The Crying Game [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (19th February 2017).
The Film

“The Crying Game” (1992)

Jody (played by Forest Whitaker) is a British soldier who gets kidnapped by members of the Irish Republican Army in order for an exchange of prisoners. Watching over him is Fergus (played by Stephen Rea), who starts feeling a bit of sympathy for the terrified yet somehow positive Jody. Whether it was arguing about if cricket or hurling was a better sport or Jody showing his picture of the love of his life - the beautiful Dil (played by Jaye Davidson) from his wallet, the two men start a companionship with occasional smiles rather than the normal prisoner and guard relationship. Jody is still willing to die for his country and tells Fergus that after he dies to make sure to find Dil in London and tell her that Jody loved her.

When the time comes for the prisoner’s execution, the British Army storms the area and inadvertently and shockingly kills Jody in the process. Fergus is able to flee, and with nowhere to go and on the run, decides to take the voyage from Northern Ireland to Great Britain to find Dil. While he has the intention of meeting Dil to tell her about Jody’s feelings and what had happened, he cannot bring himself to say the cold and regrettable truth. Instead, he gets a haircut at her salon, has conversations with her at a bar, and slowly starts falling in love with her. But as their relationship gets further, he feels the guilt of not telling her the truth, while Dil also has a secret of her own…

Writer/director Neil Jordan had the idea for the story of “The Crying Game” floating around for nearly a decade, but there was difficultly in developing the story fully and circumstances directing other features leaving the original script titled “The Solder’s Wife” on the backburner. The story of a soldier falling in love with an enemy soldier’s widow has been a story told many times through history, and Jordan felt the cliché would not have much of an impact. Jordan’s Irish/British films at the start of his film career “Angel” (1982), “The Company of Wolves” (1984), and “Mona Lisa” (1986) were huge critical and commercial successes which led him to Hollywood for subsequent work. Unfortunately Jordan’s career in America was not as impacting as his earlier British efforts as his films “High Spirits” (1988), “We’re No Angels” (1989) and “The Miracle” (1991) were flops. Hollywood was not a bright looking future for him, so it was decided to return to Europe for his next film. “The Soldier’s Wife” was tweaked around and a twist was thought of that could highly impact the plot (and obviously a major spoiler is here for those who do not know already). What if the person the soldier in love with was not a woman but a man? With the additional detail filled into the script, the already not-so-bankable director had a script that was even more unbankable. Many studios and financiers passed on the project. The only place supporting Jordan and the script was Palace Pictures who was on the edge of bankruptcy and needed support from others. For the UK investors the biggest issue was not the sexual angle but of the political angle of a sympathetic IRA member and the film dealing with terrorist incidents which were still at the forefront of the news. Eventually support came from Miramax Pictures in the United States and Nippon Herald in Japan, where the political angle was not as big but the sexual aspect was the bigger selling point.

Stephen Rea was cast quite easily as he had worked with Jordan in the past on films such as “Angel” and “The Company of Wolves”. The casting of Forest Whitaker was a slightly controversial one - as he is an American playing a British soldier and Black British actors were upset that an American would get the role rather than a native of the British Isles, but this was a way to push American filmgoers with a known face and the help through Miramax. Rea and Whitaker’s scenes together for the majority of the first 40 minutes were crucial and they played off each other quite well in the limitations they had. The IRA members of Jude and Peter were played by Miranda Richardson and Adrian Dunbar respectively. While their supporting roles are crucial to the plot, the two really were not fleshed out enough to make audiences care for them by the end where there is basically no sympathy. But do we really need sympathy for terrorists? Regardless, they were the least developed characters in the film. The casting of Dil was to be the most difficult part. They needed a man who could act, could convincingly play a woman, and most likely be an unknown so audiences would not know the twist. Jaye Davidson was a model at the time and had the looks and voice that proved convincing to play the transgender role of Dil. There were concerns such as Davidson having to strip completely in one scene for a full frontal shot - as Davidson was cast but no one thought about asking if that would be a problem or the other issue of if Davidson still had an appendage or not, pre or post operation. Luckily Davidson was still in fact a man and was willing to do the nude scene.

Politically “The Crying Game” was all about the issues of The Troubles in Norther Ireland which was an unavoidable issue as it was a scary part of daily life for many people. The film does not go into the political reasons or the backgrounds of each character and “why?” but rather these are their lives and these are the problems they face in their line of “work”. The background was not exactly necessary for British audiences at the time but for international audiences the real issues went over the vast majority’s heads. Because of the reality shown in the film, UK critics and publications were extremely hesitant to promote the film with a sympathetic IRA member as the main character, coupled with a bombing in 1992 not too long before the release of the film that made publications and promotion virtually non-existent. There was one request from Jordan to critics and that was for reviews NOT to publish the revelation in the middle of the film. The film premiered in Britain on October 30th 1992 and not surprisingly, it was a massive failure in Britain only grossing 2 million pounds at the box office.

In the United States it was released in limited screenings on November 27th 1992. Miramax decided to market the film on its “secret” angle as the political portion was lost to many American cinemagoers. The campaign was set to have audiences NOT reveal the secret, in a similar fashion to “Psycho” in 1960. The campaign worked and people were talking about the movie and also NOT talking about the mentioned secret. With the Academy Award nominations announced for the year, “The Crying Game” was nominated for six awards and that led to a wide release 13 weeks later on February 19th 1993, where it landed at #4 on the weekend box office chart, staying in the top 10 for two months, grossing more than 62 million dollars in the United States, making it one of Miramax Pictures’ most successful films. Interestingly, Jaye Davidson was nominated for “Best Supporting Actor” and that seemingly spoiled the twist for audiences, but it seemed many people did not connect one with the other and the reveal was still a shock. There are certain films that have a “twist” that it is remembered by but if the film itself is not good, no one will really remember the film except for the twist. (Sorry William Castle!) For “The Crying Game” it was a great story that set it over the top. There was unrequited love, bloody revenge, sacrifice, social issues in government politics and terrorism, and of course sexual politics. At the center of it all were guilty characters that were able to redeem themselves, deep conflict mentally and physically, and of course extremely hard and witty dialogue. Even the minor character of the barman played by Jim Broadbent gets some great lines across.

Along with the “Best Supporting Actor” nomination, the film was also nominated for Best Film Editing, Best Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. It walked away with one win for Jordan’s screenplay, cementing his film career, with continued consecutive successes with “Interview with the Vampire” (1994), “Michael Collins” (1996), and “The Butcher Boy” (1997). With the main actors all except Jaye Davidson continued to have lengthy careers in film and television on both sides of the Atlantic. Davidson on the other hand decided to quit acting altogether and concentrate on the modeling business and he has kept quietly out of the celebrity limelight.

Transgender actors and/or transgender characters in films were not a commonplace in 1992 and it was unprecedented that a film with the subject dealing with a transgender character would cross into the mainstream at that time. Sadly 25 years later, it is still not a commonplace and one subject that still raises eyebrows for average filmgoers. Like in the early days of cinema there were no black actors in the mainstream, or Asian characters were played by whites, it may take another generation or so but hopefully it will be something people will not feel uncomfortable about. Regardless, there will always be “The Crying Game” to break a major barrier.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray which can only be played back on region B or region free Blu-ray players

Video

The BFI presents the film in 1080p in the AVC MPEG-4 codec in the original theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The original 35mm negative was scanned at 2K for this remastered edition, digitally restored to remove damage, specs, and scratches from the original elements, and the results are fantastic. The image looks pristine with deep colors, sharp visuals, and correct framing in the wide ratio. For the transfer, there really are no faults to be mentioned.

Playback Issues
On the other hand, on my Blu-ray player there were a few hiccups with the main feature. There were moments in the film where the film would suddenly skip about 20 seconds ahead for no apparent reason. No chapter stops or seamless branching issues. Rewinding 19 seconds would let me see the scenes but if rewinding to the 20 second point it would suddenly skip again. These would happen at specific points in the film as listed below:

37:25, 39:01, 52:05, 53:31, 92:33, 93:00, 94:39, 101:08, 102:18, 102:53

The skips would happen regardless of watching it with the main feature audio or the audio commentary. This may be a player specific issue. On a different hand, the review of the disc at DVDBeaver has mentioned that the documentary extra was not playable, while on my personal disc the documentary had no issue but the main feature did. The BFI has been notified of the issue, and as they have tested their disc on multiple players and had no issues with playback, it does seem to be a lone issue on my player.

UPDATE:
Playback on another player had no issues with the disc whatsoever.

The runtime of the film on the Blu-ray is 112:37.

Audio

English LPCM 2.0 stereo
The original stereo audio track is offered in lossless audio. As with the visuals, the stereo soundtrack has been remastered from the original master elements. There isn’t a whole lot of stereo separation as dialogue is mostly centered, but music tracks such as “When a Man Loves a Woman” by Percy Sledge and “The Crying Game” by Boy George sound very good, as well as directional gunfire and explosions. Nothing to particularly fault about the audio track either. An excellent track.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font. Easy to read, well timed, there are no faults here either.

Extras

This is a dual format Blu-ray + DVD edition, with the film and extras on the Blu-ray and the DVD having the same content, but in standard definition PAL on a region 2 disc. The following are the extras and runtimes on the Blu-ray disc:

Audio commentary with writer and director Neil Jordan
Jordan’s commentary is a solo effort and he manages to get across a great deal of information - the genesis of the project, the financing difficulties, the casting issues, the reception of the film, and how he didn’t realize the story of the Scorpion and the Frog was also used in Orson Welles’ “Mr. Arkadin”. The commentary was previously recorded for the 2005 DVD editions of the film.
in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Alternative ending (with optional commentary by Neil Jordan) (4:55)
The original ending that was scripted was not approved by the financiers and so Jordan scripted a strangely unfitting happy ending or “fake ending” as he called it and was shot as he had not much choice. The financiers saw the ending shot and realizing the mistake made, the original prison ending was shot for the final film. The alternative happy ending was preserved on videotape, and this looks very weak but is still in a watchable state. This was previously available on the 2005 DVD editions of the film.
in 1080i 60hz (upscaled) AVC-MPEG-4, in 2.35:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"The Making of The Crying Game" documentary (50:24)
Interviews with Neil Jordan, producer Stephen Woolley, actor Stephen Rea and many more are compiled together for a comprehensive documentary on the making of the film. Much of the info is covered in the audio commentary but it is interesting to hear the reactions from the many other people involved in the production and also by critics. This was previously made for the 2005 DVD editions of the film.
in 1080i 60hz (upscaled) AVC-MPEG-4in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

"Northern Troubles" featurette (8:50)
While on location making the above documentary, the crew also hear additional thoughts about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It is more like outtakes from the documentary rather than a straight up standalone featurette.
in 1080i 60hz (upscaled) AVC-MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer 1 (1:37)
The “When a Man Loves a Woman” and “The Crying Game” songs play with clips and narration for a standard trailer.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with no subtitles

Trailer 2 (0:54)
The theatrical poster along is shown along with critic quotes and Boy George’s theme song.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.78:1, in LPCM 2.0 with English text

32 Page Booklet
The booklet includes essays, film and special features credits, photos, transfer notes, and acknowledgements. The first essay is “’It’s Funny the Way Things Go…’ Identity, Politics in Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game” by film critic and programmer Ashley Clark. Most of his essay is basically a summary of the entire film so please refrain from reading until after watching the film. The second essay is basically titled “The Crying Game” by journalist and author Juliet Jacques which goes further into the sexual politics and again has spoilers within. There is also a fairly lengthy biography on Neil Jordan by Brian Hoyle.

BFI has gathered a good amount of extras for the Blu-ray but not all has been carried over from the older DVD releases. There was a featurette called “Modern Day at Madame JoJo’s” which was not carried over and neither has the 5.1 remixed audio track. Also there are no “new” extras included on the release.

Overall

“The Crying Game” was sold on its shock twist but was a film much more than a gimmick - and was a clever redemption/revenge film that has lived on in popular culture and a surprising American box office success for a failed British film. The BFI’s release has excellent video and audio along with plentiful extras, though there is the issue about the disc skipping which may be a player specific issue. The Blu-ray still comes as very highly recommended.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: A- Overall: A

 


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