Landmark musical comedy from acclaimed director Alan Parker (Angel Heart, Midnight Express). Fueled by raw talent and driven by dreams of glory, a dozen dead-enders from Dublin's gritty North Side share a passion for soul music that takes their band on a wild roller-coaster ride from the streets to the stage... to superstardom!
"Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud."
Sometimes when a movie reaches its 25th anniversary, you have to take a look back and realize how long it really has been. Some films date themselves immediately either through their politically charged stories depicting current events, where other films age gracefully and without you really noticing. It's shocking to realize that Alan Parker's lively and hilarious 'The Commitments' is enjoying such a milestone. 1991 feels like a long time ago, but when you sit down to watch this little gem of a movie about a ragtag Irish soul band and their determined manager, you'd swear that it came out only a few years ago. Nostalgia and age have been incredibly kind to 'The Commitments' making it feel almost timeless.
When you've got nowhere to go, when you've got no prospects to dig yourself up out of your station, you've got to create your own success. At least that's how the slick and the entrepreneurial minded Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) sees things. As a young man who can sell just about anything, Jimmy scrounges up a living selling off bootleg albums and movies on videotape. When he's not hustling a buck, he's stewing in his parents' (Colm Meaney and Anne Kent) home dreaming about possibilities. What Jimmy knows is music, he knows talent, and he's got an idea in his head about how to get out of Dublin - create the greatest, hardest working Irish soul band that ever existed.
With legends like James Brown as inspiration, Jimmy pulls together a group of talented players by holding auditions out his father's garage. With all of his performers in place, Jimmy is going to get a little extra help from Joey 'The Lips' Fagan (Johnny Murphy) who claims to have played with all of the greats from B.B. King to The Beatles. As the manager of the band, Jimmy is going to learn the hard lessons of life and success as he must figure out a way to do what's right for the band while leaving his personal feelings out of it. When events start to strain the band's solidarity, Jimmy must rally the troops to prove to everyone that doubted them that The Commitments is a real band comprised of genuine talent.
Based on the novel by Roddy Doyle, Alan Parker brings together a wonderful film about a group of misfit musicians and their young bullheaded manager. Alan Parker's deft touch with humor and drama ensures the film maintains its sense of hopefulness in the face of bleak prospects. As the audience, we want to see The Commitments break out big and get all of the accolades they deserve even though deep down we know they're likely to end up like many other bands who never find that level of peak success. We want to see them make it because like so many of us, they're working really hard to achieve a dream. Even if that dream is pie-in-the-sky, each of us has fantasized in some way about achieving some level of fame. In a way, this is the 'Rocky' of musicals, an underdog group the audience roots for to find fame and fortune and improve their lot in life.
Part of what makes 'The Commitments' so much fun is watching the band come together. Under the guidance of Robert Arkins' Jimmy, we're treated to one of the best audition montages ever committed to film. Some acts are hilariously terrible while others are genuinely talented but perhaps aren't great fits for a soul group. But what we're seeing is actually a talent show performed by people who had actually auditioned for the film but didn't fit the character roles, but Alan Parker found a way to use them anyway. Added to that, we get to see some really talented people on screen. Andrew Strong has an incredible voice and absolutely nails it as Deco Cuffe. Backup singers played by Angeline Ball, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Bronagh Gallagher have amazing voices. In addition to them, we get to enjoy a very young Glen Hansard of 'Once Fame' long before he reached his own Oscar-winning high point. Also worth noting, Robert Arkins was an accomplished musician himself although he never gets to sing a note or play an instrument in this film on camera - he did perform the hit opening credits tune "Treat Her Right."
Another aspect of 'The Commitments' that I love about it is that it is absolutely a musical without actually being a traditional musical. Each of the songs featured in the soundtrack or played by the band has a meaning behind it that fits within the context of the particular scene. These musical interludes get to take over the moment without breaking the film up so the characters can sing about their feelings and the film is richer for it. If feels like you're watching a group of real misfits dong their best. I was about 10 years old when this film came out. I was too young to catch it in theaters and it was actually years later before my father rented it and I got to sit down and watch it. Throughout all that time, the film was constantly on my radar. Someone was always talking about it. I had a teacher who absolutely loved it and frequently would play the soundtrack during her planning period. I knew a girl in my classes who obsessed over this movie because she wanted to be a singer. When I sat down to watch the film again, it was nice to see that the film held up after all these years. Nostalgia may be thick with this movie, but the great talent on screen and the relatable story help keep 'The Commitments' feeling timeless. Or it could be the array of amazing soul tunes being performed by talented individuals that keep it feeling so fresh? Either way, 'The Commitments' is a fantastic little film that is sure to entertain.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Commitments' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of RLJ Entertainment. Pressed onto a Region A BD50 disc, the disc opens with trailers for other RLJ releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options. The disc comes housed in a standard snapper Blu-ray case with identical slip cover. Included is a booklet containing the essay "The Making of the Film" by Director Alan Parker - and is well worth the read.
'The Commitments' make the big leap to Blu-ray with a fantastic 1.85:1 1080p transfer. The image maintains a notable grain structure ensuring that detail levels are sharp and clear without any worry of DNR tinkering. Most of the film is pretty grey and drab looking, so colors tend to be on the muted side of things without a lot of primary pop. Primaries are there, but with that much grey sky, it's a bit hard to notice at times, but it fits the sense of mood for the film. When the band starts playing some gigs, colors warm up and are more pronounced. Flesh tones look healthy and accurate, perhaps a bit pale in some places but nothing too worrisome. Black levels and shadows are well rendered as they maintain a sense of space and dimension without any crush issues or heavy contrast blooms. The print sourced for this image is in pretty fantastic shape. This looks to be a very recent remaster as there are only a couple speckles here and there and some very thin, microscopic scratches that you may not even notice. All around this is a fantastic transfer and fans should be delighted.
Just as strong as the transfer is the films' English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio track. I tend to be a little weary about full 5.1 mixes for a film that was originally shown in stereo as the track can sometimes lose dialogue in favor of a "surround" experience, but thankfully that isn't a worry here. Dialogue and more importantly, the music keeps to the front/center channels allowing the most important aspects of the mix to maintain their presence. The side channels are freed up to make great use of atmospherics and background sound effects. These aren't always as prominent when the music is playing, but during some of the Dublin street scenes or bar sequences, there is a sense of space and dimension to the mix. Free of any hiss, pop, or other age-related issues, this is an absolutely fantastic audio track that should put a big smile on fan's faces.
Audio Commentary: Director Alan Parker provides a fantastic commentary track that is loaded from beginning to end with an incredible amount of material. Parker is a deep well of info about the film and how it came to be so if you're a fan of the film its a must listen.
25 Years Later: Interviews with Alan Parker and Cast: (HD 19:09) This is a pretty great set of interviews that complements Parker's audio commentary nicely. Considering the size of the cast, this featurette could have been an hour longer and been welcome, but even at 19 minutes, it's still really good.
The Making of Alan Parker's Film 'The Commitments': (SD 22:37) This is a nice vintage behind the scenes feature that offers plenty of great material with the cast and crew.
'The Commitments': Looking Back: (SD 47:11) This is another fantastic piece of archive behind the scenes material. A lot of what's in here may be covered in other supplements, but it's still pretty cool to see and hear the cast and crew talking about their experiences.
Dublin Soul: (SD 14:53) This is a pretty great look at the situation in Dublin at the time the novel was written and the film was made.
Making of the Commitments: (SD 8:05) This is the typical EPK style making of feature that you would find on something like Entertainment Tonight around the time the film was made.
Treat Her Right Music Video: (SD 5:51) Includes an intro with Robert Arkins and Alan Parker.
Production Stills: (HD)
Behind The Scenes Stills: (HD)
I'm always a bit nervous when I revisit an old favorite I haven't looked at in a few years. Part of me worries that it won't hold up to my memories or that the film was never really that good and my adult self will squash my childhood joy. Thankfully 'The Commitments' feels like it hasn't aged a day. It's still just as fun and poignant as ever, with a number of great tunes performed by some really talented individuals. RLJ Entertainment has done an exceptional job with this release. The A/V presentation is absolutely fantastic and the assortment of extra features assembled should keep fans busy for hours. If you're a fan of the film and were eager for the HD upgrade, this is a must own. If you're new to 'The Commitments,' it's time to put this one in your player and give it a spin. Highly recommended.