Play It To The Bone

Play It To The Bone (1999)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Woody Harrelson, Antonio Banderas, Lolita Davidovich, Lucy Liu, Robert Wagner
Extras: Trailers, Production Featurette

Splicing ’Pulp Fiction’-esque gab with the feel-good ethos of the ’Rocky’ saga, ’Play It To The Bone’ charms as an insightful dramedy from writer/director Ron Shelton (’Bull Durham’). Fate intercedes in the over-the-hill lives of on-the-fringe prizefighters Vince Boudreau (Woody Harrelson) and Cesar Dominguez (Antonio Banderas) when they are called in as last-minute replacements for a major boxing match. Driving to Las Vegas with their sage ex-girlfriend in tow (Lolita Davidovich), the two boxers verbally spar about companionship, competition, piety, and love as they race towards their last chance at redemption in the ring.

The 2.35 widescreen anamorphic transfer could not look better. Deep, solid blacks capture details like the fairy-tale neon of the Vegas skyline and the grandeur of the Mojave Desert. Color fidelity is dead on, whether highlighting the boxers’ shiny red gloves, or contrasting a lime-green GTO racing along the desert landscape. Other than a few instances of edge enhancement, the transfer is about as picture-perfect as the format can achieve.

The Dolby Digital audio may not give home theater systems a vigorous workout, but makes effective use of the discrete audio palette. The 5.1 sound mix features a terrific music track, mixing blues, spirituals and rock. The surround channel may not be consistently active, but the occasional desert noises and auditorium cheers have impact and the LFE really kicks during the final boxing match.

Extras include three trailers, one for the title film as well as previews for ’The 13th Warrior’ and ’Happy Texas’. There is also a particularly illuminating production featurette with behind the scenes footage and interviews by Shelton, Harrelson, Banderas and Davidovich.

A witty, raunchy look at the boxing mindset, ’Play It To The Bone’ surprises with a strong sense of character and a narrative that invests the viewer with real empathy for both protagonists by the time they enter the ring. Spicing up the proceedings are Lucy Liu as a nymphomaniac drifter and Robert Wagner as a sleazy Vegas super-hotel owner. Wrapped in a sterling DVD presentation, ’Play It To The Bone’ KOs both in form and content. Check it out.