Continental Divide is the last film of iconic comedian John Belushi from director Michael Apted and producer Steven Spielberg. Billed as a romantic comedy/drama the film follows two mismatched lovers who find themselves stuck between choosing their careers and their relationship. Kino Lorber brings the film to Blu-ray with a satisfying A/V experience but only a commentary track for the bonus features. Worth A Look.
“Life is full of little trade-offs.”
Ernie Souchak (John Belushi) is a successful Chicago reporter uncovering some political dirt on a corput alderman. In response to Souchak’s column the alderman sends some cops to rough him up. When his editor gets wind of the incident he sends Souchak on assignment to the Rocky Mountains to interview a research scientist studying eagles. Dr. Nell Porter (Blair Brown) has been wary of reporters while eluding them in her isolated cabin in Wyoming.
In his new brightly colored hiking gear the hard-hitting reporter sticks out like a sore thumb snaking his way up the mountain trails. At the cabin the two eventually meet after the scientist finds the reporter sleeping on her couch. “Reporters are parasites” the reclusive scientist says clearing up any confusion about how easy this two week assignment would be for Souchak. We get some majestic views of the Rockies while Nell goes about her day repairing the cabin. A hike affords Souchak some idea of her research work.
The city person/country person contest keeps their banter interesting and their flirtations innocent. Nell seems to be fond of Souchak’s company but despises the man the instant his legal pad comes out. After two weeks Souchak returns to Chicago looking like another victim of cupid’s arrow. Unable to see the value in his work his editor pleads with him to just write something, anything for the readers. The travel piece he submits reads like a Penthouse forum letter describing Nell’s body. It isn’t until a key informant is murdered that Souchak gets his stride and motivation back. When he learns Nell is lecturing in Chicago the hardscrabble reporter must make tough decisions about the course of his life with her.
Belushi is very good here keeping his well-known blend of antics at bay but using his charisma and timing to let his naturalistic acting shine through. He can do more in a scene with his face than most actors of his caliber (I’m looking at you, Jim Carrey). There is an inherent toughness while playing the straight-laced reporter but he possesses a heart of gold that shines through the grizzled exterior. Both qualities fit Belushi to a T making this performance something genuine and underappreciated. Blair Brown’s performance as the reclusive scientist matches Belushi’s nicely given her rugged demeanor towards poachers and reporters.
What makes Continental Divide work so well is the dynamic between Nell and Souchak combined with beautiful scenery and the emotional stakes that power the film’s ending. In the time of Zoom calls the relationship here doesn’t seem far fetched but In the 80’s the thought of two lovers connected only by Amtrak seemed like the death knell of anything but a fully committed relationship. The city/country game between the two is tiring at times but doesn’t become annoying thanks to Belushi’s charisma and delivery. It’s a shame we didn’t get more performances like this from the comedy icon.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Continental Divide arrives on Region A Blu-ray thanks to Kino Lorber. Housed in a standard keepcase the BD25 disc loads the Kino logo before landing on the static Main Menu screen with typical navigation options.
Continental Divide arrives with a 1080p/AVC encoded image in 1080p with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The Image presents loads of artifacts and noise with grain levels appearing high at the start of the film. Everything cleans up nicely once Souchak hits the streets. Primaries are strong like the red on Souchak’s backpack and the lush green treetops of the Rockies. Fine detail apparent on clothing and facial features though some scenes run soft and lose quite a bit of detail. Nell’s introduction in the cabin presents her with defined features on her tan coat and strands of hair highlighted by the flickering fireplace. Some specks visible but nothing to detract from the experience. Black levels hold steady though noise invades the image in shadow and cabin interiors. Colors are warm with pronounced reds and blues. Outdoor locations provide some beautiful lighting and picturesque backdrops to the witty banter between our two lead actors.
Kino’s Blu-ray doesn’t list anything regarding a scan or restoration here. Littered with grain and dirt on the opening and closing shots the image quality is greatly improved throughout the film with grand vistas and close-ups appearing well defined. Colors pop nicely through a soft lens effect that is utilized for the cabin scenes. This might be the best Continental Divide will look so those with older DVDs should consider an upgrade if you’re on the fence.
Continental Divide arrives on Blu-ray with a serviceable DTS-HD MA 2.0 that handles the proceedings confidently. While mostly a dialogue-driven film the audio track reproduces the noise of Chicago as well as the wildlife of Wyoming without noticeable hiss or pop. Dialogue is clear and clean without distortion.
While not jam-packed with features the commentary included on the disc is a fine accompaniment to the film. It bounces around a bit topically but some interesting bits nonetheless.
Continental Divide is an easy-going romantic drama with some genuine emotional stakes and clever wit. I'm sure it flopped because most expected the usual Belushi schtick but here he is a damn good actor and provides an excellent performance. One of his last films and I’m sure most won’t recognize the title but this Blu-ray should inspire more to seek out the film and enjoy a hidden gem worth watching. Kino Lorber has brought the Belushi film to Blu-ray with a satisfying A/V experience and a commentary track worth checking out. Recommended for fans.