People I Know

People I Know (2002)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Al Pacino, Kim Basinger, Téa Leoni, Ryan O’Neal, Richard Schiff
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes

’People I Know’ is a quirky and gritty drama/thriller highlighting the superficiality and mendacity of showbiz and politics. Eli Wurman – wonderfully played by Al Pacino – is an aging publicist who no longer represents the stars, but still tries to. Only Cary Launer (Ryan O’Neal) is left as his largest client, an Oscar winning actor of old. But to Launer, Wurman is just the go-to-guy and one night he asks Eli to bail an aspiring TV starlet (Téa Leoni) out of jail and put her on an airplane out of town. Eli picks the girl up but after an excursion into a local Opium den and a wild assortment of drugs and medication, Eli blacks out and when he awakes, the starlet is dead. Unable to remember anything about the night, Eli tries to continue his life as usual, but suddenly a few people have become curiously interested in him.

The seedy atmosphere of the film is superbly reflected in the sometimes chaotic narrative and the restless images, which like Eli, never seem to be able to focus on one thing or stand still for more than to catch a quick breath. While overall engaging the film suffers from some pacing issues and is a tad too dialogue-heavy for my taste. Still it is an engrossing dark tale where nothing and no one is what they pretend to be. The ending didn’t make a lot of sense to me as it will ultimately bring attention to the exact thing that the people in the film tried to cover up, and as such the film left me a bit unsatisfied.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has created a good looking transfer for this DVD in the movie’s 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture is clean and clear and with only a minute amount of grain. Colors are solid and the black levels allow for deep, solid blacks. No edge-enhancement is evident and the compression is without flaws.

The audio comes as a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix that is balanced and makes frequent use of the surround channels, mostly to express the relentless chaos of Eli’s world. Dialogues are well integrated and never drowned out.

A commentary track by director Dan Algrant is also included on the DVD, offering some additional insight into his intentions and the way the production came together, while a series of deleted scenes rounds out the release.

’People I Know’ has a promising premise and a solid cast, who manage to hold the film together. As a matter of fact, without Pacino’s impeccable performance, the film would probably go nowhere. As it stands, ’People I Know’ is a solid but unspectacular film that never really seems to know whether it wants to be a drama or a thriller. Enjoyable? Yes. Good? Well, sort of.