The Deli

The Deli (1996)
Synapse Films
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes

I had never heard of the film "The Deli" before but when Synapse’s Don May put this DVD on my desk and I glanced over the packaging. It did indeed look like something really interesting. And it was…

"The Deli" is a small indie film featuring a great cast that tries to make the most of the limited production and somewhat dialogue-heavy story. The story revolves around Johnny (Mike Starr) a middle-aged Deli owner who uses his mother’s lottery money to give in to his own gambling habits. And of course, he always loses it, slowly digging a hole for him that’s getting deeper and deeper. He’s at the point that left and right everyone just wants to collect the money from him that he owes them – his bookie Tomato, the meat man (Ice-T), the garbage man, and just about everyone else on the block. And then the unthinkable happens. His mother’s number comes up in the lottery winning a $12,000 jackpot! Only problem is, Johnny once again put her money on his own bets instead…

Director John Gallagher does a great job creating a story about people – some of them pretty hopeless candidates, I may add – and their dealing with each other. Placed mostly inside the Deli itself, sets are limited but suit the purpose absolutely perfectly. Just when you thought you have seen all the wackos in the film, in walks another one, with yet another interesting story of his own.
The cast is doing a wonderful job bringing these quirky characters to life and the film just wouldn’t be the same without Pinky, Sabrina or the Cab driver.

The image quality of "The Deli" on this DVD is pretty good, though the film stock does give away the low budget at times with a bit of grain and a bit of weakness in the color delineation. But Synapse did a great job making the best of it, making "The Deli" a fun film to watch. A tad of edge-enhancement is evident in select shots, creating some artifacts, but other than that the transfer and the compression is without problems.

The audio on the DVD is the original monaural track of the production. It is surprisingly well produced and balanced and also uses some cool music, adding to the overall atmosphere. No distortion is evident and the dynamic range of the track fully serves the film’s purpose. Sadly no <$CC,closed captions> or subtitles are provided on the disc.

The DVD also contains a <$commentary,commentary track> featuring director John Gallagher in which he discusses many of the events and experiences he made during the production of the film. Giving full credit to his wonderful cast, he explains that much of what you see on the screen is a result of their ingenuity – and I concur. It is the characters that bring "The Deli" to life more than anything else.

A selection of Deleted Scenes is also included on the disc and inside the packaging you’ll also find some liner notes by the director.

While I wouldn’t exactly call this release of "The Deli" a Special Edition, despite the claim on the front of the box, I find it to be a very intriguing release. It has some dark humor, incredibly quirky characters, some hilarious moments and a story where you just can’t help but feel sorry for the hapless loser that the premise’s main character is. "The Deli" is not a fashion statement or an attract-as-many-teenage-boys-to-the-boxoffice-on-a-Friday-night-as-you-can kind of movie that Hollywood has degraded into over the past decade. It is a true indie movie in all its spirited glory. Make sure you’re not missing out on this one.