Sony // 1998 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // June 21st, 2003
Never underestimate the power of a woman.
Claire (Kyra Sedgwick, Phenomenon) is one of the best of her breed: a hired assassin who owes all that she has to her boss (Robbie Coltrane, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). When The Boss (he has no first name) sends Claire and her partner, Nick (Stanley Tucci, Big Trouble), on a routine mission to retrieve his curvy runaway girlfriend, Kitty (Robin Tunney, Vertical Limit), things go disastrously awry when Kitty kills The Boss's only son Jimmy (Ethan Embry, Can't Hardly Wait). This does not bode well for Claire and Nick when The Boss assumes that they've betrayed his trust. With nowhere to run and no one to trust, Claire drags Kitty around as she tries to clear her name -- she thinks that because her and The Boss are "close" that will give her leeway, which couldn't be further from the truth. As The Boss closes in on her with various thugs and hit men, Claire will need to use all her wit and skill to survive the wrath of the deadly criminal syndicate.
Montana is a movie that hovers between low-budget video fare and a Hollywood highbrow attempt. The story and action are only mediocre, yet the cast is surprisingly filled with talented actors that have all starred in far better films. Tucci, Sedgwick, John Ritter, Coltrane, Embry, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and (phew!) Tunney's acting credits are chock-full of A-list blockbusters and cinematic classics -- so why make this inconsequential little thriller? The story surrounding these characters is hardly original -- mob job goes wrong and the anti-hero must run for her life -- and the dialogue and action only mildly entertaining. While I applaud writers Jon and Eric Hoeber for making what usually would be a male lead female (Claire is every bit as spicy and dangerous as someone like Stallone or Willis), couldn't they at least have put her in a wittier, more clever script? I can see the pitch meeting now: "Frankie, I'm telling you it's a sure fire hit! We got the guy from Three's Company, Kevin Bacon's wife, and the big English guy from Nuns on the Run. It'll be like a cross between Goodfellas, Thelma & Louise and an irreverent comedy!" Though it's all fairly bland stuff (routine action, routine chases, routine min-laughs), there are a few nice touches. John Ritter amuses as a Tony Robbins-like guru who's really packing heat, and Tucci's character sports more depth than is normally associated with a hit man. As for Sedgwick, she comes off as a hardened woman who's made some wrong choices in her life, yet is ready to live with them. Had the movie focused more on her and less on some of the periphery characters, Montana may have risen above its mediocrity. If you're walking through your local Blockbuster and see this title for rent, it's most likely better than most of those other B-level flicks collecting dust on the shelves. Just don't expect it to be on par with one of the A-level titles.
Montana is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen with a 16x9 anamorphic enhancement. Now over five years old, Montana looks better than expected -- the colors are all generally solid and dark without any major imperfections hindering the image. Though I spotted some haloing and grain in the picture, overall this is a decent transfer considering the source material. Colors and black levels are all bright and dark, making for a solid viewing. The soundtrack is presented in what appears to be Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Much like the transfer, this sound mix is decent, if not exceptional. There are a few surround sounds in the mix (mostly gunshots during the action scenes) and the dialogue, music, and effects are all clear of distortion. For a straight-to-DVD title from 1998 both the audio and video transfers are fine and dandy. Also included on this disc are English and French subtitles.
To no one's surprise, Montana is void of almost any extra features, save for theatrical trailers for Montana, the video game inspired Resident Evil, and the Guy Ritchie film Snatch.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Three Theatrical Trailers