Unfortunately, revisiting a 26-year-old film like '9 1/2 Weeks' is not the nostalgia trip I originally anticipated. Sure, listening to many of the songs used throughout, like Joe Cocker's "Leave Your Hat On," brings back some fun memories, and seeing all the big hair made me cringe with laughter, but one thing kept scratching at the back of my mind for a good part of the runtime: What happened to Mickey Rourke? He was a great-looking guy back in the day, practically epitomizing the figure of a sexy, loner macho dude just around his face alone. His short-lived career change as a professional boxer and the massive reconstructive surgery that soon followed has left a permanent mark on his overall appearance.
None of this ultimately matters, of course, but it's enough of a distraction that I felt compelled to at least mention it. He used to look a lot like the young Bruce Willis. But, it's all about the acting in the end, as it always really should, and Rourke is great in this erotic drama which once caused a huge uproar in 1986. Ruminations about physical looks aside, there is something weirdly scary but also seductively vulgar about his portrayal as the Wall Street broker, John Gray. His name even emphasizes a shroud of mystery surrounding him, and his sterile, minimal lifestyle at home suggests a man always in control and neatly ordered. To him, life is an organized, structured existence of power, and Rourke plays the part with amazing effect as an individual who's as equally provocative to women and as he is quietly terrifying.
These small visual attributes meant for providing characterization are primarily what makes '9 1/2 Weeks' an intriguing work from a creative standpoint. So much is revealed from what we see on screen than what is said by characters. One standout sequence has Rourke answer a phone call that's full of ambiguity and ask his girlfriend, played by Kim Basinger, to wait for him in his almost empty apartment. In contrast to Rourke's John, Basinger's Elizabeth is a more fully developed character. Working at a SoHo art gallery, the recently divorced woman is a hip, upbeat, curious and cultured individual who doesn't appear to be looking for a relationship. She finds one nonetheless in John and receives more than she bargained for, naively mistaking a passionate sexual affair for love.
The experience Elizabeth has with John also exposes something about herself she was unaware of, which is where the sequence with the phone call comes in. When he asks her stay and hang around, he's actually instructing her to wait for his return. Seeing her sit right at the moment of his request is essentially Elizabeth being submissive and obeying his command. While he's away, she does some light snooping. The phone coincidentally rings, and John is on the other end as if intuitively aware of what she's doing. It's a creepy moment, and he takes advantage by threatening Elizabeth with a spanking. Their affair is growing progressively perverse and sadomasochistic, slowly humiliating and threatening to turn her into a mere object of desire, which in other areas of the film we see her constantly avoiding.
Working from a script inspired by the novel of Elizabeth McNeill, director Adrian Lyne knows exactly what he wants from the material and how to work the camera to achieve it. Known for his movies with sexually-charged themes, Lyne shows Elizabeth's downward spiral into carnal depravity with a series of titillating moments in which John gradually breaks down and manipulates her ability for self-control. Her coming to this realization is also nicely done with two interesting and creative scenes where she sees her ex-husband in the art gallery and at an exhibition of Farnsworth's artwork. I wouldn't go so far as to call '9 1/2 Weeks' groundbreaking or even masterful, but Lyne's erotic drama is very well-made with a great performance from Rourke and remains just as engagingly provocative as it was when it originally premiered amid a slew of controversy.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Bros. brings the original uncut version of '9 1/2 Weeks' to Blu-ray on a Region Free, BD25 disc and housed inside a blue eco-cutout keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to the main menu with a still photo and music.
'9 1/2 Weeks' tries to get steamy with Blu-ray, but the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, unfortunately, fails to leave viewers completely satisfied.
Anyone familiar with the films of Adrian Lyne won't likely be surprised since the director has a penchant for rough, stylized photography with a strong erotic feel. If looked at from this understanding, the high-def transfer appears true to form with a thick layer of visible grain throughout that's consistent and unobtrusive. The issue is with the video's mostly soft appearance and many poorly-resolved scenes. The disc does display slightly above average contrast balance and decent black levels. Colors are a definite improvement with attractive skin tones, so that could be enough to convince fans of an upgrade.
Although there are moments which are great and nicely detailed, a majority of the 1.85:1 picture frame is not likely to impress anyone
On the audio side, Warner provides the erotic drama with a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that slightly better than the video.
Except for a few whispered words by Basinger's character, especially towards the end, dialogue reproduction is fairly strong and well-prioritized. Being a 80s movie, the lossless mix is a front-heavy presentation, as it should be really. But the track seems to have been cleaned up a bit, displaying an engaging and moderately wide image with good off-screen effects. The fronts exhibit great channel separation and excellent balance of the mid-range, particularly with Jack Nitzsche's original score and the several song selections. In fact, the track's best aspect comes from the music by expanding the soundstage and supplied with an appreciably bass-response that's appropriate to events on screen.
This is a solid track for a catalogue release.
The only available supplement is the movie's Original Theatrical Preview, presented in standard-def.
At the time of its release, '9 1/2 Weeks' was a controversial film about a passionate sexual affair that slowly grows more perverse and sadomasochistic. Starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, and directed by Adrian Lyne, this erotic drama is very well-made though far from anything groundbreaking. The Blu-ray arrives with an average picture quality but a slightly better audio presentation. This is pretty much a bare-bones release, so fans and the curious might want to give it rent first before purchasing.