer with a production featurette (3 1/2 minutes long) and a theatrical trailer; both presented in the full frame aspect ratio. Both features consist of the same clips from the film and voiceovers, but the production featurette provides some extra information on the shooting of the film. As is the case with most Buena Vista DVDs, the extra content is not the deciding factor in a purchase decision.
I'll begin with the film itself. Medicine Man is not just a film, of course, but a strong moral piece about the destruction of rainforests and how, in turn, it is destroying humanity. The film drags on in many instances and takes a long time to get started. Though, what really corrupts the film is the acting of Lorraine Bracco. Bracco's extremely thick New York accent, accompanied by the whiny nature of her role, ruins any effect her character would have in this film. To put it bluntly, she is just plain annoying. In light of this, Sean Connery must carry the entire film on his back, which he does nicely, but the film truly necessitates a strong female character that Bracco fails to provide.
Just when you thought it might be safe to purchase a Buena Vista DVD, they take a quantum leap backwards. Typically you'll receive a rather decent, if not downright good, video transfer from Buena Vista. However, Medicine Man provides one of the worst transfers I have seen since the early days of DVD. Right from the opening of the film, where you watch the rainforest on fire, an overwhelming amount of artifacting is clearly visible. Whether in smoke, in the dark, or on the brown rainforest floor, compression artifacts run amuck on this transfer. Coupled with this is an incredible amount of grain and an image that truly lacks depth. It's a shame that Buena Vista had to do this poor job on their Medicine Man DVD because, despite the fact that the film is not that good, the scenery in the rainforest is truly breath taking. However, with video transfer problems all over this disc it is almost impossible to enjoy the visual beauty of the film.
Extra content: we need it, Buena Vista doesn't plan on giving it to us. A commentary track would have been thoroughly engaging for this film because of the moral message that McTiernan attempted to deliver. A longer behind-the-scenes featurette would also be a nice compliment to the film, as for the few seconds the featurette on this disc actually focused on production was quite interesting. How about we have a theatrical trailer that is actually presented in a widescreen ratio? If the trailer was indeed shown in a theater I know it wasn't shown in 1.33:1 full frame!
What else can I say? Horrible video transfer, next to no extras, and a less than entertaining film. Definitely not something I think most people are looking for in a DVD. Then again, if you've got a thing for Sean Connery, you might want to give this disc a rental spin.
Buena Vista and film sentenced to life imprisonment.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean Fitzgibbons; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Theatrical Trailer
* Production Featurette