Sneakers (1992)

Written by Lawrence Lasker, Walter F. Parkes & Phil Alden Robinson Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Starring Robert Redford, Ben Kingsley, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, David Strathairn, Mary McDonnell


Released by Universal
Rating: PG-13
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Own it.

Martin Bishop (Redford) heads up a very specialized group of experts. They're the people you hire to break into your [insert type of facility here] in order to expose security flaws before somebody who's not on your payroll gets around to it. It's a decent enough job, but there's a snag--a flaw, if you will, in Martin's security that he hadn't counted on being exposed. His name isn't really Martin Bishop--and his past is a bit of a tabula rasa. Trouble is--somebody knows everything, and if he doesn't do as he's told, he could be in for some serious prison time.

Probably one of the most fun caper movies in a long time. The first reason is the script, which is smart, funny, and clever enough to give the entire team their own spotlights in a very short amount of time. Second up, the cast is perfect. Whenever you see a cast as varied as this, it's either going to crash into the ground or you'll be able to sell the bike shop. Here, it works beautifully. Redford is in solid smirking mode, which serves his character well. Kingsley is a terrific foil to him. Poitier has simply forgotten more about cool than most actors on the planet will ever know. Aykroyd is, well, playing Aykroyd again--but this is back when his career was solid and we didn't mind it so much. Strathairn does a remarkable job of playing blind soundguy Whistler. The sequence where he leads the time in uncovering where Bishop was taken by the bad guys is one of the high points of the flick.

The fact that the film is so enjoyable is reason enough to own any version of the disc, but gratefully, this time out Universal has put together a "collector's edition." And it's not bad. First up you have the audio commentary by all the writers and not just writer-director Robinson (as it states erroneously on the case). Between the commentary and the forty minute making-of docu, you will get a lot of the fact that the three friends killed a lot of trees and spent a lot of time working up the script of this flick. What is interesting, though, is this provides a lot of roads not travelled for them to talk about, as they mention scenes that they had in mind or plot devices that were discarded. Best moment, though, is when they talk about how when an actor had an idea for something their character could do differently, they could point to a particular draft and say, "We tried that. See? Didn't work."

The making of is at its best when it's going over that creative process. When it does a character by character breakdown of who does what and why, it lags a little bit, but the three writers always step in to talk about where they got the idea for that particular "Hacker Archetype." It's worth watching just to see the stacks of drafts, if nothing else.

Is it the best edition we could have? Well, no--but that's just because we're never satisfied. A commentary with the cast would be perfect or even an additional featurette where they discussed some of the hacking tactics (which in today's level of technology might not be anything to be afraid, like the Cap'n Crunch whistle) that were used in such capers. Hell, an interview with some of the real life people who do this job for a living would be fascinating. Still, it's a respectable edition of a film that's eminently entertaining and rewatchable. So plonk down the coin, by all means.

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