Emmett Foley (Gary Oldman, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Dark Knight), a Korean War hero institutionalized in the Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, FL following an attempted suicide, becomes an unlikely crusader, fighting to change a system that allowed the doctors and staff to brutalize their patients.
Back in 1989, the story of Chris Calhoun finally saw the big screen treatment. After being rejected time after time for his story, a small British production company said, "Yes", which was the same company that made 'Platoon' and 'Hoosiers'. The locked up director Mick Jackson, whose big claim to fame was directing 'Volcano' and 'The Bodyguard'. However, before those films made their social impact on the masses, Jackson directed Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, and Frances McDormand in a film called 'Chattahoochee', which refers to the city in Florida.
This film is based on the real life Chris Calhoun, who was a vet in the Korean war, suffers a breakdown, and ends up being committed to a mental hospital. While there, Calhoun witnessed torture, abuse, and murder of the patients being "cared" for. Calhoun himself was subject to this abuse, and it was widely documented and covered in the media, which ultimately led to extensive investigations and major changes nationwide, regarding the treatment and care of mental health patients. This is definitely not a happy-sunshine film by any means, and some moments might hit too close to home for some, giving the current state of mental health in this country.
Gary Oldman plays Emmett Foley, who is heavily based on the real life Calhoun, who returns from the Korean War and suffers a psychotic mental breakdown, due to shell shock, or as it's called today Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. In a scene that is difficult to watch and hits to close to home these days, Emmett takes a gun out into his neighborhood and begins shooting his neighbors, until he tries to take his own life. He survives and is placed in a mental hospital, which is more like the prison in 'Cool Hand Luke' than the institution in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'. Emmett soon realizes the pure hell he's in and that others are going through on daily basis at the hands of the guards and doctors, who constantly abuse and torture them for their own pleasure.
Meanwhile, Emmett's wife Mae (McDormand) is trying to understand why her husband had a breakdown, and doesn't understand that he needs help. Mae isn't exactly the smartest person here and thinks he can get out and support her and their daughter if he apologizes, never really caring for what's actually happening inside the hospital. More or less, her character is one-note here. Luckily, Emmett has a couple of friends in his sister Earlene (Pamela Reed), who encourages him to learn law and to take down the evil employees of the mental institution by writing about it, as well as a fellow inmate named Walker Benson (Dennis Hopper), who helps out Emmett when he can.
'Chattahoochee' may have some sort of happy ending in its own way, but it's not your stereotypical fun movie to watch. There isn't really a whole lot to laugh at here, and while it has some semblance of a happy ending, that's not usually the case with these situations. This movie takes a good and in depth look of what life was like for these poor patients in these mental hospitals back then, which will have you asking yourself, "Was it really like that?" Yes it was, unfortunately, and Jackson shows these horrors and truths very well, if not too well. Oldman's performance here is fantastic and should satisfy the Oldman fanatics, if you haven't seen this movie yet. 'Chattahoochee' isn't a bright and sunny film, but then again, it's not supposed to be, and that is where this film ultimately succeeds.
'Chattahoochee' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. For being a film that is over 25 years old, this image looks very good, although there are a couple very minor issues. One of the issues are the colors. nothing seems to pop or be very warm in nature, which is odd, considering all of the outdoor sequences or stuffy interior of the asylum. Colors just seem a tad bit muted, however the browns and of white colors look natural and well-balanced.
The shadow detail also has a few issues in the lower lit scenes, but if you blink, you'll miss it. That all being said, the detail is very sharp and vivid throughout, even in the darker sequences of the film. Individual hairs, makeup blemishes, dirt, and beads of sweat show up nicely in closeups. Wider shots are also rich in detail, giving the image a nice bit of depth. There is a nice layer of grain as well that never fluctuates and keeps the movie in its filmic state with zero major compression problems. This is a solid video presentation for sure.
This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix and does its job well, considering this isn't a fully immersive 5.1 option. The entire film is mostly dialogue driven between a couple of characters at a time, so there isn't a lot of explosions or gun fights here really, minus the first scene, so don't expect a huge action piece here by any means. That being said, this is a well-balanced audio mix of dialogue on the front speakers.
Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and high shrills. Sound effects and ambient noises sound decent and layered, although they really never pack a punch. The score always adds to the tone of the film, while never drowning out the dialogue and sound effects, but that's about as good as it gets here.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - The trailer for the film.
'Chattahoochee' is a great film, but it's also fairly difficult to watch, given the subject material and how close to home it might hit these days. Dennis Hopper and Gary Oldman turn in great performances here, and the story alone is reason enough to watch this. The video and audio presentations are both decent, but the only extra is a trailer, which is unfortunate. Where is the rest? That being said, this movie still comes recommended due to the solid performances and story.