Crossroads (1986)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca, Jami Gertz

To most, Ralph Macchio will forever remain the Karate Kid, but as anyone who’s seen "Crossroads" can attest, he is also an incredibly talented guitar player and has been the perfect cast choice for this, Walter Hill’s blues-inspired road movie. It tells the story of young guitarist Eugene (Ralph Macchio) who much more prefers playing the Blues than the classical etudes his parents pay for. He digs deep into the history of Blues and learns that Willie Brown (Joe Seneca) a famous old-school harpist is living in a retirement home in Harlem. To learn the Blues from the master who’s played with infamous guitarist Robert Johnson, he decides to break Willie out of the retirement home and together they make their way to Mississippi, Willie’s home state where he has some unfinished business to take care of at the Crossroads.

Along the way Eugene – taking on the stage name Lightning Kid – learns that Blues cannot be taught by studying sheets of music or by copying other players – a lesson every aspiring Blues musician has to learn at one point or another. The real Blues is coming out of people. It is their lifeblood, their heart and their soul that is made audible in these songs, and being an academic guitar player, Eugene knows little about this essence of the Blues. But Willie takes care of things, his way, and over time Eugene is learning and understand the real soul of the music he so loves and his play begins to reflect that. Gradually, he becomes a bluesman.

The film’s climax, a guitar duel between Ralph Macchio and Steve Vai is probably the film’s most electric and memorable moment, but it is the overall atmosphere that makes it such a wonderful experience. Rich with visuals of the South and a phenomenal Delta blues sound track by Ry Cooder, "Crossroads" is a charming tribute to the people and the music of Blues.

The film is directed with great visuals by Walter Hill, who makes the best of the Southern landscapes and faces. He and director of photography John Bailey have certainly managed to bring to life the look and feel of the Delta the way you always envision it. Rich in color, culture, music, atmosphere and sadly prejudice. Ry Cooder’s score for the film is once again staggering and as he did with the "Buena Vista Social Club," Cooder is a master of the quintessential elements of the music he’s working on. As a result you get a score that is authentic, dynamic and absolutely captivating, making you wish there were more moments of nothing but music in the film so you could enjoy it’s entire breadth to the fullest.

Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is presenting the film in its 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio in a transfer that is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> TV sets. The image is a bit grainy at times and the transfer appears a tad on the soft side at others. Still, it is a great-looking presentation without distractions or blemishes, rendering the film in all its beauty and atmosphere. Colors are rich and vibrant with natural skin tones and deep, solid blacks. Occasionally edge-enhancement is evident with its halo-artifacts but it is always in check and never becomes overly distracting. The compression of the film is without artifacts.

The DVD contains the movie’s original <$DS,Dolby Surround> audio track and makes for a great experience. Surrounds are not aggressive but used to good effect on occasion, and mostly to create a wider sound field for the music – which is in many ways the star of the film. The frequency response is wide and the track has a good dynamic range, reproducing everything without a flaw, from the subtlest rustling of grass to the most powerful crescendi in the music.

Unfortunately Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment has not included any extras on this release, which I find very disappointing. "Crossroads" is a film for lovers of the Guitar Blues and certainly would have deserved a bit better than this DVD. While it’s not a complete disappointment, the average image quality, the lack of a real <$5.1,5.1 channel> remix, and the fact that the DVD contains no extras of any sort is disappointing, indeed. If you can get over these things, "Crossroads" remains a wonderful tribute to the music of the South that is heartfelt, inspiring and magical throughout. Fans just can’t miss to see this film.