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What would you do if you suspected that your spouse had been unfaithful to you? How far would you be willing to go to find the truth? What would it take to make you accept the past and move on to the future? These are the questions that Dutch Van Den Broek (Harrison Ford) and Kay Chandler (Kristin Scott Thomas) confront in Random Hearts, a movie that sets up an interesting situation but ultimately has difficulty carrying it through.

Random Hearts
Movie
The film’s first twenty minutes or so are extremely intriguing, with a definite “hook” that makes the viewer want to keep watching. What, exactly, is going on? What is Dutch’s wife hiding from him... or is it some kind of misunderstanding? In fact, as I was watching the first part of the movie, I found myself wondering if it would manage to carry the effect of these first scenes throughout the entire running time. Unfortunately, it doesn’t manage it.

That’s not to say that Random Hearts is a badly done movie; in truth, it’s reasonably entertaining. But the structure and pacing of the movie, along with the characterization, doesn’t live up to the promise of the very well done opening. The problem is that the situation set up in the first twenty or thirty minutes is a mini-situation inside the overall movie; when the suspense of the first part of the film is resolved, the movie needs to have another, equally compelling, thread to carry through to the end. That’s where it doesn’t quite pan out. The plot from the middle of the movie to the conclusion depends on the developing relationship between Ford and Thomas’ characters, a relationship that ultimately just isn’t believable. Each actor puts in a creditable performance, but the interactions between the two of them frequently seem forced by the demands of the script and the storyline, rather than naturally evolving out of their performances.

Random Hearts
Video
Columbia puts forth no more than an average effort for this DVD, which is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. At first, the image quality looks reasonably good, with nice colors and contrast; however, the problems with the transfer become more noticeable as the film progresses. The picture is fairly grainy, especially in darker scenes; there’s quite a bit of noise; and on top of that, the image has been heavily edge-enhanced. The result is a picture that is rather blurry.

Sound
I was pleased with the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack for Random Hearts. The dialogue is consistently clear, and well-handled surround effects such as helicopters, crowd scenes, and other environmental effects provide a nicely immersive audio experience.

Extras
The Random Hearts DVD comes with a reasonable selection of special features. In addition to a set of deleted scenes, there’s 22-minute promotional featurette from HBO’s “First Look” series and a trailer. Additional audio tracks include a commentary from director Sydney Pollack and an isolated music score.

Random Hearts
Overall
What we have here is a perfect rental: Random Hearts is worth watching, but it lacks the substance to merit repeat viewing. The extras aren’t bad, but considering that the transfer quality isn’t outstanding, it’s not enough to push the DVD over into the “buy” category.


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