Saving Private Perez (US - DVD R1)
Jonathan wishes someone would've saved him while he was watching this..
Julian Perez, Mexico's most powerful crime lord, must embark on a mission given to him by the only authority he respects... his mother. Joined by a colorful band of unlikely heroes, Julian must risk his life to fulfill his mother's wish and rescue his enlisted brother from war-torn Iraq. (From the Lionsgate synopsis)
I wasn't sure what to think of Saving Private Perez before going in. Usually I know the director or actors work and have some sort of notion to go in on, but I don't know anything about this movie or the people involved in it. And now, having seen it, I'm still not sure what to think of Saving Private Perez. It's billed as an adventure-comedy, and while it's evident that the movie is trying to be silly from time to time, there are a lot of scenes where there are no attempts at humour whatsoever. It feels as though the filmmakers were unsure of how silly they wanted to be, and they didn't know how dramatic to be either. "Uneven" would be a great word for it. It is competently filmed and it's never aggressively awful, but the filmmaker's inability to stick to one genre, instead of clumsily balancing multiple, results in a fatally boring viewing experience. Maybe I'm missing something on a cultural level, or all the seriousness is actually intended to be deadpan comedy. It's a shame because the concept of a group of cartel men clashing with the Iraq war conflict is very creative.
Saving Private Perez's sense of humour is all over the map, and lazy. It asks you to laugh at silly outfits or grown men doing childish things. I smiled during a scene where a car horn blared to the tune of 'Speak Softly, Love' from The Godfather, but it would've been a much bigger laugh if The Sopranos hadn't done it first, and if it made more sense in the context of the scene. Despite my resistance, the occasional chuckle escaped me. They usually involved the unfit group of cartel thugs trying to perform tactical maneuvers. I also got a kick out of some of the bizarre sets with exotic animal heads and skins decorating every inch of the space. I found myself wishing the movie fully embraced its silliness instead of trying to balance it out with serious, but dramatically inert scenes. The action is about what you'd expect from a low budget film of this type. There were a few points where I couldn't tell if the movie was trying to be cool, or if it was poking fun at movies that try to be cool. I'll probably never know. If I can compliment the film in one department, it's pacing. Despite the failed attempt at mixing genres, the movie gets right into the meat of the story from the very start and no particular segment of the movie outstayed its welcome.
Saving Private Perez arrives from Lionsgate with a solid standard definition transfer. Some film grain has made it to the DVD transfer intact and gives the movie a nice cinematic look. There are no traces of edge enhancement or DNR that riddle many standard definition releases. Colour is strong. Browns and golds make up the majority of the colour filters and set decorations used. It's a good look that works for the visual style of the film, and the transfer holds it up well. Blocking and banding are occasionally quite noticeable in the unfocused areas of the frame, particularly when there are big patches of solid colour in the background. Very minor haloing is also present, but hardly a cause for concern. Detail in the foreground is as sharp as one could reasonably expect for the format.
Despite its modest budget, Saving Private Perez has a surprisingly impressive surround sound mix. The music, composed mostly of horn and string instruments, is culturally fitting and sounds very dynamic in this Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Desert scenes are met with a dreary vocal soundtrack that sounds very smooth and Directional effects are used constantly during the action scenes. Gunshots can be heard from multiple channels. A helicopter's whir travels between different speakers without a hitch. Even the flapping wings of a chicken can be heard making there way from one part of the room to the next. The LFE channel is used for a lot of rumbling effects, whether it be the bass instruments in the soundtrack or the previously mentioned helicopter. Impact and sound quality are never an issue, but dialogue is occasionally competing with the soundtrack for clarity. Thankfully the movie is mostly in Spanish, so I had the English subtitle track to keep me up to speed.
The only special feature is The Making of Private Perez (03:29), which is just a short, broad look at the movie with some brief interview segments from the director, producers, and lead actor of the film. They talk about what the movie means to them.
I can't call myself a fan of Saving Private Perez. It's a clever concept and I got the sense that everyone involved put their heart into it and had a lot of fun making it, but that joy never crossed over to me. It tries to juggle multiple genres and consequently loses its grasp on all of them. If you've already seen it and consider yourself a fan, I've got no problem recommending this Lionsgate DVD release in terms of audio and video quality, but there's only a single special feature and it's a brief one.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 17th January 2012
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: The Making of Private Perez
Easter Egg: No
Director: Beto Gómez
Cast: Miguel Rodarte, Jesús Ochoa, Joaquín Cosio
Genre: Adventure and Comedy
Length: 103 minutes
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