Blu-ray Review: The Commitments - 25th Anniversary Edition

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Director Alan Parker's 1991 backstage musical The Commitments is the kind of film that might appear in the dictionary when looking up the phrase "cult favorite." It made next-to-nothing at the box office, yet it hit big on home video. Its fan base has only grown in the quarter century since it's release, with continued enthusiasm for its soundtrack albums. The film (and it's 1987 source novel of the same name) even spawned a popular U.K. stage production that ran from 2013-2015 (with apparent plans for a revival). Now RLJ Entertainment has issued the first Blu-ray of The Commitments just in time to commemorate that anniversary.

The Commitments is an exceptionally light comedic drama about the formation and subsequent in-fighting of a newly-formed Irish soul/R&B band. What makes it such a fun movie is the feeling of authenticity director Parker gets from his spirited cast. The working-class Dublin environment is vividly conveyed, making this feel like a real, flesh-and-blood story. Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) assembles the band, attempting to capture the artistry of vintage '60s-era soul legends like Wilson Pickett, James Brown, and Otis Redding.

That the movie band is fronted by then-16-year-old unknown Andrew Strong makes for an even truer sense of raw grit. Strong's voice is a marvel and it's no surprise he went on to have a recording and touring career of his own. For the most part, the members of the movie band actually did their own playing and singing. Alan Parker wanted to put together a "real" group with actual working musicians and vocalists. The resulting powerhouse R&B band is the movie's greatest strength and the main reason behind its incredible staying power. The plot, which tracks the trials and tribulations of the band as it collapses under the weight of personal differences during its infancy, isn't especially exciting or intricate. But the actors inhabit their roles fully and the music is truly exuberant.

RLJ Entertainment's new Blu-ray offers a very sturdy 1080p transfer of Gale Tattersall's cinematography, which retains a beautiful, light-grained natural film look. The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 is probably the most important aspect of this release and thankfully surround mix packs plenty of punch. The all-essential music sequences sound excellent.

Besides the high def, lossless A/V presentation, the other double-dip bait here is the featurette "25 Years Later," which assembles several of the original cast members with director Parker for a quick (20 minutes), nostalgic look back. Ported over from the 2004 special edition DVD are the older supplements: "The Making of Alan Parker's Film," "Looking Back," "Dublin Soul," a promotional featurette, "Treat Her Right" music video, and an Alan Parker audio commentary.

Prediction: the new 25th Anniversary Edition of The Commitments will only serve to grow the film's legend even further as new fans discover it.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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