Originally a part of a short film trilogy (which also included director Danny Boyle's "Alien Love Triangle", with Heather Graham - a film that still has never been released), "Impostor" was chosen to be filled out to feature length, but then managed to sit on the shelf for nearly two years afterwards. The film, while considerably flawed, isn't the worst piece of cinema that I've ever seen, but it's a positively and utterly forgettable 95 (101 in this director's cut) minutes.
The story, obviously padded out quite a bit from its original (also included on this DVD) short 37 minute length, involves Spence Olham, a scientist who finds out that he may be a replicant designed to assassinate an important figure - or not. The year is 2079 and alien forces are waging war on Earth. A federal agent (Vincent D'Onofrio) searches out Spence, informing him that he isn't who he thinks he is. Like Tom Cruise's character in "Minority Report" (also based on a Phillip K. Dick story), Spence runs. And runs. Unfortunately, the film really doesn't have much to say - instead, the movie seems an awful lot like one big chase sequence, only with above-average actors and no action. Aside from a couple of minor fights, there's really little going on besides a lot of people yelling nonsense at each other.
Aside from Sinese, who, actually, does try his best with very limited material, the actors are mostly wasted. Tony Shalhoub (who was robbed when he didn't get a Best Supporting nom for "Man Who Wasn't There") is around for maybe the first ten minutes as Spence's friend. Madeline Stowe, who plays Spence's wife, Maya, just has a few scenes, most of which have her talking to him on a video phone. D'Onofrio's smirky performance makes him appear quite honestly as if he'd rather be someplace else. Even behind-the-camera talent is wasted; the great cinematographer Robert Elswit is put to use capturing low-budget, dull sets. The film's credits list somewhere around 15 FX companies who worked on the picture, which would account for the inconsistent nature of the visuals, which go from appearing primitive to impressive. Bob Ducsay, the talented editor of the "Mummy" pictures, and Armen Minasian (Fleder's editor on "Don't Say A Word"), have not successfully been able to put "Impostor" together without making it appear heavily manipulated. The director, Gary Fleder ("Don't Say A Word") continues to provide films I have not found very original or even enjoyable. As it becomes apparent that the two shorts that were going to join "Impostor" will likely never see daylight, one wonders why this story was chosen over the other two - and how bad they must have been that this was the film chosen to be expanded. The DVD offers the "director's cut" of the picture, adding about 6 minutes and taking the rating from a PG-13 to an R.
VIDEO: "Impostor" is presented by Buena Vista Home Video in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture appears noticably dark - not the stylish dark-by-choice appearance that some films use, but a darkness to obscure how inexpensive the film looks. Sharpness and detail are passable, but rather inconsistent, as the picture appeared soft and lacking detail during several scenes. A few dimly lit sequences looked especially murky.
Aside from the softness, there were a few other problems that were worth noting. The film can appear rather grainy at times, with grain varying from light to heavy on a couple of occasions. A few traces of pixelation were also spotted, as was a slight bit of edge enhancement. On a positive note, the print used seemed pretty crisp and clean - aside from a speck or two, no major print flaws were spotted.
The film's color palette - mostly subdued or different shades of blue, looked fairly well-rendered, if rather dull visually.
SOUND: Although the picture quality wasn't very special, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack actually had a lot going on. The surrounds are engaged for almost the entire movie, either providing light ambience in some of the tunnel sequences or pushing the sound effects in some of the film's more intense moments. Although some of the zips and woosh sound effects seemed an apparent attempt to make scenes seem a bit more exciting than they were, several scenes actually put sound effects to very creative and effective use around the listening space. Audio quality was generally very good; the score, dialogue and effects remained crisp and clear, while decent bass was occasionally present. Overall, a pretty solid soundtrack.
MENUS: The menus are very basic and non-animated, with basic backgrounds.
Original Short Film: The main supplement for the "Impostor" DVD is the original, 37-minute "short" cut of the movie. Presented in 1.85:1 widescreen, this is obviously taken from somewhat rough materials - noticable marks and other wear appear on the the print used, although there are stretches that seem cleaner. While still not particularly exciting or interesting, this 37-minute cut drops all the filler, which makes the film quite a bit more watchable, if still not very interesting. I was surprised that there was no text or introduction for this piece; those who don't know that "Impostor" was originally going to be part of a group of short films will likely be confused at what this is.
Also: An 11-minute "making of" documentary, the film's theatrical trailer (Dolby Digital 5.1) and "Sneak Peek" trailers for "Reindeer Games", "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back", "Iron Monkey", "Texas Rangers" and "Beneath Loch Ness".
Final Thoughts: "Impostor" is a sci-fi/action movie with little action and little thought-provoking sci-fi material. The twist ending isn't much of a payoff for a movie that's not very engaging and often feels dull and padded. Dimension's DVD includes fair image quality, very good audio and a couple of supplements. Not recommended.
The Film *