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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Urban Jungle (1994)

"A civilized life calls for a civilized man."
- Mr. Renfo (Joseph Bologna)

Review By: Jesse Shanks   
Published: May 15, 2003

Stars: Frank John Hughes, Seidy Lopez, Lombardo Boyar, Joseph Bologna
Other Stars: Castullo Guerra, Richard Sarafian, Douglas Spain
Director: Van Fischer

MPAA Rating: R for (violence, language, drug use and brief sexual content)
Run Time: 01h:37m:00s
Release Date: August 20, 2002
UPC: 012236129295
Genre: drama


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

DVD Review

This film was released to the theaters as Blink of an Eye, which is certainly less descriptive than the video title. Accorded a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance International Film Festival and winning recognition at both the Santa Monica Film and New York International Independent Film and Video Festivals, Urban Jungle is earnestly acted and filmed, providing diverting entertainment for fans of "urban" drama.

The story line follows a Romeo and Juliet path as Tommy (Frank John Hughes) is released from prison following a drug bust. Hughes has followed up this film with appearances in 1999's Angel's Dance, starring James Belushi and Sheryl Lee, along with a roles in the highly regarded mini-series Band of Brothers and Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can.

Haunted by memories of an abusive childhood, Tommy is determined to walk the straight and narrow. Writer-director Joseph Bologna has a supporting role as the guy who runs the halfway house that Tommy gets assigned to after being released from prison. His tough but compassionate Renfro sees the possibilities in Tommy despite his own jaded burn out over the problems of processing convicts back into society.

Working as a cook at a neighborhood church under the auspices of an idealistic priest, Father Chavez, portrayed by character actor Castullo Guerra (who has appeared in such films as Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Usual Suspects, Amistad and The Mexican. Tommy observes the difficulties of life on the streets but tries to stay out of it. After a time, Tommy meets Sophia (Seidy Lopez) and they fall in love despite the difficulties of the situation. One of their problems is her drug addict brother, who is forced to trade sex for drugs on the street. Circumstances force Tommy to reach back into his life of crime despite the risks involved.

The film manages to tell a reasonably realistic story against a well-constructed backdrop of street life without overly exploiting the easy clichéd targets so common in "urban" Hollywood films. Although on one level this is a typical "going straight" story told in a modern urban backdrop, there is a freshness to the style of the time that gives it appeal. The characterizations are decently fleshed out for the most part. Despite not being very original, the film is still a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, and is a decent debut for director Van Fischer.

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

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A decent, if unspectacular transfer is presented on this Artisan DVD. there is a quality to the film that is difficult to pin down as to whether it stylistic in an attempt to be edgy or the low budget intrudes.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Although Dolby 5.1, the audio here is mid-range. There is some decent separation in the stereo spectrum and some ambient effects, but the nature of the film itself doesn't lend itself to it. The Dolby 2.0 Sound actually seemed superior.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Road Dawg, East Side, Drive By
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There's not much in the way of extras as might be expected from a somwhat low budget production. However, on a DVD for a film of this type, it is nice to have the cast and crew filmographies so that one can find other films by the people who are of interest in the movie. Similarly, I usually find "Sneak Peeks" and other promotional clips to be of dubious value as "extras"; here, I am glad to see the three trailers for "recommended" titles. If I were interested in the "urban" film, it is nice to have a chance to preview a couple of similar titles that I might want to look for when I take this one back to the video store.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Fans of "urban" drama will find a lot to like in Urban Jungle, a taut little story about a convict trying to go straight in the tough environment of the streets. DVD can provide a chance to see such interesting films that get little or no distribution to theaters and have a hard time breaking through all the dreck on the cable/satellite premium channels. This one is worth a rental, at least.

 


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