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Title: Inherent Vice

Movie: :4stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:81

Paul Thomas Anderson. One of the three mainline “Anderson” directors working in Hollywood, and each one wildly different in their directing style. Instinctually I always have to double take whenever I see their respective names in front of a movie and try to remember which one it is. If it’s Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil” and such) then I know to expect an over the top schlocky action flick. If it’s Wes Anderson, I really should expect lots of Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and fantastic dialog. Now Paul Thomas is much more subversive and widely ranged than both of the others. He can go completely mainstream as he does with “Boogie Nights”, “Punch Drunk Love” and even “There Will Be Blood” to an extent, and then he can switch gears in an instant and put out truly esoteric films like “The Master” and “Inherent Vice”. An acquired taste, so to speak. “Inherent Vice” is really his least mainstream movie to date, filled with hidden jokes, little winks and nods to the camera and a 1970’s drug infused gumshoe plot that really is more about the experience than the end result from the scenario.

Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is your average 1970’s hippie. You know, slightly strung out at any one time, and of course a license to be a private investigator. He’s minding his own business when in walks the dame. She’s an ex flame and crying her eyes out over a scheme cooked up by her lover’s wife and her boyfriend to shift said lover into the looney bin to take over all his wealth. A sucker for this old flame, Shasta Fay (Katherine Waterston), Doc is sent on a wild, crazy, drug induced quest to fix the wrongdoings and track down whoever is behind this debacle. Along the way he has to deal with a maniacal L.A.P.D. Detective nicknamed “Bigfoot” (Josh Brolin), stop a drug deal from a group called “The Golden Fang” and somehow get out alive.

I’d like to say more, but this is a movie that really needs to be seen with as little prior plot information as humanely possible. The machinations and rambling changes in the plot are hard enough to decipher, let alone try to describe on paper. Paul Thomas Anderson’s films really survive best in chaos, and 70’s infused chaos is just what you’re going to get in “Inherent Vice”. The story itself seems fairly straightforward in the first act, but once it gets going you have to realize that the end is not going to be your typical 1st, 2nd and 3rd act method of storytelling. Anderson paints a vivid picture with colors, hues and little inside jokes that create the canvas for his film rather than using the typical storytelling queues that most people are familiar with. There are a few plot points that wrap up nicely, but the majority of the story is less important than you would think it is. It’s much more easily taken in if you’re a “the journey is half the fun” type of person.

The film is basically a neo noir detective story with a heavy heavy old fashion “Big Lebowski” stoner twist to it. From the get go you’re saturated with a syrupy mix of 70’s vernacular and culture. From the ruddy color tones with golden highlights to Phoenix giving one of his most crazed and strung out impressionistic performances to date. The other half of the movie deals with his exploits as a P.I. and reads very 1940’s black and white Noir, just with such a bizarre mix of humor that it’s hard to decide if you’re watching a comedy or on an acid trip yourself. Joaquin surrounds himself with an absolute slew of A list actors that come in as side characters, or even just glorified cameos. We have everyone from Reese Witherspon, Martin Short, Benicio Del Toro, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Josh Brolin, Michael Kenneth Williams, Owen Wilson and several more. Each one coming in for some ludicrous joke that you really have to watch carefully to catch much of the humor. Each one steals their particular scene, adding a little nuance to the film that wasn’t there before and then leaving in cloud of smoke (sometimes quite literally). Josh Brolin is the most commonly recurring character and his portrayal of Lt. Bigfoot Bjornsen is spot on perfect, especially considering Brolin does extremely well with those brusque and rude type of characters.


Rated R for drug use throughout, sexual content, nudity, language and some violence

Video :4.5stars:
“Inherent Vice” is presented by WB with a simply fantastic 1.85:1 encoded Blu-ray disc with lots of bright shiny colors and delicious textures. Shot on 35mm film stock (which is becoming increasingly rare), the film looks exceptionally textured with a very very thin layer of grain and with the obvious color grading, replicates the look of the 1970’s in a very stylistic way. Facial tones are nice and ruddy as the film is given a very warm push, and the golden hues that contrast with the blues and pastels and earthy colors give the film a very burnished look. Contrasts are pushed ever so slightly higher, but not so high that it washes things out, as detail is exceptional across the board. You can see every fiber of clothing, ever hair pasted in sweat across a forehead and of course Doc’s incredible side burns (who can forget those). Black levels stay inky black, and I didn’t notice any major digital compression issues besides a glimpse of color banding in one spot. Excellent across the board.

Audio :4.5stars:
Warner’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is every bit as good as the video encode is, with an eclectic 70’s inspired score that just cocoons the movie in a lush embrace that feels, smells and sounds like 40 years ago (has it really been that long?). Dialog is crisp and clean, but you will need to hit the subtitle button sometimes, as the delivery by several actors is extremely difficult to understand. That is not a fault with the audio, but rather the intentional delivery by those actors, especially Doc, who is baked out of his mind and mumbles is lines nonstop due to his “condition”. The surrounds are used quite often, with a fantastic array of ambient noises as well as the fantastic score flooding across on all channels. The track is extremely well nuanced and I noticed many times a shifting and directionality with the ambient noises that had me looking over my shoulder wondering where that noise was coming from. For a movie that doesn’t scream ACTION!, “Inherent Vice” is one active audio experience and worth viewing just for the score alone.

Extras :1star:

• Los Paranoias
• Shasta Fay
• The Golden Fang
• Everything in this Dream

Overall: :4stars:

“Inherent Vice” is very much a movie that isn’t going to resonate with everyone the same way. It’s one of those films that you will either “get it” or you don’t. A love it or hate it type of situation with very little room for any in between feelings. It’s psychedelic, it’s wildly cheeky and a strange trippy film that fans of PT Anderson may find refreshing. I would honestly recommend it as a rental first, not because I didn’t find it a great movie, but because it’s style is so very unique and post modernistic that I don’t believe it’s safe blind buy material. The audio and video are excellent, and despite the horrific lack of extras, the package itself is fantastic and even includes an all new Menu style by WB as well as a reversible cover that accentuates the bizarre nature of the film quite nicely. Rent before you buy and see if the movie resonates with you as well as it did with me.

Additional Information:

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Eric Roberts, Joanna Newsom, Josh Brolin
Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Written by: Paul Thomas Anderson
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Rated: R
Runtime: 148 Minutes
Own “Inherent Vice” on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD on April 28 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Buy Inherent Vice On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Excellent (Rent Before Buying Though)

More about Mike

733 Posts
I was pretty excited about this move when I saw the trailers for it but then started reading reviews and decided to wait for it on video.
In general I am a big Paul Thomas Anderson fan and I loved Boobgie Nights, Punch Drunk Love and even The Master so I am guessing I will enjoy this as well.
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