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Per Fly
Theo James, Ben Kingsley, Jacqueline Bisset
Writing Credits:
Per Fly, Daniel Pyne

A young program coordinator at the United Nations stumbles upon a conspiracy involving Iraq's oil reserves.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 108 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 4/24/2018

• “The Truth Behind Backstabbing for Beginners” Featurette
• Previews


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Backstabbing for Beginners [Blu-Ray] (2018)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 7, 2018)

Based on a true story, 2018’s Backstabbing for Beginners introduces us to Michael Sullivan (Theo James), a young man who works at the United Nations. As part of his job, he deals with a program that allows Iraq to sell oil solely to receive food and other humanitarian aid.

Despite that noble goal, Michael finds corruption involved. He investigates a conspiracy related to the program and works through various concerns.

All of that sounds like it should deliver a compelling film in the All the President’s Men, but unfortunately, Backstabbing ends up as a pretty tepid affair. It feels like a “paint by numbers” approach to the material, one that never ignites.

Some of the problem stems from James’ bland lead performance. As our protagonist, we spend an awful lot of time with Michael, and we need to invest in him to care about the proceedings.

We don’t, and much of the blame comes from the generic, flat manner in which James plays the role. The British James opts for an unconvincing “radio announcer” American accent that doesn’t work, and he fails to add life to the part.

Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise, as James didn’t display a ton of charisma as the second lead in the Divergent films. Nonetheless, he acts as a cipher at the top of Backstabbing, and his inability to present a compelling character damages the movie.

As Michael’s supervisor, Ben Kingsley contributes a bit of energy to the project, as he makes his character appropriately slippery and vivid. However, Kingsley spends too much time off-screen to redeem the film.

Focused on Michael, Backstabbing remains stuck in neutral, and director Per Fly creates a movie just as inert as its lead actor. The film follows events in a clunky, stiff manner that lacks urgency or drama, factors that leave it sluggish and dull.

Toss in a wholly unnecessary romantic subplot and Backstabbing feels like a generic political thriller. It remains professional enough that I can’t call it bad, but it seems mediocre in most ways.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D

Backstabbing for Beginners appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I thought the Blu-ray provided consistently satisfying visuals.

Sharpness was generally very positive. A smidgen of softness appeared in some interiors, but those instances were minor. Instead, the program demonstrated nice clarity and accuracy the vast majority of the time.

I witnessed no instances of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes appeared absent. Source flaws also failed to interfere.

Colors stayed fairly subdued for the most part. The settings didn’t favor a dynamic palette, but the hues looked reasonably accurate and full, with a not-unexpected emphasis on teal, amber and orange.

Blacks were acceptably dark and deep, while shadows showed generally positive delineation. Overall, I found this to be a strong presentation.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of Backstabbing, it worked pretty well. Not exactly an action extravaganza, the soundscape doesn’t offer a whole lot of note. A few scenes – like on streets and with a few violent bits – opened up the mix in a moderate way, but this was a chatty movie overall, though, so one shouldn’t expect much from the soundfield.

Audio quality always appeared positive. Music showed warm, full tones, and effects – as low-key as they were – sounded accurate and concise.

Speech was an important factor that worked fine; the lines were consistently distinctive and natural. Nothing here dazzled, but the audio remained more than acceptable.

One featurette appears here: The Truth Behind Backstabbing for Beginners. This reel runs eight minutes, 12 seconds and offers comments from writer/director Per Fly.

“Truth” looks at the story and characters, aspects of the screenplay, influences, cast and performances, sets and locations. Though brief, “Truth” brings some good insights and makes me wish Fly had recorded a commentary.

The disc opens with ads for Lady Bird, The Florida Project, The Disaster Artist, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Vanishing of Sidney Hall. No trailer for Backstabbing appears here.

Taken from a real-life scandal, Backstabbing for Beginners fails to explore its subject matter in a compelling manner. Slow and flat, the movie lacks the energy and zest it needs to prosper. The Blu-ray provides good picture and audio but includes few bonus materials. Backstabbing boasts potential drama but it never ignites.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
0 3:
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