The movie critique portion of this review was written by my colleague Michele Arbir.

Don’t you love when you come across a movie with one of your favorite actors that you didn’t know they made? The Last Time I Committed Suicide came out in 1997 and the only well known actor in the film is Keanu Reeves. Well, he may have been the only one known at the time of the release, but you will now recognize this amazing cast from Thomas Jane (The Punisher) in the lead role to Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Claire Forlani (Mallrats), and Marg Helgenberger (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) rounding out the ensemble. With this cast, and if you’re a fan of Beat Generation films, you will more than likely have warm feelings towards this film.

Told from Neal Cassady’s (Thomas Jane) perspective, in a form of a letter, the film follows his life before and after the suicide attempt by his longtime lover, Joan (Claire Forlani). Demonstrating Neal’s active mind and ever-changing thoughts, the film jumps back and forth between before and after the attempt.

Keanu Reeves was the reason I decided to give this movie a spin and he didn’t let me down. This is a very underrated performance, and in my opinion one of his best. Reeves plays Cassady’s drinking and pool hall buddy. Now this is a period piece 1940’s era and you will not be hearing your typical Keanu speeches – he drops that for the role and it was the perfect call. Gretchen Mol (Boardwalk Empire, The Notorious Bettie Page) catches your attention as Cassady’s wild teenage girlfriend. Mol was an excellent choice for this bundle of energy in the role and her enchanting performance turns heads, demanding our attention. Lastly, Thomas Jane was not only good, he literally bares all for this role (and by that, yes, I mean nudity), and leaves nothing to hide which was quite surprising, to say the least. He’s a charismatic lead in a cast full of what would-be rising stars.

The Last Time I Committed Suicide is to the disorganized side, we see Cassady’s life as a young man, filled with romantic conquests and minor crimes. Loosely influenced by the novel from Jack Kerouac, Dear Carolyn: Letters to Carolyn Cassady, Cassady is a role model for the newspaper Beat Generation, a literary scene that caught on with leading writers in the 1940s and ’50s. Directed by Stephen T. Kay, his character development for Cassady isn’t awful but just feels a little chaotic. All the individual scenes in Cassady’s life had great dialogue and you could feel the heartfelt emotion. Somewhere along the line some of those scenes just lose a little direction.

As a film about the literary movement started by a group of authors whose work explored and influenced American culture and politics in the post-war era, it does an excellent job communicating the protagonists’ emotions – anguish, hope, restlessness. Some fans may want to check out the film’s young stars who really add a lot to the film’s watchability. Jazz fans will love the music featuring a number of music legends on the soundtrack. If you are a writer of any kind check it out for it was enjoyable.

Video Quality

The Last Time I Committed Suicide makes its Blu-Ray debut courtesy of MVD Entertainment with a digital AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1 that appears to be derived from an older master that is in unremarkable shape. Instances of print damage such as nicks and scratches are pretty consistent, but overall clarity and detail is serviceable given the quality of the source material. The presentation is mostly enjoyable throughout the runtime with image stability and delineation being strong. This transfer maintains the natural film grain of the presentation with only minor instances of seeming a bit loose. The picture maintains a nice depth even in long shots, but colors appear to present more on the washed out side. Skin tones are a bit pasty with subtle facial features easily noticeable in closeup. Black levels fluctuate a bit with some crush present. This presentation gets the job done, but a new pass over the master would have been much preferred. 

Audio Quality

This new Blu-Ray comes with a LPCM 2.0 mix that features all of the sounds of the film quite well. This is a film that utilizes its music and score quite effectively in a way that makes the film really come alive. The tunes from Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie and more add a lot to the narrative. They are presented with a great clarity and a pleasing fidelity as it comes through the room. The dialogue holds up wonderfully, coming through clearly without being stepped on by the music or sound effects. The environmental effects are delineated nicely within the few more raucous sequences. The track avoids most instances of age related wear and tear or distortion. This is a track that represents the film in an impressive manner. Optional English subtitles are provided on this disc.

Special Features

  • Trailers: The two-and-a-half-minute trailer for The Last Time I Committed Suicide is provided here. There are also trailers provided for Camino, Zeroville, The Dark and Mr. Jealousy

 

Final Thoughts

The Last Time I Committed Suicide is a decent movie that is never allowed to achieve greatness. The stellar cast at its disposal is beyond reproach, but the direction and screenplay from Kay leaves a little bit to be desired. While by no means a complete disappointment, many may be left frustrated by what this could have been under different circumstances. MVD Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray featuring an uneven A/V presentation and next to no special features. If the cast makes you curious to seek it out, it is worth giving a shot. 

The Last Time I Committed Suicide is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: MVD Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

 

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