- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 1, 2016

Director Alan Parker’s chronicle of the hardest-working soul band in Dublin debuts on Blu-ray in The Commitments: 25th Anniversary Edition (Image Entertainment, Rated R, $29.98, 118 minutes).

Adapted from Roddy Doyle’s 1987 novel, the musical comedy presents wannabe band manager Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) in the 1980s assembling a group of misfit musicians to cover some classic songs to play around central Ireland.

He eventually finds guitarist Outspan Foster (Glen Hansard), bassist Derek Scully (Kenneth McCluskey), a jazz-loving sax player named (Felim Gormley), pianist Steven Clifford (Michael Aherne), drummers Billy Mooney (Dick Massey) and Mickah Wallace (Dave Finnegan) and the supposedly experienced middle-aged trumpeter Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan (Johny Murphy).

However, his singers really bring the band to life led by Deco Cuffe (Andrew Strong) offering a fantastic Joe Cocker growl with ample support from a trio of gorgeous gals — Imelda Quirke (Angeline Ball), Natalie Murphy (Maria Doyle) and mouthy Bernie McGloughlin (Bronagh Gallagher) — providing back-up and occasional lead.

The potent lineup of bandmates finds limited success in the local clubs as they play great American blues/soul songs but egos, lack of money and clashing personalities get in the way of the music, a familiar tune to many a struggling musician hoping to get out of their hometown.

Mr. Parker’s effort is truly a classic and probably one of the most profanity-laced films in the history of cinema. It also celebrates some great music, 1980s nostalgia and paints a realistic slice of a hard urban lifestyle, much like “Quadrophenia” did for a 1960s London.


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The new digital transfer does a great job of cleaning up the full-screen presentation (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and exposes cinematographer Gale Tattersall mission to highlight the gritty, working-class neighborhoods of Dublin.

The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound track certainly enhances the live performances of the band especially on Wilson Pickett’s classics “Mustang Sally” and “In the Midnight Hour,” Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools,” Otis Readings’ “Mr. Pitiful” and “Try a Little Tenderness,” Mary Wells’ “Bye Bye Baby,” and Joe Tex’s “Show Me” to name a few.

Despite an impressive list of extras on the latest Blu-ray release, the majority, sans one, were compiled from a previous DVD release of the movie.

So let’s begin with the new extra, a 21-minute, 2016 retrospective offering interviews with Mr. Parker, Mr. Arkins, Mr. Hansard, Mr. McCluskey. It’s an informative look back, although missing many of the cast members. Still, viewers get lots of memories from Mr. Parker, and it delivers a nice homage to late actor Johny Murphy.

Next, viewers get a 47-minute, retrospective from 2004 (the best of the bunch) with more cast and crew interviews spearheaded by Mr. Parker, Mr. Arkins, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Aherne and Miss Gallagher.

And, a 22-minute overview of the movie shot during the production along with an 8-minute promotional featurette on the film.

I’ll admit it’s a bit unsettling (slightly depressing) to my mortality watching these segments in reverse chronological order. Yes, humans immortalized in film actually age in real life.

Reinforcing all of the retrospectives and memories, viewers should sit through the film again to hear an optional commentary track from Mr. Parker.

Despite a few stretches of silence, when the director talks, he delivers a load of information and he clearly loved making the movie.

Other extras include a 15-minute, insightful overview of the working class structure in Dublin and a music video (not part of the movie) introduced by Mr. Parker and Mr. Arkins and featuring manager Jimmy (a talent in his own right) singing “Treat Her Right” with the Commitments.

And finally, the packaging contains an eight-page, hard-copy essay from Mr. Parker on the making of the film, and the jacket sleeve offers two-dozen examples, with definitions of the colloquial language spoken by the band.

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