Written and directed by David Mamet (Oleanna), the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright known for his intense dramas, Things Change is a charming, expertly crafted ‘mistaken identity’ comedy.
The Mob force unassuming shoe-shine man Gino (Don Ameche, Trading Places) into taking the hit for a murder he didn't commit. The pay-off? A fishing boat in Sicily when he gets out. Small-time crook Jerry (Joe Mantegna, House of Games) takes Gino on one last jaunt to Lake Tahoe before his term begins, but, when Gino is mistaken for a major league gangster, the duo soon fall prey to local hoodlums…
An unexpected change of pace for Mamet, Things Change benefits from an intelligent, witty script and superb central performances from Ameche and Mantegna, who received Best Actor awards at the Venice Film Festival for their efforts.
Indicator presents Things Change, David Mamet's second go in the director's chair, to Blu-ray, presenting the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode is sourced from a master supplied by Sony. The disc is locked to region B.
Unfortunately the master is old and shows, it appearing to have been made with only DVD in mind. On DVD I can imagine this would have looked surprisingly good, but blown out to full high-def the seams clearly show. Grain is there but it looks very digital and noisy, never all that clean, and it can get pretty obvious in the shadows. This ends up impacting the finer details and textures, giving the image a more processed look with edge-enhancement being notable in a few sequences. Colours do end up looking pretty sharp, the blue skies in the Lake Tahoe sequences sticking out, but blacks end up being a mixed bag, looking fine in some scenes and then crushed severely in others. And though I would never say the image looks soft, there is a slight haze that further feeds into that "video" look. Damage, on the other hand, isn't a big issue, flaws only popping up every so often throughout the film.
Unfortunately all of the presentation's digital issues are baked into the master and short of a whole new restoration (which I doubt was feasible) there isn't much Indicator could have done. At the very least, it probably looks better than Criterion's Blu-ray presentation for Mamet's House of Games.
The film's stereo soundtrack isn't showy but it's clear and has a nice punch to it. Alaric Jans' soundtrack is especially sharp with great "zing" to it, filling the environment beatifully, while dialogue is sharp and crisp. Range is adequate for the material, and there are no signs of severe damage.
The film received a barebones DVD edition in North America years ago but Indicator remedies that here with a modest selection of features. They get new interviews with director David Mamet (21-minutes), actor Joe Mantegna (29-minutes), and composer Alaric Jans (17-minutes). All three first recount getting into their respective careers and how their paths would eventually cross, (interestingly, Jans went to high school with Mamet), leading to work on stage and then eventually in film, the first project being House of Games. Both Mamet and Mantegna recount working on the film and with Ameche (who interestingly enough was initially in the running to play the role Robert Prosky would end up playing before Mamet had an epiphany), before touching on their careers after the film. Mantegna even explains here his mention of Don Ameche in The Godfather Part III was an improvised moment built off of the friendship he developed with the actor while making this film. I wasn't expecting a lot of backstory here; compared to some of Mamet's other films it seems pretty simple, yet there is a lot behind this one. Some strong interviews overall, Mantegna's maybe being my favourite.
Indicator also provides a new 10-minute interview featuring Rob Deering, who provides a nice little appreciation for the film, explaining how Ameche, as the movie star outsider to Mamet's usual stock actors, gives the film it's real energy, likening his presence to Gene Hackman's in Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. You also get an odd, somewhat off-base theatrical trailer for the film (that pushes Mamet's writing credit for The Untouchables) and then a small gallery featuring some promotional photos along with the US poster and the far more interesting Polish poster.
As usual with Indicator's releases, the booklet ends up being the stand out, though is limited to this first pressing. The booklet starts off with an excellent and fair essay on Mamet's work, written by Ellen Cheshire, followed by a reprint of a "production report" written for Sight & Sound by Donald Ranvaud (and as the notes point out, Ranvaud got some plot details wrong, the suspicion being he received false information). The booklet then features some quotes by Ameche in relation to the film (addressing his physique in one of them), and the booklet then closes with a collection of critical responses to the film. The booklet indicates that most reviews were positive, though the excerpt included here from Desson Howe of The Washington Post is more "meh," Howe seeming to feel the film was more plodding when compared to the previous House of Games.
It's certainly not jam packed but I'm still pretty impressed with how Indicator went out of their way for the film, which does feel to get lost in Mamet's other works. They pull in some great interviews and the booklet provides a nice cap on the release.
The dated master doesn't hold up, disappointingly, but Indicator's effort to highlight a film that seems to get lost in Mamet's other works makes this a worthwhile release.