"Hope is found in the darkest places." - The tagline for 'Powder Blue.'
"This film should be locked away in a darkest of places." - If taglines were honest.
Rose Johnny (Jessica Biel) is a rarity in film these days. A stripper who actually strips. But inside, she's not a rarity. She obviously hates her job, is coked up, but refuses to sink to the same levels of debauchery as her coworkers. She's the stripper with a heart of gold, yet is full of turmoil, guilt, and pain. Qwerty Doolittle (Eddie Redmayne) is a mortician, who is as popular as anyone named after a keyboard could be. His family business is ready to go belly up, and he has the fortune of running over Johnny's dog with his hearse. Charlie (Forrest Whitaker) is a suicidal man who wants someone else to pull the trigger, with a backpack full of cash, and a guilty conscience that may never heal. Jack Doheny (Ray Liotta), just released from prison, has a briefcase full of cash (not a backpack), and a VIP pass to the Wild Velvet strip club where Johnny works.
So, for those not keeping score: a stripper in need of cash, a mysterious man with a briefcase full of cash, a mortician who's short on cash, and a weak willed suicidal man with a backpack full of cash. They talk to each other, draw random-ass conclusions, share beautiful moments, and help each other with their respective troubles. The end.
The "interweaving story line" ensemble drama genre has become so convoluted, filled with Oscar bait films with little purpose other than to guilt an audience into an emotion, that the once unique, thought provoking style is now a dime a dozen. Old hat. Ridden hard and put away wet... Oh geez, I made a mistake. I used the word "Oscar" in a review about 'Powder Blue.' There is nothing worthy of recognition here. The only awards that will be given out for this film should go to those who are able to sit through it, or to those who wanted to see it for something other than a topless Biel.
Dialogue can be outright painful to hear. Character motivation is always a blank. Best of all, these characters and their paths don't even all intertwine! The Charlie story doesn't affect the other characters in any possible way. He propositions Qwerty to do the deed for him, but since Qwerty just moves on and doesn't let it bother him in any manner whatsoever, it really doesn't matter. The fact that one of the characters talks to another doesn't mean their paths truly crossed, or that they will have some profound purpose in the lives of each other. If Qwerty accepted, blew the hell out of Charlie, then yeah, I'd see it, but otherwise, friends, that is what we call sloppy writing. These pieces are best when the characters all have some common theme, and in 100 minutes the only shared themes I could find with all four major characters were Los Angeles, money, and loneliness.
'Powder Blue' is a disaster from beginning to end. Not once was I gripped by the plight of any character. Not once did I really give a damn. The writing sucks, the pace is slower than a crawl. The actors, apparently, were in need of a paycheck, or all have very cruel agents. I can't say this film motivated me to do anything, for anyone, even myself. Not once did I have to think, not once did the story give me anything to need to think about. I was lulled into such a doldrum that I didn't even want to turn the film off (that said, since my viewing was for a review, I couldn't have anyways). It takes one hell of an awful film to make 'Crash' look like an awe-inspiring film by comparison, but 'Powder Blue' accomplishes said feat with ease.
Presented in an AVC MPEG-4 encode, this Blu-ray won't make you forget you're watching a real stinker. The film has a variety of aesthetic styles, with some smooth shots, some hazy, and some flat out ugly. The grain level fluctuates a bit, but mostly registers in the heavy category. The grain doesn't affect finer detail too much, as I still found myself able to distinguish some finer facial details from time to time. Ironically, I caught a few edge halos due to the aggressive grain smattering. On the bright side, there are no signs of DNR.
Skin tones wear their surroundings, so they're not accurate all that often. Black levels are soft and flat. The backgrounds can be a bit noisy. Colors bleed. Color saturation and contrast jump around much like the story, creating an uneven, somewhat ugly appearance. Color banding is apparent. A real mess, much like the quality of the film itself.
With a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, 'Powder Blue' at least doesn't sound all that bad. Every disaster of a line is clear and easy to hear. Dialogue, score, and effects coexist nicely. The bass is dominating, as the Wild Velvet sequences get the room thumping, as do a few other shorter scenes. The rears were fairly active, with discrete little nothings in the background, some echoes, a few moments of directionality, and bits of score trying to make the film feel a bit less like the cheap train wreck that it is.
Also included is a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as the secondary audio track.
'Powder Blue' comes with a few supplements to round out the package.
I'd consider the script for 'Powder Blue' to be of less value than a paper toilet seat liner, if not the toilet paper itself, and it could easily double in purpose as either. It wants to be profound, deep, and moving, but the only movement it will inspire directly correlates to the previous sentence, one way or another. With ugly video qualities only offset by a decent sound mix, I can't recommend anyone plop down their hard earned cash on something they will later be embarrassed to have in their collection. Guys, we know what you want out of this film, just Google it.