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Frank Sangster is a dentist who seems to be enjoying a pleasant life. He runs his own dental practice, is engaged to his seemingly perfect Assistant Jean (Laura Dern) and has lots of money with a big house. Frank’s life is turned around, however, when patient Susan (Helena Bonham-Carter) enters his life. First off, she seduces him into prescribing her strong pain-killers, and then changes the number on the prescription. She then cleans out the office’s supply of drugs and sells them with help from her brother Duane (Scott Caan). On top of all this, Frank’s deadbeat brother Harlon (Elias Koteas) pops up at his doorstep trying to resurrect his life. The deeper all these characters get into his life, the more tangled Frank’s life gets as he becomes involved in all sorts of devious deeds, mixing cheating, lying, drugs and even murder.

Novocaine is a very different film for Steve Martin. Although Martin’s character plays the narrator during the film, it is a totally different type of movie to see him appear in. Although he gets plenty of opportunities to make wise-cracks and witty remarks, he also gets the chance to become a little more serious and for the most part is actually pretty good. He knows when he can be funny and when he has to be serious and balances it out well, especially in the hotel escape scene among others.

Although Martin does well, he does suffer from being in a type of film which always seems problematic. The film suffers from a genre shift approximately half way through, making the narrative a little too inconsistent. For the first half the film remains a bit of a black-comedic crime caper. It works well too, with the first half being very enjoyable and passing rather quickly. The film then gets a little tangled mid-way when the film suddenly shifts into a thriller.

As mentioned, Martin does well to balance out his performance, but the second half becomes quite violent and at times, unnecessarily gruesome. Some scenes will make sure you take care of your teeth, that’s for sure. Due to this shift, the continuous use of comedy seems out of place. However, a scene where Martin falls from a roof and lands on the hood on the cop car that’s hunting him down is very funny and worked only because it fitted in with the escape scene.

None of this is to say that Novocaine is a poor film. It does have it’s shortcomings but still manages to get away with being an enjoyable ninety minutes. You will have fun trying to figure out the fate of main character Frank and the final answers are rather clever and unexpected. There are several little bits of info from the start of the film which play key parts in the film’s payofft and seeing the little twists unfold is quite fun.

Steve Martin also has his fair share of supporting talent. Laura Dern seems a little bit plain in her early scenes, but later on seems to find more comfort in her role and she improves. Helena Bonham-Carter also does quite well in her lost junkie role. There is also a nice sort of fear surrounding shady characters played by Scott Caan and Elias Koteas. However, one of the film’s highlights is a classic cameo by Kevin Bacon as Lance, an actor trying to learn to be like a cop. Bacon appears twice, once acting like a heartless cop making him seem like a jerk, then again later as seemingly one of the nicest people on the planet. He steals both scenes.

Novocaine is not exactly a masterpiece, but most people who either enjoy Steve Martin or enjoy a bit of a mystery will have a good time with it and will enjoy trying to pick out the twists. As mentioned, the genre-shift does create some problems and the film becomes less enjoyable in the second half, though it is good to see that Steve Martin can carry a role outside the light comedy genre. Martin also has a very nice supporting cast and the film sports a couple of good twists throughout. It’s well worth a rent, but not much more.

The film is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. The video mostly failed to impress. Right from the opening titles we notice that the video is quite dirty with some very noticeable interference from grain, scratches and artifacts. Despite this, the colours are mostly fine, as is the shadow detail. Skin tones are also adequate but do seem to shimmer quite a bit. It’s not too bad a transfer, but seems to have had little effort put in to clean it up.

There are two soundtracks on this disc. We have a Dolby 5.1 Surround track and a Dolby 2.0 Surround track, both in English. For the most part both tracks are pretty well suited for the movie. Dialogue is mostly clear, but some scenes seem to be drowned out by the music. There were also some lip-synch problems as well as a few moments such as car doors shutting before the sound effect. Aside from that, the tracks are mostly pretty tidy. As far as surround usage goes, both tracks are pretty much equal, surprisingly. The only thing that makes the 5.1 the winner is the use of the sub, which is only used in music and gunshots. A decent set of audio tracks.

This single disc rental release contains no extras. A special edition with an audio commentary and deleted scenes for the retail release perhaps?

Novocaine is not exactly mind-blowing cinema, but it is a very good way to spend ninety minutes. Although like most genre-shifters, this film becomes a bit choppy in the latter half, but still continues to entertain. This rental version of the DVD has a decent video transfer and an enjoyable duo of soundtracks, but delivers absolutely no extras. Perhaps it is best this version is only rental. If you really want to own this movie, go with the R1 disc or wait for a special edition in the unlikely event one surfaces in the future.