Inherent Vice Blu-ray review
The wind moves the ocean water and the gulls cry out and there she is, coming along the alley and up the back stairs the way she always used to. The man on the couch looks in the doorway. His muttonchops sit thick, his hair wavy and his cigarettes close. “That you, Shasta?”
Shasta (Katherine Waterston, HBO’s BOARDWALK EMPIRE) has come to her ex, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix, in his second pairing with director Paul Thomas Anderson, after THE MASTER), a private investigator, with a problem: her current lover, real estate big shot Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts, 2013’s BEFORE I SLEEP), is about to become the target of a kidnapping plot that will have him committed to an insane asylum. Doc hasn’t seen Shasta in a long time, but he’s not about to turn his true love away.
It’s a decision that introduces a hippie-hating detective with Flintstone proportions named Bigfoot Bjornsen (Josh Brolin, Spike Lee’s OLDBOY), Black Guerrilla member Tariq Khalil (Michael K. Williams, BOARDWALK EMPIRE), recovering heroin addict Hope (Jena Malone, THE HUNGER GAMES), her informant husband Coy (Owen Wilson, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL), hyperactive dentist Rudy Blatnoyd (Martin Short, in perhaps his finest comedic turn). Matched with Doc’s attorney Sauncho (Benicio del Toro, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) and DA contact Penny (Reese Witherspoon, WILD), it’s a collection of characters that seem almost too far out to even imagine they could have been thought up. But there they are, occupying the town of Gordita Beach.
Piecing together how and why (or if) they connect offers quite a task. Turns out, it’s one that’s better not attempted. The best way to enjoy INHERENT VICE isn’t to glue together all of the characters and plotlines into cohesion, but rather to let it just happen and be a bystander (albeit one that moves out of the way of Doc’s car and Bigfoot’s fist). After all, this is a film that took inspiration not just from Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel, but the likes of Raymond Chandler, Cheech and Chong and the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker catalogue.
INHERENT VICE is, like Pynchon’s novel, a trip. The tone is spot on and the picture provides a number of laughs that come from warped gags and bent humor, which maintain a level of absurdity in the middle of a world populated by detectives, drug fiends, snitches, corrupt politicians and the like. As such, INHERENT VICE is a unique effort.
Still, it is ultimately unfulfilling. The film lacks the precision of Anderson’s finer works, like MAGNOLIA, THERE WILL BE BLOOD and THE MASTER. The film wanders around, sometimes in a hazy daze. One could argue that this produces a feeling of what these characters live every day, or that it’s an earned chance for an otherwise serious filmmaker to freewheel more than expected. But, really, it all comes off like an uneven experiment just to see if Anderson could indeed adapt Pynchon. He could and did. Now, whose idea was it to have Brolin fellate a frozen banana?
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong and colors occasionally pop, adding even more life to the film’s look and Robert Elswit’s cinematography. This is a strong transfer that comes off natural and faithful to the 1970s environment.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French 5.1 Dolby Digital; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. The audio is also very strong, with clean dialogue and music—both Jonny Greenwood’s score and the soundtrack (featuring Neil Young, Can and more) that come through wonderfully.
Los Paranoias (1:59): A promo for INHERENT VICE introduces the basic plot.
Shasta Fay (1:11): Shasta Fay is briefly profiled.
The Golden Fang (2:11): Another brief piece, this one on the mysterious Golden Fang.
Everything in this Dream (5:49) collects a handful of deleted and extended scenes.