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Spartan Home Entertainment presents
Brigham City (2001)

"Congratulations, sheriff. You've got a serial killer in town."
- Meredith (Tavya Patch)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: June 11, 2002

Stars: Richard Dutcher, Matthew A. Brown, Carrie Morgan
Other Stars: Wilford Brimley, Tavya Patch, Jongiorgi Enos, Sterling Brimley, Frank Gerrish, Janice Power, Rick Macy, Wendy Gardiner, Jacque Gray
Director: Richard Dutcher

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and thematic material
Run Time: 01h:59m:53s
Release Date: April 30, 2002
UPC: 804868709323
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- B+B-B+ B+

DVD Review

Brigham City is the second Mormon-themed independent release from writer/director/actor Richard Dutcher, coming on the heels of his critically successful God's Army, a film about the personal and emotional struggles of a young Utah missionary. What makes this latest work, a far more mainstream accessible film to be sure, so unusual is that it is about a serial killer, and the impact that the killings have on a small Mormon town. It is admittedly a weird juxtaposition to see religion and murder intertwined so tightly, especially when presented by such a devoutly religious director, and I should probably allay any concerns that this is Dutcher's attempt to convert the masses to Mormonism. Instead, he has concocted a rather engaging script where it just so happens that the Mormon religion and faith are pivotal in both the story and in the lives of the characters.

Wes Clayton (Dutcher) is a guy who literally wears two hats, serving as the local Mormon leader, or bishop, as well as the sheriff for the small, idyllic town of Brigham City, Utah. In fact, most of the townsfolk just call him Bishop, which prompts one character to lament, "There's 17 bishops in this town, and only one sheriff. It would simplify things if they'd just call him 'Sheriff.'" When a series of brutal murders—the work of a roving serial killer with a thing against pretty young women—occur within the city limits, Wes finds himself straddling the boundaries of the law, as well as that of his faith. He's a humanly flawed man, and the story unfolds with an odd mixture of tenderness and paranoia that eventually envelops the entire town.

Dutcher looks the part of a small-town sheriff here, and his low key but stern characterization of Wes is played with a believable down-to-earth ease that befits the role well. I'm always hesitant of writer/director who just happens to think he's the best to take the lead role, but Dutcher's portrayal is actually quite good. The slightly pot-bellied Wes, hampered by an ungainly limp, is far from being a super cop, and in fact he is more than willing to turn over control of the case to the investigating FBI agents, led by the gently inquisitive Meredith (Tavya Patch), much to the chagrin of his young deputy, played by Matthew A. Brown. Meredith represents the non-Mormon viewpoint, watching the goings on of the town with an outsider's wary and sometimes bemused eye. Brigham City is populated with a solid cast, full of mostly new faces, especially Carrie Morgan who is wonderfully caustic (or at least as caustic as a Mormon can be) as Peg, the sheriff's dispatcher.

For a film with such a largely unknown ensemble group of players, it was great to see a familiar face like Wilford Brimley blend in effortlessly and toss out another of his patented gruff-but-loveable performances as Stu, the retired sheriff who just can't stay out of the office; in my estimation there really isn't anyone who can spout curmudgeonly phrases better or more naturally than him.

The story here is about much more than a series of murders, but Dutcher's Brigham City will likely be marketed as a simple serial killer film—that helps to sell discs, no doubt—but it's clear that his intent was to present a profoundly more spiritual experience for viewers, more in line with his own religious beliefs. Sure, some of the dramatic plot points about faxing scanned fingerprints are a bit gimmicky, but as a simple whodunit it is wholly entertaining. Characters are just as likely to form an impromptu prayer circle as they are to do anything, but even this type of preaching is kept well within the believable and natural bounds of the characters, and Dutcher deftly avoids overtly sermonizing. He has assembled a strong supporting cast of actors, and all involved deliver the message loud and clear.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer of Brigham City, which is largely blemish free, has a significant amount of shimmer and haloing. There is a scene where Meredith, the FBI agent, is reading at the local church, and the pattern on her dress almost looks animated. Colors, on the other hand, are bright, and image detail is generally pretty solid.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: If you have a choice, opt for the 5.1 over the 2.0 track here. So many times I've come across 5.1 and 2.0 tracks on the same disc that are virtually interchangeable, but on this disc there is a substantial difference. In 5.1, the dialogue is dramatically cleaner, as is the score. Rear channel cues are minimal, but when used fill out the soundstage nicely. The 2.0 comes across rather one-dimensional in comparison.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Richard Dutcher
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The only real extra of merit here is a full-length, scene-specific commentary from director/writer/star Richard Dutcher. He chats pretty much non-stop, which is a good thing, and he kindly refrains from simply reiterating what we're seeing on the screen. His comments cover a lot of production and set issues, as well as the origins and development of the script. Dutcher tosses out a few humorous anecdotes, but the general tone is fairly serious, and one that I found to be quite easy to listen to.

A theatrical trailer, bios/filmographies, 16 chapters, and subtitles (English, Spanish) and a $4 discount coupon for the soundtrack round out the supplementals.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

This is a very different type of mystery thriller, one with distinct religious overtones, from God's Army director Richard Dutcher. Even with a moderately tame PG-13 rating, Dutcher still manages to deliver tension, suspense and oddly enough, a genuinely moving story of redemption and faith in a small Mormon town. This disc also includes Dutcher's generally informative, full-length commentary track, to boot.

Recommended.

 


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