Apparently, for the filmmakers of 'Quicksilver,' the best way to show a change in a character is to have him shave his moustache and work a dangerous, low-wage job that could kill him, if not leave him with a hospital bill that stretches the length of San Francisco. This is, in a nutshell, the premise behind the 1986 drama with bike messengers written by Thomas Michael Donnelly, who also served as director but whose career since has survived making TV movies. The poor sap we're meant to witness suffering through his transformation of self-improvement is the usually charismatic Kevin Bacon, and his performance in the role is what makes our suffering through this wishy-washy melodrama the least bit bearable and arguably memorable.
Now, let's take for a moment that visual image of Bacon's unique facial features and imagine it with the most hideous moustache you've ever encountered. The thin, ugly cluster of whiskers resting just above his lips like a dehydrated, hairy caterpillar should really be given its own credit title: "And Introducing Hank as Kevin Bacon's Faux Moustache." I don't mean to make this review all about the actor's repulsively distracting facial hair, but in a movie where its removal is used to signify change, how could it not be mentioned. It is evidently an important prop. After losing everything, including his parents' savings, in a stock trade that went sour, the once-prominent floor trader, Jack (Bacon), takes his first step towards rebuilding himself by shaving and growing out his hair a bit.
The new and improved man, who only thought money and material possessions were evidence of success, spends his last penny on a single-speed bicycle and finds happiness hurtling through city traffic as a messenger. Admittedly, I really liked the way Donnelly and editor Tom Rolf, via a subtle and amusing montage sequence, show this makeover as a measured progression, starting with the removal of the aforementioned whiskers and slowly shedding the layers of his business suit. Sadly, the scene is also the film's most visually creative element, as it speeds towards the finish line on cruise control in very workmanlike fashion. The usual plot points are arrived at as if found on a map with Jack's parents and his live-in girlfriend pressuring him to return to the financial market while his former partner visits him in order to talk shop, creating a conflict between his current passion and his talents as an investor.
Donnelly makes his best gambles on moments like these, the personal and intimate interactions between characters as Jack struggles with his guilt and self-loathing. As we spend more time on his new career path, we learn also about his coworkers. A good chunk is disbursed to Hector (Paul Rodriguez), a good-hearted and ambitious family man who dreams of running his own food stand, and Terri (Jami Gertz), a young naïve woman who habitually lies about her past. Unfortunately, Donnelly makes a risky wager that doesn't pan out by throwing a criminal element into the mix. A very young Laurence Fishburne is a messenger who earns extra cash making deliveries for a local smuggler named Gypsy (Rudy Ramos). When the stuttering crook tries to bring Terri into his fold, the movie suddenly morphs into action mode in the third act and pretty much ruins the good drama which preceded it.
As a story of rude awakenings and redemptions, which it is essentially about, 'Quicksilver' works as a drama about one man's disillusionment with 80s money-driven culture. The plot is worthwhile with plenty of potential and frankly, a great performance from Kevin Bacon. The film may even work best with most audiences to satisfy some nostalgic desires. However, the final heartfelt delivery arrives later than promised, needlessly complicated by the introduction of city routes that add more time and ultimately come to a dead end.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment brings 'Quicksilver' to Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD25 disc, housed inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase. At startup, the disc goes straight to a main menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
'Quicksilver' rides the congested Blu-ray highway with a strong, often excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, displaying sharp, crisp contrast from beginning to end. Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the image is comfortably bright with brilliant whites and superb visibility into the far distance. From hair and clothing to the city architecture and streets, the video is highly detailed, exposing every crevice on the sidewalk, the smallest cracks on building walls and every imperfection on the bikes of messengers. Facial complexions appear healthy with great lifelike textures during close-ups while the overall color palette is bold and animated with richly-saturated primaries. With a thick, natural grain structure that's a tad more prominent during nighttime sequences, the transfer has an appreciable cinematic quality to it. Black levels are accurate, with good shadow delineation though one or two scenes standout with darker areas seeming a bit overwhelming. In fact, the weaker parts of the presentation are age-related issues in the source and thus, easily forgivable.
Kevin Bacon weaves in and out of traffic with a slightly less than impressive DTS-HD Master Audio stereo soundtrack. It's not necessarily bad; there's just nothing really memorable about it. Imaging feels wide and welcoming, as music spreads evenly across the soundstage with the very 80s song selections. Low bass helps out in this area, providing some amusing weight to those rocking sounds, but it doesn't extend very deep or ever feel the least bit authoritative, which leaves some of the action feeling empty and anemic. The mid-range is clean and fairly detailed, yet uniform with little distinction in the instrumentation or various scenes. Background activity and discrete effects broaden the soundfield somewhat, but it's not very convincing with hardly any movement between the channels. With clean, intelligible dialogue in the center, the lossless mix doesn't make any waves, but it gets the job done for an average 80s action drama.
'Quicksilver' is the bike messenger drama where Kevin Bacon abandons material wealth and rediscovers himself by hurtling through busy city traffic. The film has its moments of good storytelling, but ultimately loses all bets when the plot needlessly turns into an action flick in order to cross the finish line. The Blu-ray arrives with a very good picture quality and an audio presentation that gets the job done, but the lack of supplements brings the overall package down to a rental.