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TRUE COLORS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: John Cusack, James Spader, Mandy Patinkin, Imogen Stubbs, Richard Widmark
Director: Herbert Ross
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: None
Length: 110 Minutes
Release Date: August 20, 2002

“Great men are embraced everyday by thousands of strangers. I WANNA BE GREAT!”

Film ***

True Colors offers a unique spin in the casting of its leads, John Cusack and James Spader. Spader, who has spent the better part of his career playing creeps, in addition to providing a memorable “cocky-blonde guy” part in Pretty in Pink, gets the chance to portray a good Samaritan  for once. Then there's Mr. Cusack, who is and always will be one of the most likeable actors of our generation. Think about it, from his innocent roles in films like The Sure Thing and Say Anything, to even his more complicated ones in the challenging Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity, Cusack is one of those rare actors who can pull off a certain level of grace and likeability in any characterization. But True Colors gives Cusack a chance to show his darker side as a character who cannot seem to avoid the art of lying and deceiving.

The movie follows the path of a friendship of two guys that begins by accident. On the first day of law school, as they are finding their way onto the campus, Peter Burton (Cusack) and Tim Garrity (Spader) encounter a slight fender bender, which then escalates into a needless brawl due to Burton's fiery temper. The situation isn't much bettered by the fact that the two end up as roommates. They first quarrel at the notion, but forget about their feud and make the most of becoming close law school chums.

Things soon become complicated, however, when it is revealed that Peter has lied about his background and even partially about his real name. His motive for doing this was to simply be accepted into a higher society, since he came from a lower class lifestyle. Tim feels slightly betrayed, but is soon quite forgiving. The two graduate, and head into separate law firms, but keep in close contact.

The story grows into a strong morality tale when Peter announces he will run for congress. It goes without saying that his talent for lying and betrayal will no doubt play a huge part in helping him get to where he wants to be. Once he's become an assistant to a high profile senator (Richard Widmark), he indulges in the limelight of politics, in addition to sleeping with the senator's daughter (Imogen Stubbs) who just so happens to be Tim's fiancée.

Tim, however, finds it's much appropriate to strike back when he discovers Peter's campaign may include that of secret ties to the mob. And when Peter attempts to blackmail the senator with inside information, Tim vows not to let his once true friend's destructive position reign any longer.

True Colors is a pure marvel of acting, which consists of two nicely tuned performances from Cusack and Spader which are both very much revelations. I'd never thought I could see Cusack as such a scumbag, but I was equally amazed by how he ferociously pulled the performance off. Spader deserves the same amount of praise, for once showing that he is far capable of portraying a convincing protagonist.

The movie only suffers a bit in a few showy dramatic scenes that belong on a sappy soap opera, and the ending is simply too clean cut after everything that has happened before it. Still, True Colors delivers with dynamic acting from its two leads.

Video **1/2

Paramount's colors are True, but only in limited areas, as they offer their usual level of digital updating on a ten plus year old movie, and the results are just about what you'd expect, better than the usual to tell you the truth. The anamorphic picture quality delivers in numerous areas, particular in scenes which use many colors, and in outdoor sets. Darker lit sets suffer a bit, though, with some instances of image softness and slight grain. All in all a decent looking disc for its age.

Audio **

True Colors is strictly a dialogue-oriented movie, so on that basis alone, not much can be made, quality-wise, of the 5.1 audio mix which is supplied. I can say that in the field of music score, which for a movie that came out in 1991 sounds more like a score from 1981, doesn't deliver a startling sound presence. Then again, it's probably just the age of the movie.

Features (Zero Stars)

Nothing.

Summary:

True Colors is a bravura piece of razor-sharp acting on behalf of 80s icons John Cusack and James Spader, and fans of these two who haven't seen this film should indeed check out.