Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Buddy Giovinazzo's "No Way Home"

I know it's going to seem odd saying this right after my previous post about VHS, but it's really unbelievable how many films never managed to see a DVD release.

I can think of plenty of reasons why a film would not make it on to a digital format (music licensing, questionable rights ownership, etc.), there are also a handful of films that were released on VHS during the early days of DVD that have never made it to DVD, and probably never will due to the rise of BluRay and instant streaming services.

One example of a film which has never seen the light of a five-inch platter in the US is "Combat Shock" director Buddy Giovinazzo's film "No Way Home." Artisan Entertainment released the film on VHS in 1997, but never managed to release the film on DVD.
The godawful VHS artwork for Artisan Entertainment's release of "No Way Home.
Even more insulting to this fact is that the VHS edition of "No Way Home" that I own opens the film with an advertisement for Live Entertainment's first wave of DVD releases.  (I was hoping someone had posted this fantastically '90s looking promo clip on YouTube, but I couldn't find it.)
According to an interview I conducted with Giovinazzo in September 2009 for my college newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum, "No Way Home" was produced under the Live Entertainment studio and right as the film was being completed, they were bought out by Artisan.  Here's an excerpt from that interview that didn't make it into the article (which was appropriate, since it was focusing on his film "Life is Hot in Cracktown"):

"'No Way Home' was made by a company called Live Entertainment and during the post-production, Live was sold to another company called Artisan.  The people at Artisan didn't want to make the film, but they had to finish it because they had so much money put into it, but they didn't want to release it.  So there's nobody at these companies that really likes the film, so I don't know if it will ever come out." - Buddy Giovinazzo, Sept. 14th, 2009
Buddy Giovinazzo's brief cameo in "No Way Home."
Though the film was a big hit in Germany, it didn't make a very big splash in the US and has since vanished into obscurity.  In fact, as Giovinazzo notes, not a soul at Artisan wanted to make the film and the VHS release was probably only created to fulfill contract obligations.  Artisan was bought out by Lionsgate a few years ago, which probably makes things even worse for the fate of this film.  However, it's success overseas allowed Buddy to find work directing television productions in Germany, where he currently resides.

Giovinazzo: "I couldn't get any work in America, so I thought I would just come here and live for a little bit... and then 'No Way Home' was really successful here and people really liked [it].  Then it just happened where I got these offers [for German television directing work]... and I was happy here.  I love the city... it's a beautiful city, so I felt really at home here.  It was just luck. 'No Way Home' in America did nothing.  It was not a successful film financially and because of that I couldn't get work for a real long time."

So, pretty much, the film is in a permanent state of limbo because there's probably not a soul at Lionsgate who really even knows the film exists.  I've rarely even seen much mention of it when referring to Giovinazzo's other films - which is a shame, because it truly is a fantastic film that echoes the same tone as "Combat Shock" in a well-plotted and paced family drama.

After being released from a six year prison sentence for attempted robbery, Joey (Tim Roth) asks his brother Tommy (James Russo) for a place to stay until he can manage to get back on his feet.  Tommy is living in their childhood home with his beautiful wife, Lorraine (Deborah Kara Unger).

When Joey first arrives, Lorraine is clearly bothered, but she soon forms a friendship as she learns that he is genuinely a good person who wants to obey his parole rules.  Unfortunately, Tommy is also selling marijuana out of their house, which would put Joey back in jail if his parole officer should ever check in on him.

Despite being urged to quit dealing drugs for Joey's sake, Tommy doesn't stop.  As it turns out, he's been lying to Lorraine about his financial situation.  He's deep in debt with his marijuana supplier and their home is near foreclosure.  As the heat builds on Tommy, he is quick to find the easy way out, but as a result sets off a chain reaction of violence and the resurrection of family secrets.

"No Way Home" was Giovinazzo's second film and has a much more polished feel and look than his other films.  While "Combat Shock" and "Life is Hot in Cracktown" are fantastic films, they also contain some intense content that will probably turn off some audiences.  On the other hand, "No Way Home" is as accessible as any mainstream film, but is still shows a strong resemblance to the rest of Giovinazzo's catalog.

In fact, there's even a scene that in "No Way Home" where Russo sneaks to grab a gun while a group of thugs search through his wife's jewelry.  It feels incredibly similar to the scene in "Combat Shock" where Frankie pulls a revolver on Paco and his gang while they search through the purse he had just nabbed.

But what really makes "No Way Home" such a good film is the script, which is very finely crafted.  Several story elements are left vague for the majority of the film, but when they are finally revealed, it is done seamlessly with the plot.

It's just a great drama with a well-plotted script with fantastic performances, and that's why it's so unfortunate that it's been banished to the analog oblivion in here in Region 1.  However, if you have a region-free player, there is an out-of-print Region 2 DVD from the UK that can be purchased used and also a German DVD that is also Region 2.

Or you can just suck it up and pick up the VHS release.  It's watchable, but a film as good as "No Way Home" really deserves a good home on DVD.