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Roger Michell
Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Matthew Goode
Writing Credits:
Richard Bean, Clive Coleman

In 1961, 60-year-old taxi driver Kempton Bunton steals Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London.

Rated R.

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

95 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 6/14/2022

• “Making The Duke” Featurette
• Trailer & Previews


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The Duke [Blu-Ray] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 3, 2022)

Is it true that if you watch a movie in which both Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren star, you automatically earn UK citizenship? No, but with that pair in tow, 2020’s The Duke screams its inherent Englishness from the rooftops.

Set in 1961, Kempton Bunton (Broadbent) lives with wife Dorothy (Mirren) and they barely eke out an existence. He protests the British tax on TV sets, as he thinks it punishes the poor who can least afford it.

When London’s National Gallery acquires a Goya painting of the Duke of Wellington, Kempton takes possession of it as a protest. Kempton toys with the authorities as he attempts to use his act as a catalyst for the public good.

As crazy as that sounds, it does come based on truth. I find the main plot easier to accept than the notion of 70-something Broadbent as a 60-year-old, at least, as the actor looks closer to 80 than 60.

Probably best-known for 1999’s rom-com Notting Hill, director Roger Michell died not long after the completion of Duke. While I can’t claim Michell left us with a classic, Duke becomes a moderately engaging fable.

Albeit a not especially focused one. The basic plot of Duke lacks a lot of room for exploration, so the filmmakers need to expand to fill 95 minutes.

This means we spend a lot of time with Kempton, Dorothy and their sons Kenny (Jack Bandeira) and Jackie (Fionn Whitehead). We also get hints of how the death of then-teenaged daughter Marian haunts the family 13 years later.

If all of that sounds like filler… well, it is to a large degree. While we clearly need to get some understanding of Kempton and clan, Duke tends to meander with these scenes, and they feel less than essential.

Viewers buy into Duke due to the nature of the heist itself, and anytime the movie leaves behind that topic, it drags. The film’s largely fictional version of the Buntons never becomes enough to sustain the audience.

That said, the theft also lacks the substance to take up a full-length feature either. There simply isn’t enough meat on those bones to last 95 minutes.

As such, Duke brings a padded effort that tends to feel less than totally fulfilling. Honestly, the movie’s story seems more interesting as a concept than a reality, as the absence of strong narrative thrust much of the time leaves the end result stretched thin.

Still, Duke does enough to keep the viewer reasonably satisfied as it goes. Even without a strong overall narrative, the basic concept remains fun, and the actors help.

Neither Broadbent nor Mirren break a sweat here, as they find themselves in fairly one-dimensional roles. However, they add spark to the underwritten parts and make them more compelling than probably should be the case.

And again, I like the basic concept of the story. The core facts of this adventure offer a good hook.

Ultimately, this leads to an erratic but watchable film. Nothing about The Duke rises above its genre, but it manages to offer a decent cinematic experience.

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

The Duke appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a strong presentation.

Overall, sharpness seemed very good. Some interiors came across as slightly soft, but the vast majority of the film appeared accurate and concise. A few instances of archival 1960s photography offered the iffiest moments, but these were brief and inconsequential.

Jagged edges and moiré effects didn’t mar the presentation, and I saw no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to appear outside of those archival segments.

In terms of palette, Duke went with a heavily teal and orange orientation. We found splashes of other hues on occasion, but hey remained in a distinct minority in this largely teal/orange affair.

Within stylistic choices, the hues seemed well-depicted. Blacks were dark and dense, and low-light shots gave us good clarity. I felt pleased with this solid transfer.

Similar thoughts greeted the fairly good DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Duke, as the soundfield mostly delivered a mix heavy on atmosphere. Environmental noises cropped up in the side and rear speakers, and little else occurred, with a short thunderstorm as the most prominent bit of auditory information.

Those elements created an acceptable sense of place. The soundscape also featured the score in all five speakers to form a reasonably involving setting.

Audio quality satisfied. Speech sounded crisp and distinctive, and music appeared robust and full.

Effects were accurate and dynamic, while low-end response showed good warmth and richness. Nothing here dazzled, but the audio merited a “B-”.

Making The Duke runs two minutes, 50 seconds and includes notes from director Roger Michell, producer Nicky Bentham, and actors Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent. They offer superficial story thoughts in this promotional piece.

The disc opens with ads for The Phantom of the Open, Mothering Sunday, Jockey, Compartment No. 6 and Julia. We also get the trailer for The Duke.

Based on an infamous crime, The Duke seems more appealing in concept than in reality. Nonetheless, sketchy as the end result might be, the film seems moderately engaging. The Blu-ray brings very good picture, appropriate audio and negligible bonus materials. Nothing here really impresses but the movie manages to create a decent fable.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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