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Case Number 05120

Buy Faithful at Amazon


New Line // 1996 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // September 2nd, 2004

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum is considering opening up a mental health clinic for mafiosi in need of therapy, like Chazz Palminteri, but he's going to have to check into the malpractice insurance fee first.

The Charge

"Faithful is when you've got more to lose than to gain."—Chazz Palminteri

Opening Statement

A hit man is hired to kill a suicidal wife on her anniversary, but instead of killing her right off he talks with her for a very long time. Faithful is one long therapy session of a movie, where the characters question what their life means and how marriage and family have defined them. Whether or not you will find it an intriguing movie depends on your love of the theatrical tradition of talking a lot with little action. New Line provides a stunning transfer and a handful of trailers in this barebones release that should have Cher and Chazz Palminteri fans excited.

Facts of the Case

Faithful is easy to confuse with a movie called The Ref because they are both about couples, criminals, and hostage situations. Whereas The Ref was an all-out scathing black comedy; Faithful is a drama laced with hints of dark humor. Cher (Moonstruck) plays Maggie, who is about to kill herself by overdose on her 20th wedding anniversary. Tony, the hit man (Chazz Palminteri, The Usual Suspects ), breaks in to her house and unwittingly stops her. He tells her that Jack (Ryan O'Neal, Miss Match), her husband, has hired him to kill her, but he has to wait until the phone rings twice as the signal Jack has safely established an alibi. So Maggie and Tony have some time to kill before anyone gets whacked, and of course they bond over their mutually tortured existence and relationships.

The Evidence

Yes, another heartwarming tale of a Mafia hit man (named Tony, naturally) with a heart of gold! All of this is presented on a barebones release from New Line. The acting is fine, quiet, and natural. Cher shows a lot of reserve with Maggie, and it's nice to see her relax and not pull a Bette Midler in Ruthless People type of hostage performance. Her character subtly plays mind games, like trying to confuse Tony about who has hired him. Is it really the husband, or was she worried she wouldn't go through with her suicide? Chazz Palminteri plays an Italian mobster well, and why not? He wrote the script and made sure he has all the best lines. He's sexy and cool, but he lets the neurotic little boy out of the bag on more than one occasion. Ryan O'Neal has a smaller part as the reptilian husband who may or may not have hired someone to kill his wife but who is cheating on her from the get-go. You're never quite sure where he's coming from, and that's a compliment to his poker-faced performance.

The DVD itself is a stunning transfer in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There are hardly any problems with the transfer, and the print seems very pristine: no edge enhancement or digital hiccups. Whoever mastered this transfer needs to work more often. You get stereo options of 5.1 or 2.0. The only impressive thing on the soundtrack is a collection of vintage songs by Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Nat "King" Cole. No extras whatsoever, save for a spoiler-ridden trailer for the movie and trailers for some other releases from New Line. I would have liked to see a featurette on the play version of Faithful (which people say differed from the screenplay quite a bit), but no such luck.

So, nice movie, big-time actors, stellar transfer…what's the problem here? It's all not very engaging. You never worry anyone is really going to get hurt, and you can pretty much predict the ending long before it arrives. There's no suspense, thrills, or revelations. The twists are well constructed, but their resolves always seem to fall flat. The lines seem like platitudes and extremely simple concepts that most people already know: "Life is hard!" or "You don't define me." Faithful is nice to watch, but when it's out of sight it will be out of mind. It's meringue or cotton candy—it never fills you up, and it disappears quickly. The other problem is that it makes you recall better films, such as The Ref or Bulletproof Heart, which linger in the mind's eye. The movie plays it extremely safe, and in the end it becomes merely a nice distraction for an hour and a half.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Nothing wrong with a nice distraction, and some people will find this movie charming. Cher fans will have fun with her red wig, and you get a nice shot of Chazz Palminteri's chest. Not bad for a night's rental, or a purchase if you are a fan.

Closing Statement

Well-produced DVD, okay movie, and some major league star power. I've seen better and worse, and I enjoyed Faithful for what it was—people with issues talking them out, and everybody learning something about themselves. Tony Soprano would be proud, because I am sure he supports his fellow gangsters who are in therapy.

The Verdict

Faithful, you are free to go, and I will hopefully see you on stage sometime soon. I have a feeling you were better there, but you're fine as a movie too. New Line needs to step up the program and offer some extras. Would it kill you? You're breaking my heart here! Show some respect.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 94
Audio: 94
Extras: 0
Acting: 89
Story: 80
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile

Studio: New Line
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Comedy
• Crime

Distinguishing Marks

• Trailer


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