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Kansas City Blu-ray Review


“Kansas City” is an unusual Robert Altman film.

Directed by Robert Altman (who also co-wrote the script along with Frank Barhydt), “Kansas City” is a 1930’s set story about Jazz music, race, criminal enterprises, and politics. Unlike Altman’s usual big ensemble pieces full of stories ala “Short Cuts” and “Nashville,” this one just has a central plot that involves a criminal (Johnny) fumbling in an attempt to steal from a crime boss/Jazz club owner (Seldom Seen). Naturally, Johnny lands in big trouble after being caught and is taken by Seldom and his men. Johnny’s wife (Blondie) concocts a plan to kidnap the wealthy drug addicted wife (Carolyn) of an important politician with the hope of freeing Johnny. 

Story wise, 1996’s “Kansas City” is a meandering tale that involves a lot of scenes with characters waiting and monologuing. Perhaps the most puzzling aspect is that the core story about a couple trying to reunite feels distant. Not only do Blondie and Johnny share VERY little screen time together, but their romance and bond is severely underdeveloped. Altman seems more interested in making a film about a time and a place that means something to him. Truth be told, that is where the movie is at its best. The production design, costumes, and era specific cars really transport the viewer to this era. Of course, the element that gets the most attention here is the Jazz music. Altman tends to linger on music performances including an electrifying saxophone off which is arguably the highlight of the entire film. 

The cast is stacked with talent that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Harry Belafonte, Miranda Richardson, Steve Buscemi, and Dermot Mulroney. To me, the two highlights are the tough, spunky, and spacey Blondie (played by an energetic Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Harry Belafonte’s crime boss Seldom Seen character who is prone to speeches. Belafonte shows a great deal of range here as it’s not the type of character we’re accustomed to seeing him play. 


Presentation: 1.78:1 1080p. How does it look? Expect a stunningly clear print. Fans will be overjoyed by the results.

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA and the original 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How do they sound? You can’t go wrong with either of these sharp tracks. 

* Image gallery
* 4 theatrical trailers and 2 TV spots
* A booklet featuring credits, an essay by Jazz expert Dr. Nicolas Pillai, original production notes, and an interview between David Thompson and Robert Altman from 2006.
* An electronic press kit with interviews with Altman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Miranda Richardson, Harry Belafonte, and Joshua redman, a promo featurette on the soundtrack, a 2 ½ minute collection of behind-the-scenes footage and another promo featurette titled “Robert Altman Goes To The Heart Of America” which contains interviews, film clips, and discussions about the project.
* An intro by French critic Luc Lagier and a 16 minute visual essay titled “Station, Trains and Derailments.”
* “Geoff Andrew On Kansas City”- A new 25 minute extra in which film critic Geoff Andrew discusses his admiration for the film and provides some facts and background info on it.
* A solo commentary by Robert Altman that is filled with stories. There are lulls though. 


February 19, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , , , ,

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