Cruel Intentions

Cruel Intentions (1999)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Music Videos

"Cruel Intentions" is a movie has developed something of a following since its debut in 1999. It is something you will either love or hate, depending. Viewing it on Blu-ray is actually the first time I've ever had the chance to see it all the way through, and it seems strangely dated for a movie so young. It's directed by Roger Kumble, his first feature.

The movie opens as we watch one of our main characters, Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) driving into the familiar Manhattan skyline in a 1956 Jaguar Convertible. He has an appointment with his psychiatrist (Swoosie Kurtz), and we find him to be very rich, arrogant and cocky. His performance comes across as very self-confident and is my favorite in the film. In this opening scene we learn that he is someone who is driven by revenge and is something of a Don Juan, who has had so many women that he has become bored with his conquests. Soon after, we meet his stepsister, Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who has been recently let go of in a relationship with a guy who decides to pursue someone more virtuous, Annette Hargrove (Reese Witherspoon) who is also the Headmaster's daughter.

It is also summer break, so these bored and spoiled devious creatures have nothing better to do, it seems, than plan complicated sexual traps; not just for an unwitting cast of goofballs, but also on themselves. We also have a young Selma Blair in one of her first roles as a young woman named Cecile (playing a naïve teenage vixen), who somehow gets taken advantage of by both step siblings. It appears early on that nothing is really sacred to either of them, and there aren't any redeeming qualities to either one, they are actually quite awful people, really, and their boredom is quite contagious, I might add. Kathryn's seemingly obsessive nature at not being rejected for a girl who actually writes an article about the virtues of virginity for Seventeen Magazine leads her to place a bet with our other conniving erotic prankster, Sebastian. She bets that he can't deflower Annette before school starts, but if he can, he can have his way and more with her (something he has always wanted, supposedly), but if he fails, he must give up the aforementioned convertible. From here, we meet some very annoying gay stereotypes, overly erotic schoolgirls, out of touch adults and of course the beautiful Annette, and get to hear a lot of dialogue that seems like it was written by a teenage boy.

The movie suffers from being poorly written, but I did like the performances of the main three involved in the devious lust triangle, they seem to be having fun and are somewhat interesting to watch and extremely charismatic, (especially Phillippe, whose self assured nature is somewhat inspiring). And as we know, they were all catapulted to stardom. While I didn't particularly care for this movie, I understand that this film has a huge following, and to them I say this is probably the best version out there. It's the type of film that wins MTV Movie Awards (and did, I might add). I just didn't find a character that was remotely believable or likeable, and I also didn't find the sex scenes remotely sexy. The film seems to be about as empty and devoid of any true inspiration or passion, just like the two siblings it centers around. I also didn't find it funny, in the slightest, maybe I just don't get the joke. It seems the name of the film was conceived with me in mind as I cringed in my chair. But to each his or her own. I did like the soundtrack, though, some really good songs on this one.

As for the transfer, the film is presented at 1.85:1 and fills the screen nicely in 1080p high definition widescreen. As the film begins, the transfer seems a little inconsistent, and yet as the film moves on, it seems to get better. At first, the colors seem a little washed out, black levels appear a bit grayish, and the details aren't very sharp, but fortunately things seem to improve later, and I'm sure this is the best the film has ever looked. Quite a lot of film grain is evident, but I'm sure this is simply inherent in the source material, and it wasn't distracting at all, in fact, it made the whole experience more film-like and natural. I like film grain when it feels right. At its best, the transfer looks flawless and all of the colors are natural and vibrant, at its worst, the film seems a little 'soft'. One of my favorite aspects of high definition is the details in the background and I found myself many times getting lost in the set decoration and clothing design, this may be a defense mechanism when I am completely turned off by the source material, though, but it was nice to have an escape. All in all, not the best I've seen, but far from the worst and at times it truly shines.

The sound is definitely top notch, but not if you are looking for demo material. This is a dialogue heavy film, and as such, the surrounds are not used that often. We have two options: English PCM 5.1 (Uncompressed) and regular. The dialogue is nicely separated and moves around the room as it should and all of the music is very nicely reproduced. There are no gimmicks here, this movie sounds just as good, or a little better, than it did in 1999 on the PCM track, and I was impressed. It was good to have the music, once in a while, as I got quite bored with the actual story line.

In the Special Features department we have a filmmakers commentary, three deleted scenes that are actually quite interesting to watch (along with some comments by the director), we also have a 'Making Of Featurette', which is typical EPK where everyone is simply pitching the film and saying how great everyone was to work with yadda yadda. I wish just once someone in one of these would just insult the hell out of someone, just for my own satisfaction. Next on board we have 'Creative Intentions: Finding A Visual Style', which is exactly how it sounds. I found it somewhat interesting because I often found myself gazing into the background, and this movie actually looks quite nice, really. Finally, we have two music videos, 'Comin' Up From Behind' by Marcy Playground and 'Every You, Every Me' by Placebo. I am a big fan of music videos as extra features because they are something you may go back to again and again, so they have replay value. Plus, I love music, so that helps too. These two songs are quite good. All of the special features are in standard definition.

I would like to add that the packaging is truly awful, they should have went with something a little more appealing for the front cover, perhaps the same one from the theatrical poster, because this one is a hack job, it looks like one of those cropped pictures from the front of some supermarket tabloid, and I think fans of the film deserve better. But all in all, I would have to say that this Blu-ray Disc is the version to own if you are a fan of the movie.