One man brought them together. Now he will tear them apart.
Written by a retired cop who was the son of a mobster, produced by a retired boxer turned actor, and directed by a man who has one of the most uneven of careers, Turn of Faith is a labor of love that pays off on all levels.
If only Lightyear had lived up to their end of the bargain.
Facts of the Case
Big Philly Russo (Charles Durning in one of his best performances) rules the local neighborhood with an iron fist. Hired to fix an election, he ends up running afoul of three men: Joey (Ray Mancini), a cop; Frank (Alan Gelfant), a priest; and Bobby (Costas Mandylor), a hired thug working for Philly.
Complicating matters is the fact that Philly acted as a father figure to these men. Can they trust Philly when he gives them his word? Or does he have designs for their downfall?
After his retirement from boxing in 1985, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini has made a valiant effort to become a good actor. Unlike some sports stars who attempt box office success based only on their name (cough…Hulk Hogan…cough…Howie Long…cough), Mancini shows evidence of genuine talent and a willingness to hone his craft. His performance as Joey is top notch. It could have been a cardboard character, but Mancini gives his role many different textures. There's vulnerability, brashness, and humor in his character, and he's believable every minute he's on screen.
All the performances are fine, especially Charles Durning as Big Philly. Durning is one of our best and most underappreciated character actors working today. He's been so good for so long that it's easy to take him for granted. His challenge is to make Philly both menacing and sympathetic. A lesser actor would have chosen one tone and stayed with it; an old pro like Durning doesn't worry about taking chances and lets the work speak for itself.
Mancini produced Turn of Faith and commissioned the original screenplay by Lou Eppolito. As I mentioned before, Eppolito is a retired cop who was the son of a mobster. He uses those experiences to full effect in his screenplay and you can't help but wonder how much of this film is vested in the truth.
Turn of Faith was directed by Charles Jarrott, a British director who started out well with widescreen epics like Anne of the Thousand Days and Mary Queen of Scots but faltered with disasters like the musical version of Lost Horizon and the Sidney Sheldon potboiler The Other Side of Midnight. Apart from some TV work and one underrated film, The Amateur, Jarrott has been pretty much unheard of. This movie is a potential comeback for Jarrott since it emphasizes his strength, which is character over style.
We have now ended the positive portion of this review.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer felt cramped when I screened this disc. According to the closing credits, Turn of Faith was shot in Panavision, which has an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Even the snapper lists this as a "scope" title, which means 2.35:1. I hate when the studios give us a half-assed widescreen transfer. I remember when Hallmark announced the long awaited widescreen version of that classic CinemaScope musical Guys and Dolls. I picked it up only to discover that the aspect ratio was cropped to 1.66:1. Why must some executives pull a bait and switch? The image, what's left of it, looks clean and crisp, but knowing the ratio was incomplete makes it hard to give this high marks. Colors are nicely subdued and desaturated, which enhances the story.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound is usually supposed to guarantee good sound. The soundtrack is a mess. Dialogue is often lost in the overmixed score and sound effects are way too loud. I found myself having to adjust the sound more frequently that I wanted to.
The lone extra is a theatrical trailer. Presented in grainy full frame, the squeezed shot of the three leads provides even more proof that this was a scope picture.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As for the film itself, I have one criticism: the ending. Without spoiling it for everyone, I'll just say that it is neither a neat wrap-up nor a satisfying conclusion. Turn of Faith ends with an act of violence and just fades to the closing credits. Eppolito wrote an intelligent, strong screenplay and it's a shame that he couldn't think of an ending that would satisfy both sides.
As for the disc, my feelings are torn here. I really want people to see this film. Yet I'd be lying to you all by recommending this disc.
I recommend renting Turn of Faith just to see this movie. With strong performances and a solid story, Turn of Faith is worth your time. As for a purchase, maybe when the price drops beyond bargain levels. Maybe.
Ray Mancini is not guilty of producing a worthy vehicle for his potential acting talent. The filmmakers are not guilty of making a good film.
Lightyear is guilty of producing a poor package with the wrong aspect ratio. Sentence to be determined.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Theatrical Trailer
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