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The Deer Hunter (DVD, 1998, Limited Edition Packaging; Widescreen)
(34 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating:
Slow Boat to Vietnam:The Deer Hunter
Jan 27, 2008 (Updated Jan 27, 2008)
Review by George Chabot
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Walken, DeNiro, Russian roulette
Cons:Excessive length, slow moving
The Bottom Line: An overlong sermon on the futility of war, The Deer Hunter could be cut down considerably to become a more effective movie.
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Recommend this product?
The Deer Hunter is a film about the long term effects of war, showing the fall out that takes place in individual lives - fall out many of us never come personally in contact with.
The Deer Hunter is an Academy Award winning film and is on so many lists that a cinephile will have to come to grips with it sooner or later, but is it a new Citizen Kane? Hardly. The movie boasts some great performances but is slow and takes its time which is a defect, since the movie runs a shade over three hours.
The movie is in three acts, the set up; the Vietnam sequence; and, the aftermath.
The set up establishes the several characters and gives them enough time to eventually bore you; this is one of the defects.
In Act one, we have a lot of blue collar everyman situations and backslapping that just doesn't quite seem authentic. The characters played by Robert DeNiro, John Savage, John Cazale, Meryl Streep, and Christopher Walken are well established and we think we know who they are. We see, for example Walken's penchant for gambling which will be paid off in later scenes. There is also foreshadowing of bad luck as the bride spills a few drops of wine after being told of the curse. The deer hunting scene which gives the movie its name also occurs.
Act two finds three of the boys suddenly in Vietnam and they are captured and put in a cage in the swirling river, up to their necks. Besides the rats fighting them for space there are the pesky Vietnamese captors to put up with. To while away the time the guards make prisoners play Russian roulette, gambling on the results. The game consists of taking a revolver with one cartridge in the cylinder and alternately snapping it at their heads till one "wins."
The Russian roulette sequence is the most interesting part of the movie, surreal, jarring, and a metaphor for the insanity of war in general. DeNiro convinces the Vietnamese to load the gun with three bullets to lower the odds and then he and Walken fight their way free of the captors, letting Savage and the other prisoners free also. Savage has been weakened through the captivity and is unable to function without DeNiro's help, again establishing him as the resourceful one. Savage is physically crippled and Walken is mentally unstable. Walken gets involved in his first Russian roulette game with Vietnamese gamblers hosted by a Frenchman.
In Act three, DeNiro returns home all alienated and tells Streep Walken is AWOL. At a second deer hunt, DeNiro spares his game, apparently as a result of his war experiences. Savage is in the VA hospital with no legs and mysterious piles of $100 bills coming by mail from Saigon. DeNiro decides to go back to Vietnam to check on Walken. He finds him at the same Russian roulette game he saw him at before, just like he never left. I'll let you see the final scenes for yourself so as not to spoil your experience.
The movie has a lot of excess footage that could have been excised out making the same statements more economically.
The Universal DVD is presented in 2.35:1 theatrical aspect, in color, with a 182 minute running time. There is a lot of extra content, most of it not very interesting or enlightening.
The Deer Hunter won the Best Picture Academy Award, so it has to be dealt with if we want to understand film.
My take is it is an interesting film that has lost something over time.
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