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Case Number 27351

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About Last Night (2014) (Blu-ray)

Sony // 2014 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // May 20th, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge Gordon Sullivan is all about 21st century sexual perversity in Los Angeles.

The Charge

It's about compromise. It's about love. It's about a good wingman.

Opening Statement

If you want to trace African-Americans in stand-up comedy, at least in terms of mainstream acceptance, you have to start with Bill Cosby. Even at a young age his style was avuncular and friendly. Then there's Richard Pryor, who rose in the post-Lenny Bruce era as the antithesis of Cosby, all foul mouth and frank talk. Eddie Murphy, brilliant as he is, was like Pryor's little brother. Then we got Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, two guys forging a path away from the Pryor/Murphy mold by seeming a little more down to earth. That trend perhaps culminates in comedian Kevin Hart. Unafraid to admit he's not a man's man and willing to discuss his personal foibles on stage, Hart has risen to prominence in recent years. It was inevitable that he'd crossover into the realm of acting, and early 2014 saw him starring in two comedy vehicles. Sadly, unlike his predecessors in the stand-up world, Hart's attempt at a romantic comedy in About Last Night just doesn't work that well.

Facts of the Case

Bernie (Kevin Hart, Ride Along) and Danny (Michael Ealy, Think Like a Man) are best friends living the single-life in LA. They have a good thing going, having sex with as many attractive women as they can. Then Bernie has to go and fall for Joan (Regina Hall, Law Abiding Citizen), which breaks up his nights with Danny. Luckily, Joan has a best friend too, and she (Joy Bryant, The Skeleton Key) takes a shine to Danny. The rest of the film follows the ins and outs of this foursome through the stages of their relationships.

The Evidence

David Mamet's first big hit as a playwright was 1974's Sexual Perversity in Chicago. It has all the hallmarks of a Mamet play: frank, profanity-laden discussions of the basics of life, especially sex and death. It was adapted into a Brat Pack vehicle in 1986 staring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore entitled About Last Night…. That version had little of the bite of Mamet's work, but it at least tried to play things as seriously. Now, we have About Last Night, which drops the ellipses from the 1986 film, as well as any pretension to Mamet's original gravity. Instead, we get a goofy, nonsensical attempt to examine contemporary romance.

The basic problem with About Last Night is that it makes no sense. Though the individual performers are fine at portraying their characters, it's never at all clear why their relationships work the way that do. That's as true for the Bernie/Danny friendship as it is for each of their relationships with women. There's very little chemistry between the actors and the actresses, so their romance doesn't really work. The bedroom antics are played more for laughs than anything else, making their relationships doubly unsettling. And when things inevitably go up and down (as they must in a rom-com), there's nothing for viewers to root for that might keep any of the couples together.

Honesly, I expected better from the screenwriter who gave us Bachelorette. That was a dark comedy that dared to lift the veil on the complexity of the relationships between women. It was funny, and cruel, and ultimately complicated. None of which is replicated in About Last Night. Instead, the men are immature, the women indulgent until they're not, and nothing seems either remotely human, or sadly, humorous. Helmer Steve Pink (who co-scripted Grosse Point Blank and High Fidelity) should know better as well, but this is beneath even Hot Tub Time Machine's tepid laughs. Knowing he has Hart in his back pocket, Pink lets the funnyman run wild. It produces a few good lines, but the lack of direction ultimately harms the film more than it helps.

The Rebuttal Witnesses The best I can say for About Last Night is that it's not really a bad film. Everyone in front of and behind the camera has a basic level of technical competence that keeps things from unraveling completely. There are even some glimpses of something better to be had. The film starts out a bit frank about Danny and Bernie's unwillingness to commit, and they both enter relationships because they feel like they're supposed to. It's a good start towards examining friendships in the contemporary age, but instead of digging in deep (like Bachelorette, which goes for it), About Last Night is content to play on relationship clichés. The film also doesn't entirely shy away from sex. It's not a filthy comedy, nor does it take a strong stand on sex and contemporary relationships. However, it does at least acknowledge that sex exists and can be a source of pleasure, frustration, and humor. Finally, when he's on, Hart is especially fun to watch. He doesn't have a lot of room to roam in the film, but there are some moments when he clicks, especially with Regina Hall. Though their relationship doesn't seem plausible, as comics they have serious chemistry.

Presented in 2.40:1/1080p AVC-encoded HD widescreen, the transfer is pretty strong. The source itself, however, is a bit dodgy in places. Shot on digital, About Last Night (Blu-ray) looks clean and bright in outdoor scenes with strong light. Colors pop and detail remains high. In the darker scenes, however, things go a bit amiss. Black levels are deep, but detail isn't always great, with a bit of smear if there's too much motion. Again, I think that's as much to do with the digital capture as this transfer, as it doesn't appear to be compression artifacts. Still, the film looks fine enough. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is even better. Dialogue is clean and clear from the front, while the surrounds get a lot of use in club scenes and outdoor moments.

Extras start with a making-of featurette that spends 15 minutes with the cast discussing the film along with clips. A goofy four minute featurette gets romance advice from the cast, while another featurette asks the cast what it means to say ÃČI love you.î Finally, we get a nine minute featurette that asks random couples on the street for relationship advice. It's surprisingly funny, even if it has nothing to do with the film. All but the making of featurette are exclusive to the Blu-ray disc. An UltraViolet digital copy is also included.

Closing Statement

About Last Night is probably going to appeal to fans of the actors and anyone looking for a low stakes romantic comedy. Otherwise, it's not a worthy follow to either Bachelorette or Hot Tub Time Machine.

The Verdict

Not great, but not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 95
Audio: 96
Extras: 85
Acting: 88
Story: 78
Judgment: 81

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
Audio Formats:
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
• DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (French)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• English (SDH)
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2014
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Blu-ray
• Comedy
• Drama
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes
• Digital Copy
• UltraViolet Download


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