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Mark O'Brien
Henry Czerny, Mark O'Brien, Mimi Kuzyk
Writing Credits:
Mark O'Brien

A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger.

Rated NR.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
English Audio Description
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 7/19/22

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director/Actor Mark O’Brien and Editor Spencer Jones
• Cast & Crew Interviews
• Grimmfest Q&A
• Fantasia 2021 Stage Presentation/Q&A
• Radio Silent Roundtable
• Original Soundtrack & Stills
• Trailer


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


The Righteous [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 15, 2022)

Best known as an actor in films like 2019’s Ready or Not, 2021 stood as the feature film directorial debut for Mark O’Brien. He functioned as both director and writer for The Righteous.

Set in Newfoundland, former priest Frederic Mason (Henry Czerny) remains tormented by the death of his adopted daughter. As this event tests his faith, a mysterious visitor arrives at his home.

Injured, troubled and in need of help, Aaron Smith (O’Brien) gains acceptance and aid from Frederic and his wife Ethel (Mimi Kuzyk). Frederic views this as an opportunity for spiritual redemption, but Aaron may lead the Masons down a darker path.

One must give O’Brien credit for his ambition with Righteous. He bites off a lot of dramatic territory here and goes for something far from multiplex fare.

On the other hand, Righteous cam suffer a bit from “Tries Too Hard Syndrome”. It feels like O’Brien wants so desperately to make a Big Artistic Statement that he goes overboard.

Call me cynical, but I can’t help but see the decision to create a gloomy black and white character drama as a little on the pretentious side. This seems especially true because O’Brien clearly aspires to make something in the Bergman vein.

That said, while O’Brien doesn’t approach the levels of quality from that noted filmmaker, he makes a reasonably engaging drama here, albeit an inconsistent one that lacks the self-assurance it needs to truly prosper. In that regard, my main complaint stems from the overuse of score.

As so often happens in modern movies, the music of Righteous tends to telegraph emotions and story implications. Rather than let events play out in a way that allows for some viewer interpretation, the score tells us what to think and feel too much of the time.

This becomes especially true in regard to the Aaron character. The music casts him as suspicious right off the bat and means that it becomes difficult for viewers to draw alternate conclusions.

In addition, Righteous can often feel a bit too much like a stage play. Characters tend to speak in soliloquies, so the project can seem artificial and contrived.

Which might be intentional, I admit, as O’Brien clearly doesn’t intend a true sense of naturalism here. The production offers such a stark, gothic feel that it reads with an unreal vibe that appears to allow for some of the more unnatural elements.

On the positive side, I like that O’Brien leaves Righteous as fairly open to interpretation. Even while it seems to telegraph character/emotional elements, it still leaves a lot up for grabs.

That includes the basic objective reality of what we see. Do these events actually occur or do they provide a look into Frederic’s guilty subconscious?

The movie never really says, but I don’t view that as a copout. Instead, these choices give the tale nuance and make it more engaging, as the viewer needs to actively invest in the proceedings to obtain any understanding.

Righteous goes down some compelling philosophical paths. At times, these threaten to collapse under the weight of their own pretensions, but they usually remain on the right side of that line.

A strong lead performance from Czerny helps. The veteran actor helps ground the piece and give the movie the heft it needs to avoid flying off-track.

O’Brien handles his own role in an able manner as well, and Kuzyk brings unusual flavorings to Ethel that add to the movie’s sense of disconnect to the “real world”. Kuzyk’s Ethel can seem oddly broad and overwrought, another potential clue that the story doesn’t depict an objective reality.

All of this adds up to an inconsistent but generally engaging drama. While Righteous doesn’t fire on all cylinders, it does enough right to make it a largely worthwhile tale.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus A

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

Sharpness was strong. Some wider shots came across as a bit soft, but most of the film looked well-defined.

No concerns with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. Source flaws also failed to create problems.

The black and white elements boasted nice contrast and impact. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows showed good delineation. All of this left us with a fairly solid transfer despite some softness at times.

One shouldn’t expect much from the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundscape, as it remained decidedly low-key. It did occasionally offer a bit of pep, as effects used the side and rear speakers in a moderate manner.

Not much occurred in this regard, but the mix managed to spread elements in discrete locations, and these moved well. Nothing here dazzled, but the material prompted reasonable involvement.

Audio quality was fine. Speech sounded natural and distinctive, without edginess or other issues. The score appeared clear and appropriately full.

Effects were clean and accurate. They didn’t tax my system but they satisfied. This was a more than acceptable soundtrack for a character piece.

A mix of extras appear here, and we open with an audio commentary from writer/director/actor Mark O’Brien and editor Spencer Jones. They offer a running, screen-specific look at story and characters, cast and performances, sets and locations, influences, music and editing, photography, and related domains.

Despite the movie's grim tone, O'Brien and Jones provide a surprisingly jovial and glib commentary, as they joke a lot and keep things light. This feels a bit odd given the nature of the story, but I guess it beats a mopey and overly serious track.

As for the quality, O'Brien and Jones give us a sporadically informative discussion. They do offer a fair number of insights, but they also go MIA surprisingly often, and the lean toward comedy undercuts the actual view of the film. The track deserves a listen but it feels more erratic than I'd like.

Seven segments appear under Cast & Crew Interviews. We get clips with O’Brien (33:47), Jones (11:04), producer Mark O’Neill (7:01), actor Henry Czerny (17:08), actors Mimi Kuzyk and Kate Corbett (17:17), cinematographer Scott McClellan (10:02), and production designer Jason Clarke (9:26).

Across these, we learn about various aspects of the production, with obvious domains of emphasis dependent on the participant’s job. Expect a good collection of insights across these useful chats.

Two 2021 film festival appearances follow, as we get Q&A from Grimmfest (19:36) and Fantasia (32:35). In the former, we hear from O’Brien, whereas the latter presents O’Brien and Czerny.

“Grimmfest” tends to look mostly at themes and interpretation, whereas “Fantasia” goes for more general notes about the film. Both offer some good insights, although “Fantasia” comes with a presentation that comes only from the left speaker and can be tough to hear.

A Roundtable features a conversation among O’Brien and Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Chad Villella of the “Radio Silence” podcast that goes for one hour, 13 minutes. All four also worked together on 2019’s Ready or Not, so they have a history with each other.

The piece covers horror in general, with some emphasis on the participants’ works. Happily, this fails to become self-serving and instead turns into a fun chat among filmmakers.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we finish with the movie’s original soundtrack and stills. It spans one hour, five minutes, and 17 seconds and shows a mix of production photos combined with a Dolby 2.0 rendition of the score. It becomes a generous addition to the disc.

A stark tale of a man who goes through a crisis of morality and faith, The Righteous occasionally totters under the weight of its Bergman-esque pretensions. However, it does more right than wrong, and abetted by a strong lead performance from Henry Czerny, it usually delivers a compelling drama. The Blu-ray comes with generally positive picture and audio as well as a strong mix of bonus materials. Righteous offers a pretty solid first directorial effort from Mark O’Brien.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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