Owing his publisher a yet-to-be written and long overdue novel, author (and police detective) Dennis Meechum (Brian Dennehy Silverado, F/X) is intrigued when approached by a self-professed hit man named Cleve (James Woods,The Onion Field) to pen his story. Skeptical at first, but curious, Meechum is eventually convinced that Cleve is in fact telling the truth when presented with a list of “hits” requested by high powered executive David Matlock (Paul Shenar, Scarface, The Big Blue). The stakes are raised when news of a possible tell-all is revealed, endangering those closest to Meechum.
There’s something about 1980s thrillers that I just can’t help but love. There’s something about how they feel. Maybe it’s the way they’re shot, or the over-the-top stories, the sound effects editing, maybe the synth scores - but they all have a sense to them that when you watch them 20+ years later, you know instantly what decade they’re from. ‘Best Seller’ is guilty of all these qualities in the best ways.
The film opens in 1972, beat cop Dennis Meechum - the always awesome Brian Dennehy - is filing some evidence on the very day a group of murderous thieves brake into the county lockup wearing Richard Nixon masks. During the theft, three cops were killed and Dennis is shot twice nearly dying himself. During his recovery, Dennis writes a best selling novel about his experience in this unsolved crime and his theories of who pulled off the deadly heist.
Flash forward 15 years and Dennis is still a cop who owes his publisher another book on top of mounting debts after the death of his wife. During an undercover bust, a mysterious man, a gloriously off the rails James Woods, lends a helping hand in apprehending the suspect with his own unique set of lethal skills. The man calls himself Cleve and he has a proposition that the burned out Dennis simply can’t ignore - follow a self confessed hitman who also happened to work for one of the country’s most successful men, and get a new best seller out of it.
So right out of the gate I’m going to say, this is hardly a great movie - far from it in fact. But there is something about this movie that you can’t help but love. It could be the performances from leads Dennehy and Woods who actually play well off each other, it could be the Larry Cohen script, the direction - whatever it is, it makes this movie fun, albiet in probably an unintentional way. This movie also attempts to crack into the “Buddy Cop” genre that was so popular at the time, only it isn’t so much of a “Funny Guy and Stoic Cop,” it’s actually more in tune to “Vicious Psychotic Killer With Hero Complex and Stoic Cop.”
It’s an interesting premise, Cop/Writer works with killer as the subject of his next book, but there is so much that doesn’t fall in line with common sense that you can’t help but enjoy it. Even after a second act revelation that in a normal world, their partnership would have ended leaving Cleve dead or in jail, Dennis actually ends up liking and trusting the man even more. Then there are the numerous aiding and abetting laws that Dennis himself is breaking, but so what? It’s the 80’s! Proper police procedure and legality can wait for ‘L.A. Law.’ And that alone is probably why this movie is such a gas to watch. This movie can’t be taken seriously, especially with this much scene chewing from its leads. If you go into this movie expecting believability and common sense character motivation, I can’t see you making it past the first act. If you put your feet up, hands behind your head and just go with it, you’ll have a good time. Give it a shot, you might enjoy yourself.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
‘Best Seller’ arrives on Blu-ray from Olive films on a BD25 disc. Housed in a standard Blu-ray case, the disc opens straight to the main menu.
Olive Films brings an okay HD transfer for ‘Best Seller’ to Blu-ray. Hardly a hit film in its theatrical run, this transfer has a number of issues marring the image quality. First, there are frequent scratches and nicks in the print that, while not huge or disruptive, they are there and are especially noticeable in darker scenes. Secondly, this is a crunchy looking movie. While fine detail is nice, it looks as though some edge enhancement was used. Lastly, banding pops it’s head into the picture here and there, depending on the suit James Woods is wearing in any particular scene.
On the plus side of things, detail is pretty strong since film grain looks relatively untouched, as are colors - reds and blues have a good pop to them. Black levels and shadows are also pretty strong. For what is undoubtably a dated master, this is overall an okay transfer. Nothing spectacular, nothing eye-gougingly awful.
‘Best Seller’ drinks in all of the 80s goodness there is to offer with this solid DTS-HD MA 2.0 track. If you love gun shots that sound like cannons exploding, car engines that sound like Mac Trucks, super-synth soundtracks then you’re going to love this track. This is a fairly robust track with plenty of imaging with a nice layered presence as dialogue, the Jay Ferguson score, and sound effects have plenty of room to live without blowing out the mix or cause any distortion. Also nice to hear is that the track is free from any hiss, pops, or breaks in the track. All around a great mix for a late 1980s thriller.
Original Trailer: (HD 1:44) A pretty fun little trailer, shows that the picture and audio elements are in much better shape than they could have been.
‘Best Seller’ is a movie of it’s decade. I doubt it would have ever gotten made 20 years later, or if it did, it wouldn’t have lasted long in theaters. While admittedly, it’s not a great movie, it's a fun one to watch, if for no other reason than watching James Woods play an unhinged psycho killer and Brian Dennehy do what he does best. It’s a movie that made me want to pull out my copies of ‘Raw Deal,’ ‘Blue Steel,’ and ‘Man Hunter’ again and have a true 80s movie marathon. While the movie is fun, the picture quality is only so so. Thankfully the DTS-HD track is great leading me to say this release of 'Best Seller' from Olive Films is worth a look.