20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Robert Arkins, Angeline Ball, Johnny Murphy, Andrew Strong
Extras: Documentary, Music Video
Of all his films, "The Commitments" has always been my favorite one, maybe because I could identify with it the most, but more so because of its sincerity and authenticity.
Like many other teenagers of his age, Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) is obsessed with the thought of breaking out of the slums of Dublin where he is raised. Although he does not play any instrument, he plans to set up a band that will make the breakthrough to international stardom and get him, his family and his friends out of the hopelessness of their working class environment. After hooking up with two of his friends he places an ad in the newspaper to find more people to form the band he would manage. Countless auditions later he finally has a small group of individuals who are supposed to play what Jimmy has in mind. "Dublin Soul" he calls it. No rock and roll, no folk music, the blackest soul music Ireland has ever heard. "The Irish are the blacks of Europe. Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. North Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin," he states emphatically to get his message across, as his bandmates look at him in blank stares.
Everyone who has ever played in a band will find that "The Commitments" is practically exploding with realism when it comes to the backstage escapades of the band, although it seems vastly exaggerated in the film when everyone goes against everyone. It leaves Jimmy constantly struggling, just to keep the bunch together, let away have them practice their program. Egos, personal problems, dire straits, relationships, the first money, the light at the end of the tunnel, everything is nicely portrayed and packaged by director Alan Parker in this film. He creates a compelling story of a band that has a lot of potential but ultimately too many personal problems and ballast to ever make it out of the cellar. The fights, arguments and the struggle are just too familiar to not strike a chord with the viewer. The way Parker goes about building up the story to its finale is tastefully and masterfully choreographed to create the musical density the film needs, while leaving enough room to tell the story of the people involved. The energy and chemistry created by these people results in a powerful mix that actually creates a "band" rather than a bunch of actors posing as one. It is easy to spot that these folks know how to play their instruments and that the expression on their faces is real and honest.
The music in "The Commitments" is phenomenal, consisting of a series of well-known soul standards, reinterpreted to give them a new sound and feel, making them look quite impressive even compared to the original recordings, sometimes even eclipsing them, as is the case especially with "Mustang Sally". Singer Andrew Strong, who plays Deco in the movie, is just as mesmerizing the first time you hear him, as he is the umpteenth time. At the age of 16 by the time the film was shot you would not believe what kind of vocal range, maturity and soul this kid is bringing to the table. It is surprising that he has not been able to make build a solid career with it, although he is still a recording artist from what I understand. Although the entire cast of the film is consisting of newcomers, the quality of the acting is amazing, creating very natural characters that are at home in the run down low-life suburbs of Dublin. Shot entirely on location in Dublin, this film is a great lesson that not everything in Europe is as clean and rosy as it appears from postcards either, if you have ever had a romanticized view on Europe as a whole.
"The Commitments" contains a <$DS,Dolby Surround> soundtrack that is just as lively and energetic as the entire film. Well produced, it creates an engrossing sound field with good use of the surrounds. The disc contains an English audio track and English, French and Spanish subtitles. Since the film is presented in the original Irish dialect, the subtitles can really come in handy – at least they did for me. The Irish soundtrack adds greatly to the film’s general credibility and freshness, presenting us the actors as living and breathing people, talking their very own talk.
As I said in the beginning, "The Commitments" is one of my favorite music films, and the presentation 20th Century Fox is delivering here on this DVD is great. Great pictures, great story and absolutely energetic music dictate the film. If you’re a fan of good music films, you have to check out "The Commitments". This is as good as they come.