Cheaters (2000)
HBO Home Video
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Jena Malone, Paul Sorvino
Extras: Biographies

I’m sure that there are those of you who wonder why HBO Home Video bothers to release their in-house movies on DVD. The answer is simple. They do this so that those individuals who don’t subscribe to HBO will have the opportunity to see wonderful films such as ’Introducing Dorothy Dandridge’ or the recent released ’Cheaters’.

’Cheaters’ is based on a true story about the ’Academic Decathalon’ team at an inner-city school in Chicago. After the team loses to a rival upper-class school in the regional competition, they decide that they don’t have a chance to win the state contest. That is, until one of their teammates steals the question booklet for the upcoming ’Academic Decathalon’ showdown. Now, team coach Dr. Plecki (Jeff Daniels) must guide his pupils through a moral mine-field. Should they use this newfound knowledge to cheat? And if so, how far will the team go to cover up their misconduct? Jena Malone and Paul Sorvino also star in this tense drama from actor-turned-director John Stockwell (’Christine’), who also shows up in a cameo in the film.

’Cheaters’ presents the audience with an excellent question for debate, ’Under certain circumstances, is it acceptable to cheat?’ Once this question is posed, the film simply displays the facts (although it could be argued that they are a bit skewed) and leaves the answer to this dilemma to the viewer. The film does make some excellent points about the current state of the educational system in this country, but once again, does this without being overbearing. The cast is excellent, most notably Daniels, in a role which demands every emotion from him. ’Cheaters’ is a great reminder of why HBO has brought home so many Emmys over the years.

While the film ’Cheaters’ has a lot to offer, the DVD is basically a movie-only edition. The film is presented full-frame (naturally). The image is very sharp and clear, with only a minute amount of grain noticable. The colors have been well-balanced on this transfer, giving us natural fleshtones and very nice blacks. There are no signs of difficulties resulting from artifacting or compression problems. Basically, this is a broadcast quality presentation of the film. The audio on the ’Cheaters’ DVD is a Dolby 2-channel surround mix. This offers crisp and clear dialogue, with no static or distortion on the track. The surround sound speakers are put to moderate use, mostly for crowd noise and musical cues. The only extra on the DVD are talent files.

Don’t cheat yourself — check out ’Cheaters’.