quirky, and often brilliant director Robert Altman had a hit-and-miss career
spanning six decades. After a mostly spectacular run of cutting-edge comedies
and dramas in the 1970s, Altman’s pictures in the 1980s faltered. He lost some
of the value in his stock that he had gained after such hits as M*A*S*H and Nashville. However, he had a strong come-back in the 1990s with The Player and Short Cuts, and he made a few more interesting movies in the last
ten years of his life.
of these was The Gingerbread Man,
based on an original story by legal-thriller author John Grisham. Apparently,
Grisham had also tried his hand at the screenplay, too, and successfully sold
it. Altman, however, rewrote it himself, and then Al Hayes (credited for the
film’s screenplay) finished it. Curiously, the picture is more of an action
crime-thriller than it is a legal-thriller.
actor Kenneth Branagh plays an American lawyer from the south (and convincingly
delivers the accent) who takes on as a client (and also sleeps with) a
high-maintenance young woman (Embeth Davidtz) who wants to put away her crazy
and violent father (Robert Duvall). Branagh must additionally and simultaneously
navigate his dysfunctional personal life with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and
kids, his sleazy private investigator (Robert Downey, Jr., in an entertainingly
bizarre performance), and his client’s ex-husband (Tom Berenger).
some good stuff here. While it cannot be placed in the upper tier of Altman’s oeuvre, it’s a solid middle-ground piece
that owes much to the director’s penchant for never doing what one might expect.
Hollywood lore tells us that the studio tried to pull an Orson Welles/Touch of Evil on him by re-editing the
picture without Altman’s knowledge—but the director’s version tested better, so
luckily that’s what we got.
Lorber’s new Blu-ray restoration looks fine and comes with 5.1 Surround and 2.0
Lossless Audio. Robert Altman does his own commentary, a delightful voice from
the past who ponders his film with detached amusement. Other supplements
include the theatrical trailer and other Kino Lorber release trailers.
Grisham fans may be disappointed by the lack of courtroom shenanigans, but
Altman aficionados will appreciate The
Gingerbread Man as another entry in the filmmaker’s hearty and diverse