Watching 'Jade,' William Friedkin's lame duck erotic thriller, feels more like digging up a time capsule from the mid-1990's than revisiting a forgotten film.
When else could the low-wattage star power of David Caruso, Linda Fiorentino and Chazz Palminteri have been expected to sell a movie? (And those are all the above-the-title talent!) The movie was written by Joe Eszterhas, then a boffo screenwriting titan who had, just a month before 'Jade's' release, been responsible for the screenplay for the reviled 'Showgirls.' Ah, to be young and alive in 1995.
The story of 'Jade,' if there is one, revolves around a sex crime. A wealthy San Francisco man is murdered in his home during some kind of sex game. The murder weapon is an ancient axe that the man had collected. (Both the theme and setting are reminiscent of Eszterhas' superior 'Basic Instinct,' released a few years earlier) David Caruso, as an assistant district attorney named David Corelli, is on the case, along with stock 'cop' characters played by the likes of Michael Biehn (rocking an incredible fuzzy caterpillar moustache). The investigation soon leads him to Katrina Gavin (Linda Fiorentino), a psychologist Caruso used to be involved with, and her husband, a criminal attorney named Matt Gavin (Chazz Palminteri).
Fill in the rest of the plot with standard Eszterhas fodder, including but not limited to a mouthy prostitute (played, very poorly, by supermodel Angie Everhart – and this is coming from somebody who actually liked her in 'Tales from the Crypt: Bordello of Blood'), a prolonged car chase through the twisty-turny streets of San Francisco, several sex tapes, a sleazy, sex-crazed governor, and tiny tin jars full of different women's pubic hair (no, I'm not kidding).
In fact, the name of the movie as well as the main investigation, begins with one of these tins of pubic hair, marked, mysteriously, 'Jade.' Spooky, I know. Less spooky when you realize that even back in 1995 they could have run the hair, found the DNA and the case would have been over way sooner without all the plodding, thunderous nonsense that follows.
In Eszterhas' must-read memoir "Hollywood Animal," he admits that 'Jade' was a lousy movie but doesn't take full responsibility for what wound up on screen, saying that William Friedkin, at the time a long way from his 1970s highpoints of 'The Exorcist' and 'The French Connection,' extensively rewrote the script (these claims were later confirmed by Friedkin). In fact, Eszterhas tried to take his name off the movie at one point. Additionally, 'Jade' was produced by the once-great Bob Evans, who Eszterhas paints in the book as a desperate, broke glory hound who needed a hit, badly.
These behind-the-scenes tidbits certainly explain the incomprehensible nature of 'Jade,' to a degree, but as you watch you can't help but wonder about certain things, like, say, what a cat is doing wandering in a hallway of a major metropolitan police station (and no one seems to notice) or, in a scene where Caruso is interrogating Everhart, why he kind of falls through the doorframe, like he's drunk (seriously – watch this part, it's almost worth the rental for that alone). The car chase, in particular, is a bungled job that could have been something special, especially given Friedkin's penchant for vehicular mayhem ('To Live and Die in L.A.' wasn't all that long ago at the time of 'Jade's' production). In 'Jade,' cars pogo at the top of each hill, bouncing down the road. It's not convincing or fun or particularly enjoyable because they're so cartoony. For a director once known for his brutal level of cinematic honesty, 'Jade' is a big fat joke.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This 25GB Blu-ray disc does not automatically play. It is Region "A" locked and, unlike its VHS incarnation, does not feature the unrated material that supposedly would have tipped the movie into an NC-17. Watching the movie again you realize how tame it really is, with a minimum of sex, nudity, or violence. (Its R rating seems to have been secured more for language than anything else.) In fact, the most scandalous thing about 'Jade' is its suggestive poster, which is replicated here on the Blu-ray box.
The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer (1.78:1 aspect ratio) looks pretty crummy, not that this movie deserved much more.
The overall image quality is soft. Definition just isn't there, much less 'high.' There's tons of grain, colors are muted, and there are scattered technical issues (like compression artifacts) throughout. I guess skin tones look okay but blacks are soft and lack depth.
This is probably an improvement over the DVD edition (which, again, only featured the theatrical cut), but I can't imagine there are too many 'Jade' enthusiasts out there, waiting anxiously for the next edition to be released.
The less said about the movie, and this transfer, the better.
Again, the sole audio mix (an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track) does little to impress.
Sure, there's some surround sound muscle to the car chase, which does offer some nice heft to the mix, but besides that things sound flat and limp. Really, this thing just doesn't make much of an impression on you. It's dialogue heavy, so the mix is pretty front and center, although dialogue is crisp, clear, and easy to understand (and well prioritized). Still, it's also a 'thriller,' so a little more ambiance and atmosphere would have been nice.
The one thing that this newer, somewhat clearer mix does do is offer a new appreciation of James Horner's score. The music, which veers from the baroquely grandiose to the annoyingly tinny and electronic, is really interesting. The baroque stuff really works and sounds lovely here, while the electronic stuff sounds cheap and dated.
There are also subtitles in English, English SDH, and Spanish.
If you're looking for some lengthy, inside story retrospective documentary where Friedkin and Eszterhas hash things out and talk about what a colossal failure 'Jade' was, well, look elsewhere. In fact, if you're looking for any extras of note, take a walk. There's nothing here besides a poorly presented trailer.
'Jade' is just awful, an overcooked mid-'90s erotic potboiler with nothing (NOTHING) going for it except for the occasional oddity, like watching Caruso fall through the doorframe. There's really nothing redeeming about the movie (which reeks of desperation) or the disc (which reeks of cheap cash-in). Subpar audio and video quality and a lone standard-def, full frame extra does not make for a must-have Blu-ray. To paraphrase Devo: skip it, skip it good.