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Barbet Schroeder
Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Ron Silver
Writing Credits:
Nicholas Kazan

Wealthy Sunny von Bülow lies brain-dead, husband Claus guilty of attempted murder, but he says he's innocent and hires Alan Dershowitz for his appeal.
Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA Stereo
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 10/13/2020

• Audio Commentary with Director Barbet Schroeder and Writer Nicholas Kazan
• Trailer


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Reversal of Fortune [Blu-Ray] (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 8, 2020)

Over the years, “true crime” stories have endured as public favorites, and if you inject wealth and scandal into the mix, so much the better. Though usually the purview of lowbrow entertainment, this subject matter got “A-list” treatment via 1990’s Reversal of Fortune.

In late 1980, wealthy socialite Sunny von Bülow (Glenn Close) slips into a mysterious coma – her second within a year’s time. It appears that occurred due to an overdose of insulin, and her husband Claus (Jeremy Irons) finds himself accused of attempted murder.

Though most believe the philandering Claus committed the crime, he professes his innocence. Nonetheless, his initial trial finds him guilty.

Granted an appeal, Claus hires high-profile attorney Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver) to handle the case. The story follows these efforts and related complications.

Despite the fact his name doesn’t appear until late in that plot summary, Dershowitz plays a much more prominent role in Fortune than otherwise might be assumed. The film rushes through Sunny’s coma and the first trial in a hurry, so we meet Dershowitz less than 10 minutes into the movie.

Not that we stay solely – or even mainly – in the period after Claus’s first trial, of course. No one hires Glenn Close to play a comatose woman for five minutes of screentime, so it makes sense that we get plenty of flashbacks to see the Claus/Sunny relationship and connected events.

Because Fortune comes based on Dershowitz’s account of the case, it comes as no surprise that his part of the story dominates. Still, I like the orientation, as it gets to the meat of the matter without the desire to waste the viewer’s time.

Face it: anyone who sees Fortune knows that Sunny will end up in a coma and Claus will find himself on trial. While we need the flashbacks to tell us what happened, the choice to revolve the movie around the appeal trial allows the film to have its cake and eat it too.

Sort of. While I get the choice to make Dershowitz the focal point, he proves to be the least interesting of the three leads, so we enjoy our time with him less than with the others.

Actually, we get so little of a non-comatose Sunny that she plays a surprisingly small part. Granted, she becomes more prominent in the movie’s second half, but she still plays the third lead at best.

However, Claus becomes much more compelling, so every minute we spend with Dershowitz makes us wish we could see Claus instead.

Some of that comes from the basic nature of this slippery character, but much of the appeal stems from Irons’ performance. The actor won a much deserved Oscar for his turn, as he makes Claus an enigma wrapped inside a riddle wrapped inside a Twinkie.

Irons’ time on screen shines, and the film sags when it focuses solely on Dershowitz. Don’t take that as a criticism of Silver, as he delivers a more than competent performance.

However, Dershowitz tends to come across as a grating character, so we don’t particularly like the scenes that concentrate on him. We also just get too many of them for the basic narrative, as we need more Claus/Sunny and less Alan.

Despite these iffy choices, Fortune nonetheless becomes a fairly engaging movie. It pursues an intriguing story in a mostly compelling way, even if it needs a stellar lead performance from Irons to carry the day.

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

Reversal of Fortune appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though it showed the artifacts of its era, the image sill held up well.

Sharpness was largely positive. A few interiors appeared a little on the soft side, but the majority of the movie came across with good accuracy and delineation.

I noticed no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and the image lacked edge haloes. With a fair amount of grain, I didn’t sense any intrusive digital noise reduction, and print flaws were absent.

Colors seemed appealing. Fortune went with a slightly blue-influenced palette, but it opened up to brighter tones as well, and these seemed acceptably well-developed.

Blacks were fairly dark and tight, and shadows showed appropriate clarity. I felt the transfer worked fine.

I also thought that the DTS-HD MA Stereo soundtrack of Fortune worked fine given the movie’s chatty parameters. Music showed good stereo spread, even though the score didn’t play a massive part.

Effects also didn’t get much to do, as speech dominated. General environmental information popped up in the side speakers when appropriate, but don’t anticipate much, as the track could feel borderline monaural.

Audio quality appeared solid. Dialogue came across as fairly natural and warm, without notable edginess.

Music seemed bright and vibrant, as the score presented clear highs and tight low-end. Effects didn’t stand out but they did what they needed to do. Overall, the soundtrack seemed more than acceptable given its age and goals.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find an audio commentary from director Barbet Schroeder and writer Nicholas Kazan. Both sit together for this running, screen-speciific discussion of story and characters, the source's adaptation and history/liberties, sets and locations, cast and performances, cinematography, music and related domains.

Though moderately informative, the commentary seems inconsistent. Schroeder and Kazan go MIA a little too often, and they can feel a bit detached. There's enough good material to make the track worth a listen, but it doesn't add up to a better than average discussion.

Thirty years after its release, audiences remember Reversal of Fortune mainly for Jeremy Irons’ Oscar-winning performance, and that seems appropriate. Though the rest of the film feels inconsistent, Irons elevates it. The Blu-ray offers very good picture along with acceptable audio and a decent commentary. Give Fortune a look for Irons.

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