Saturday, November 9, 2013


SneakersThat first time I used my credit card to buy something online, I did so with quite a bit of trepidation, as I had concerns about how easily some hacker type could steal my card number and rack up my debt...since then I've realized many sites do utilize some sort of protection against that kind of thing, but still, the thought of vulnerabilities lingers in my mind...and movies like Sneakers (1992) certainly don't help to quell those concerns...written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams), the film stars Robert Redford (Three Days of the Condor) and Sidney Poitier (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner). Also appearing is David Strathairn (Dolores Claiborne), Dan Aykroyd (Grosse Pointe Blank), the late River Phoenix (My Own Private Idaho), Mary McDonnell (Independence Day), and Ben Kingsley (Gandhi).

In the film, Martin Bishop (Redford) and his colleagues operate a security company who other businesses hire to break into their companies, exposing where their security may be lacking. Each member of the small team has their own, unique background (many involving past criminal activities), but after the group is approached (blackmailed) by a gooberment agency with a proposition to recover a mysterious device (it involves the use of computers and cryptography), it's discovered that Bishop has the most to lose if they don't accept the job. The group manages the acquisition easy enough, but soon find themselves in a heap of trouble as the device turns out to be something of extreme value, a device many would kill to possess. As the web of conspiracy and deceit grows, as does the level of danger (various individuals wind up getting killed), the group must use all their abilities to outwit those intent on stealing the device for themselves, using it for their own, nefarious purposes, and seeing Martin and his co-workers in jail, or even dead.

Sneakers is a deceptive film. I've seen it a few times, the first time I saw it, it appeared to be a light movie (I've read that the makers of the film injected a modest amount of profanity into the script to avoid a `G' rating, for fears the movie would have been perceived as a film for children) with a few, gaping plot holes, but subsequent viewings (for me, at least), reveal it to be a very rich, complex, intelligent, enjoyable thriller with an excellent cast and a tight storyline with little or no mistakes, and the plot holes I originally perceived actually dealt with, many times in very subtle ways, hence the need for repeat viewings (it's important to pay attention to many of the little details provided throughout). Redford and Poitier are the strongest cast members in the film, but they don't necessarily come off that way, as they seem to understand the importance of their parts within the whole of the film, instilling a subtleness within their performances, allowing for the focus to be on the story rather on themselves. This seems to be an obvious sign of their experience, and I found myself appreciating this, as often starring actors tend to be full of themselves, and their efforts on screen show it...originally it seemed to me that the character development was a bit light, but I've since come to feel we're given just exactly what's needed for the story, and anymore would have bordered on the extraneous and unnecessary. Also, it's nice to see a film where Dan Aykroyd plays a relatively minor part, doing what he's told, having nothing to do with the writing or directing (he not only wrote but directed the one of the worst films I've ever seen in 1991's Nothing But Trouble). Also, I usually tend to like women with the longer hair, but I thought Mary McDonnell, with her short hair and all, looked very attractive and added a wonderful, feminine element to this nearly all male cast with her role as Liz, a former lover of Bishop, now assisting the group seemingly out of appreciation of Bishop's past. Director Robinson keeps the pacing tight, and uses the talent within the film well (I supposed this is helped by the fact he also wrote the screenplay, so he has an intimate understanding of the visuals he wants to present in accordance with the story). The McGuffin (a term invented by Alfred Hitchcock to describe the element of the film the plot centers on...he would often present, but rarely elaborate on it, as its' specifics were never important, in his mind, only its' use in providing focus for the story and progressing the plot) seems a bit farfetched, but the smart story and the talented performances do well in creating a level of believability that got through this aspect. Another important feature of the film is the musical score, provided by legendary and prolific composer James Horner (Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Aliens). Usually I neglect mentioning the music within a film unless it's either really bad or really good (the latter being the case here). I wonder how many people are aware that he started out composing for low budget producer Roger Corman, working on films like Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids From the Deep, both released 1980. A couple of minor appearances worth looking for are Donal Logue (Blade, The Tao of Steve), James Earl Jones (Clear and Present Danger), and Timothy Busfield (Revenge of the Nerds). Favorite line from the film? When Bishop is talking to the NSA guys and responds, "I could have been in the NSA, but they found out my parents were married."

The widescreen anamorphic picture (1.85:1) looks reasonably fair, and the Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 tracks (available in English, French, and Spanish) sound decent. Special features include an original theatrical trailer for the film, subtitles, informative production notes, background and filmographies of some of the cast and crew, a `making of' featurette, and commentary track by the director. All in all a decent release of a really good film.


This review refers to the Widescreen Edition(1998 Universal).....

Martin Bishop's(Robert Redford) team of maverick techies make their living(not a great one)as "Sneakers". Breaking into the security systems of high powered companies. It is the high powered companies that actually sign their pay checks. They are hired to find the breakdowns in the systems.The team includes a blindman who is expert in sound(David Strathairn), and ex-CIA agent(Sydney Poitier), a young expert hacker(River Phoenix), and a magician at all sorts of gadgets who is probably the most paranoid person on the face of the earth(Dan Aykroyd).What a Cast!

Martin Bishop though, has a secret he's been keeping from his team. One that has kept him on the run from the government for 25 years. When the government agents offer him a chance to clean up his record, simply by finding and retrieving a "Black Box" used by a mathematical genius for decoding, Martin jumps at the chance and so do the rest of the guys(It also pays really good too!). The job seems easy enough, but what they don't know may kill them. This "box" is so powerful in it's capabilities, that any any Government in the world would kill for it.

The team, also with the help of Bishop's ex(Mary McDonnell) goes into a high-tech action caper,that is heartstopping,gripping, and often comical.It'll thrill and amaze you as they use their weapons of knowledge to complete their mission.

The film is directed by Phil Alden Robinson, and also stars Ben Kingsley, Timothy Busfield, and James Earl Jones.You can't go wrong with all these great names. All the performances are terrific.

I was not totally happy with this edition of the DVD though. Although the sound in Dolby Surround was quite good and the anamorphic widescreen(1.85:1)was well presented there seemed to be a reddish glow hovering on all the indoor scenes(almost like a new TV the needs the tint adjusted). It was a little hard on the eyes. Otherwise I probably would've gone 5 stars as this is one of the cleverist capers I have seen. Don't look for too much on the extras. There are a few, some production notes(no live commentary) filmographies, and a trailer. It is also captioned and has subtitles in English, Spanish and French.Maybe the newer edition has the color problem cleaned up. It would be worth renting it at least...enjoy...Laurie

also recommended:

The Chase

Buy Sneakers Now

SNEAKERS is one of those movies that didn't have a great box office run despite being a fantastic film. It fortunately has found a second life in the video market, maintaining a respectable, though not stellar, presence on best-seller lists. Why does it continue to convert audiences a decade after release? Because it's everything we expect of a fun summer movie, but don't usually get.

You know that feeling you have the day before a summer blockbuster is going to be released? That one of total anticipation that tells you this movie is going to be the best thing you've ever seen? And then you go to the movie and it totally disappoints you because the characters were made of cardboard. the action scenes were implausible, and the romance was just set decoration?

SNEAKERS is not that film. SNEAKERS entirely satisfies. In fact, SNEAKERS is, in my estimation, the very best (fictional) action film of the 1990s.

At the heart of the film is a very clever, character-based script. It combines tried and true Grecian tragedy with thoroughly modern humor, cool gadgets, and genuine intrigue. The relationships between Redford and McDonnell-like the friendship between Redford and Kingsley--is mature and complex, bringing true character development in its wake.

All of it is made possible by phenomenal acting. No one (except maybe James Earl Jones) is playing to type. Redford is very much a reluctant hero, less than confident in his abilities, and having romantic difficulties with the fact that he's middle-aged and alone. Dan Aykroyd gives one of his very best performances because he's playing a character whose eccentricities help define him rather than label him. He's not really playing `funny' so much as `quirky'. David Strathairn steals every scene he's in with his alternately comic and tragic performance of a highly capable blind team member. Sidney Poitier, meanwhile, is surprisingly adept at playing lighthearted comedy, and Ben Kingsley makes an unusually menacing enemy-far, far different than his sainted performances in GANDHI and SCHINDLER'S LIST. It's a true ensemble production in which everyone pulls their load with aplomb.

Why, then, didn't this film do better at the box office?

The very fact that this film successfully integrated thriller, comedy, romance and adventure into a single script may have hurt. It was somewhat hard to market because it WAS so richly textured. Also, the fact that it was an original script meant there was no built-in audience chomping at the bit to see it. 1992 was a year dominated by derivative films (ALADDIN, HOME ALONE 2, BATMAN RETURNS and LETHAL WEAPON 3 were the top four movies that year, grossing over $300 million each worldwide), and it was hard for an original voice to be heard. Still, it did make about $70 million worldwide, making it one of the biggest grossers of that year's original films.

Whatever the case of its box office's history, you need to make this film a part of your DVD collection's present. No, there's not much in the way of DVD extras, but sound is important to the plot, and you'll want the crisper audio DVD has to offer. Hopefully, though, they'll make a Collector's Edition of this film for its 10 year anniversary, because the dearth of extra materials is fairly inexcusable. With this many stellar cast members, there must've been great stories about the set.

Read Best Reviews of Sneakers Here

I really enjoy this movie, and was very happy to see it released by Universal on HD-DVD. This movie has a lot of big names in it, and they really deliver. It has great suspenseful moments, international intrigue, a believable plot, and a lot of humorous moments that are actually funny! There are plenty of other places to look if you are looking for a synopsis of the movie, including the standard DVD page, so I'll leave it to them to tell you about the movie if you don't already know it.

My review here will be about the HD transfer itself. Overall, I was really impressed! It's a definite jump from the standard DVD, even upconverted. I might even go so far as to say that some selected scenes look incredible. Most of the scenes in Sneakers are dialogue, and a lot of people in them, and I noticed that the clarity of people's faces and eyes was great. The shots of the buildings, and the Scrabble tiles being rearranged I thought were great. For the most part though, the PQ is good, but certainly not demo material.

There is definitely some grain noticable, but I was happy to find it wasn't distracting. Even in some of the darker scenes where I expected some heavy grain, the grain was only noticable, not obtrusive. The sound is also excellent. I don't know if it is better than the S-DVD, but I had no complaints with the 5.1 soundtrack. Sure I would have loved me some lossless audio, but I didn't expect it and it isn't really a big deal to me that it isn't there.

I have only 2 complaints about this disc. First, I wish Universal had cleaned it up a bit better. There were a fair amount of "flecks" floating through the picture throughout. Of course, once I stopped focusing on the picture and enjoyed my movie, I didn't notice them except for a few brief moments, but they are definitely there. Is it hard to clean the master? I was a bit disappointed in that area, as most films in HD are extremely clean, with flecks only occasionally. These were fairly constant. My second complaint is extremely minor and more personal, but I wish there were some Spanish subtitles.

Overall, I am very happy with this disc, and would definitely recommend the purchase to anyone who enjoyed the movie. It's a definite improvement from the S-DVD. It's certainly not a movie I'd pop in to show off my TV for friends, but then I never expected that. The only thing that I wish had been done differently would have been for a cleaner transfer, removing some of the larger and more noticable flecks.

Bottom line? If you like this movie, this is a must have. It is an excellent step up from the standard DVD.

Want Sneakers Discount?

Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier head a fine cast in SNEAKERS, a solid 1992 thriller with a robust sense of humor directed and co-written with good skill by Phil Alden Robinson (FIELD OF DREAMS). In it, Redford, who has been on the run since 1969 for computer hacking in that politically turbulent time, heads up a team of security experts known as "sneakers", whose job it is to penetrate the security set-ups of their respective clients to give them tips whenever those companies' security systems are lacking. Then two guys (Timothy Busfield; Eddie Jones) claiming to be from the National Security Agency give Redford the biggest task of all: to recover a "little black box" from a Czech scientist visiting in the San Francisco Bay Area.

But when they find out what this little black box does, they realize that they could be marked for death. For this box is actually a machine that can break any security codes to every single system on the planet. And when Busfield and Jones turn out NOT to be NSA representatives and renege on the arrangement they made with him, Redford is forced to confront an old friend (Ben Kingsley) from his past who is now out to take revenge.

Structured with elements of techno-thrillers, spy thrillers, and fears of Big Brother, and combined with goodly amounts of humor, SNEAKERS moves quite briskly through its 125-minute running time. Suspenseful moments, including Redford having to move ultra-slowly through a highly secured area to recover the box in Kingsley's complex, are juxtaposed with moments of political humor, including Dan Aykroyd's conspiracy-obsessed technician, and in the film's introductory scene, in which the younger versions of Redford and Kingsley think of transfering the money in Richard Nixon's personal checking account to the National Association to Legalize Marijuana. As rightly mentioned in Amazon's review of the film, that little black box that can break every code functions as what Hitchcock calls a "McGuffin", a plot device that may not mean much to us until we realize why people want it so badly they'd kill for it. This, combined with fears of the government functioning as "Big Brother", make SNEAKERS every bit as relevant today as when it was released in 1992, perhaps even more so.

Save 10% Off

No comments:

Post a Comment