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Have you ever looked at the front cover of a Video/DVD to find that you haven’t actually heard of the film? Well I was given a copy of The Caveman’s Valentine to review, which stars Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson. As it had been released in the States in March 2001, I was interested to investigate what happened to the release here in the UK. For some reason Caveman’s Valentine has never been released here, which is surprising considering the popularity of the lead actor. With this review of the Region four DVD I hope to show you exactly what the UK has been missing out on.

Caveman's Valentine, The
Movie
The Caveman’s Valentine is the second time that director Kasi Lemmons has managed to acquire Samuel L. Jackson’s services for a film. He also starred in Lemmon’s first movie Eve’s Bayou, which is considered to be by some a masterpiece. In The Caveman’s Valentine Mr Jackson stars in one of his most demanding roles. He plays Romulus Ledbetter a homeless man who’s life has changed since he was diagnosed as being a paranoid schizophrenic. Romulus used to be an acclaimed concert pianist at the prestigious Julliard School of Music, but due to his illness things went wrong and he now lives in a cave in Central Park. Due to his unpredictable mood swings his family have disowned him, and his only friends are fellow homeless people. His wife no longer believes a word he says and his daughter who is a local police officer just wants her normal father back.

Romulus’s life takes another turn on Valentines Day when he hears noises outside his cave. Intrigued by the noises he investigates and finds a fellow homeless guy called Scotty, frozen in a nearby tree. Convinced that Scotty did not freeze to death in an innocent manner Romulus sets about investigating the murder. What makes the investigation harder is the fact that no one believes him. Romulus believes that local artist David Leppenraub, played by Colm Feore (The Insider), is to blame for the murder, as he knew the victim and actually used him as a model for various art projects. Determined to prove Leppenraub guilty, Romulus befriends a local lawyer. Bob the Lawyer (Anthony  Michael Hall) feels sorry for Romulus and gives him a suit so that he can become accepted in the city. Romulus undergoes an image change. At this point he gets rid of his scruffy beard and tidies himself up. He sets about mingling with the upper class people in New York with the aim of finding out crucial information about Leppenraub.

The film is strange in that it never really decides if it is meant to be a crime thriller or an arty movie. The story centers around the crime investigation by Romulus, but a large portion of the movie concentrates on his struggle to come to terms with his own mind. An example of this is the fact that whenever he is doing something he shouldn’t, a hallucination of his wife appears to tell him off. One off hallucinations wouldn’t be so bad, but to be honest I had trouble identifying what was real or a part of his imagination. Romulus also believes in a sinister being called Stuyvesant, who controls people’s minds with rays. The Chrysler Building is considered to be the control center of Stuyvesant.  At various points in the movie Romulus catches sight of the Chrysler building and basically loses control. These scenes can be very powerful but at the same time they distract from the overall storyline. By adding Romulus illness to the plot, the movie tries to give a different slant on your average ‘who done it’ movie. This slant actually saved the movie from being a very poor crime film. There are very few surprises during the movie, which is strange for a crime film. The ending is built up during the movie but sadly disappointing when we find out who committed the crime.

There is no doubt that this movie’s success hinged on how well Samuel L. Jackson could pull off the role of Romulus. From the very first scene I could see that this was like no other role Jackson had played before. The character of Romulus required someone with the ability to play a character who is very unpredictable and strong minded. Jackson is probably one of the few actors currently in Hollywood who could have pulled it off. With a better cast supporting him and a better storyline, Jackson could have been receiving another Oscar nomination at the recent award ceremony, as his performance is probably the main reason that The Caveman’s Valentine just about raises the movie about mediocre.          

Video
The Caveman’s Valentine is presented with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While not being the best transfer I have seen recently is it still mighty fine! Detail is superb and the blacks hold up very well considering their constant use. There is one particular scene in the movie (see below) where Samuel L. Jackson is standing on a balcony and apart from his face all you can see is dark sky. This scene is dealt with very impressively. My main complaint about this transfer is the slight edge enhancement that can be seen occasionally during the movie. It is not constant throughout the film, but at certain points it was obvious. Overall an satisfactory transfer which just stops short of getting top marks.

Caveman's Valentine, The
Audio
I wasn’t expecting much from this aspect of the disc but thankfully my expectations were exceeded. The disc has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which you would expect from a recent release. However due to the nature of the film I was expecting a standard front orientated soundtrack. To be honest that is all that is needed for this movie but Roadshow have managed to go one step higher. What we get with this disc is an enthralling atmospheric track, which makes full use of all my speakers. The scenes where we see the butterflies in Romulus’s head are brought to the screen with surprising accuracy. The dialog levels are perfect and sound effects are performed with amazing realism. The region one released benefitted from a DTS soundtrack so it is a little disappointing that Roadshow did not follow suit. This is only a minor complaint, though as the soundtrack we are provided with is outstanding.

Extras
I was hoping that Roadshow would include a good set of extras to complement the movie, but sadly I was disappointed. I will firstly talk about what is included on the disc and then go onto what would have been a nice addition.

Included as extras on the disc are deleted scenes. They play as one long continuous scene with pauses in between. I counted seven different scenes which overall had a running time of over sixteen and a half minutes. Some of the scenes looked like they would run after each other in the movie. Too often with deleted scenes they are irrelevant, and you can see why they were deleted, but the ones included on this disc are actually pretty good. A few of the scenes look like they could have fitted in nicely to the finished movie. What I would say however is that they would probably have made the ending less of a surprise. They would have given away too much of the plot earlier on in the movie. Deleted scenes of note are number three, where we are shown how Romulus gets from the country to the city, deleted scene number four where Romulus talks to a local bar manager and deleted scene number five. I am glad they removed the final deleted scene from the movie. It shows the moths that Romulus has inside his head. The moths perform a little dance and it just seemed too arty. It would have definitely spoilt the flow of the movie and would not have enchanced the final cut.

Also included on the disc is a trailer. The trailer runs at just over 2 minutes long. There are a couple of things that stood out whilst watching the trailer. The main thing was that at no time do they mention that Romulus has paranoid schizophrenia. They make him out to be a homeless man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Romulus’s paranoid phases are a huge part of the movie so not to include them in the trailer is misleading.  The trailer makes the film look like a Sherlock Holmes movie, with Samuel L. Jackson chasing the bad guy. The trailer is full of suspense, and does a good job at marketing the movie. Also worth noting is that the trailer only mentions Samuel L. Jackson and does not introduce the rest of the cast. This goes to show exactly how much the film relies on the leading man.

Caveman's Valentine, The
Fans of audio commentaries will be pleased to hear that you get quite a detailed version included with this disc.  Director Kasi Lemmons and Editor Terilyn Shropshire are the speakers and while they are not the most interesting ‘tour guides’, it is still a good addition to the disc.

Now, onto what would have been nice as extras. It would have been good to have some sort of input from Samuel L. Jackson in the extras. As the film is built around his strong performance it would have been interesting to hear what he thought about the movie. Either a commentary from him or even some interviews in the shape of a documentary would have been a pleasant touch. Certainly a missed opportunity that would have added the finishing touches to what are is an average set of extras.

Overall
I am a huge fan of Samuel L. Jackson so I was surprised to receive a movie of his which I had not heard of. The Caveman’s Valentine is a brave effort at being different to your average crime movie. Jackson’s performance is exceptional and is probably worth the purchase alone. The disc provides a good transfer with better then expected audio. As for the extras they are a mixed bag really. There is nothing which really stands out. The deleted scenes are a good addition but the lack of input from the main actor in the movie is disappointing. If you are a fan of Samuel L. Jackson or you want to take a look at an original crime movie then The Caveman’s Valentine is worth watching.


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