Now On Blu-ray: BLACK OUT Continues To Sparkle Like A Dirty Diamond

Peter Martin, Managing Editor

Arne Toonen's Black Out holds up as a darkly comic crime movie. And I'm not saying that just because I'm quoted on the back cover of the new Region A Blu-ray from Doppelganger Releasing.

In the blitzkrieg of films I saw at Fantastic Fest in September 2012, Black Out was not the only one that lodged in my memory, but its rambunctious, irreverent spirit helped distinguish it. A recent viewing on Blu-ray confirmed my initial impression:

It's very tempting to describe Arne Toonen's Black Out as The Hangover with bullets and blood, but that would be inaccurate, because the Dutch film adds a layer of self-aware mockery and introduces a roster of aggressively colorful characters to an age-old plot. ...

While none of the narrative beats are strikingly original, the screenplay by Melle Runderkamp and Toonen takes care to shine them up and rearrange them, one note at a time, until they resemble a new composition. It's as though they cooked the same old meatloaf with sparkling new ingredients. ...

Circling back around to the opening scenes, it's a particular moment in Jos' disposal of the body that 'clicks' and locks the movie into a distinctive mode, one with a pungent sense of humor that winks and says, 'Let's go!,' making Black Out a convivial pleasure to watch.

Raymond Thierry stars as Joe, a reformed bad boy who wakes up on his wedding day to discover a bloody corpse in his bed. The film zooms off from there in a very entertaining fashion.

The Blu-ray features an audio commentary by Toonen, who exudes a similar breezy confidence and refreshing candor as his characters. With delightfully little dead air, he has something to say about every scene, not only the real-life location of settings and the identification and background of the actors -- very helpful to those of us not familiar with the Dutch cultural scene -- but also a quick explanation of his approach.

As he (constantly) reminds the listener, he and his team were working with a very small budget, and, while he acknowledges the limitations that imposed, and laments the scenes they were not able to shoot, he also shares the creative thinking involved in overcoming those limitations so as to make the film as visually interesting and emotionally impactful as possible. It also serves as a "how to" for those who want to add comic touches to an otherwise straight-ahead genre exercise.

Many audio commentaries have put me to sleep, but not this one. The Blu-ray also includes Oh Deer, a short film by Toonen, a blooper reel, a gallery of photos ("Unusual Suspects"), and a selection of trailers for Doppelganger Releasing titles. On my admittedly less than top of the line home video equipment, the picture and sound are very good, and the English subtitles are well-timed and easy to read.

The film is also now available on DVD.

Around the Internet:
  • Don Drye

    I really think this movie gets way too much credits here, it's pretty much a uninspired "snatch" clone with just a few good moments.
    Even some of the characters in this flick are straight rip-offs from characters of Guy Ritchie's masterpiece (The evil russian crime boss & the "not too bright" colored thugs".

  • Aleks

    Good for Toonen that at least some people outside of the Netherlands liked his movie. I don't know a single Dutchman who has seen and liked it.
    Sorry, but what a shamelessly unoriginal and dumb movie it is.

  • Marcel Samson

    No matter how hard I try, I just cannot get excited about ANY dutch movie, tv show, etc. And I'm dutch. It usually has a very cheesy feel to it. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I'm not willing to wade through the garbage to get to the good stuff, haha. Better stuff to do and all ;)

  • Aleks

    Tell me about it. Not even Wolf, which was one of the very few Dutch films in years that I actually anticipated with some gusto, didn't really deliver. I sincerely hope that Dutch cinema will go through a South-Korea-like revival someday. But I, sadly, really don't ever see that happening.

  • Man, you guys are a tough room! I love Wolf!

    What'd you think of Plan C?

  • Marcel Samson

    I think it also has to do with being in my own language, I think. Bad delivery of lines is less noticable when it's not in your native language, I guess ;). Neither Wolf nor Plan C rings a bell. But that's just because I pretty much ignore info concerning most dutch cinema. I'll look them up!

  • Ard Vijn

    Spot-on comment about the line delivery.

    Dutch people tend to grow up with English being spoken just on television, not in real life, so we count both as sounding normal. But acted Dutch often sounds so painfully different from spoken Dutch, so rehearsed and artificial, that it takes the joy out of most films.
    Both WOLF and THE POOL are recent welcome exceptions.

  • Don Drye

    I think the casting and directing of "Wolf" helped a lot with that Dutch line delivery problem.
    "Wolf" as a crime movie aimed for a more realistic and rough approach, it's story and characters didn't need to be "cool" or "gangster" and because of that it felt very authentic, even in the dialog.
    But "Black Out" (also a crime movie) tried way too hard to be cool and gangster, and nothing is more painful (for me as a filmgoer) than to see Dutch actors "trying" to be some kind of Tony Montana or Marsellus Wallace.
    Raymond Thiry didn't convince me at all as a cool wise-guy'ish gangster in "Black Out" but he did as harsh kickboxing trainer in "Wolf".

  • Aleks

    I actually quite liked Wolf, it's definitely one of the better Dutch films of the past... decade. I was just hoping for it to be, simply put, better.
    Plan C is a fun little flick, perhaps slightly too derivative of the Coen brother's style, but very enjoyable nonetheless. Both 7/10's for me, it's been a while since I rated a Dutch film any higher.

  • Don Drye

    Can't agree more on these short reviews of these two films.

  • RoboticPlague

    Ok so waaay off topic but does anyone have any news on Albert Pyuns the Interrogation of Cheryl Cooper? I made it on the list to the stream they were going to have so that they could get feedback. I was supposed to get an email telling me when but never received one. Did I miss it or no?

  • Also, he's in pre-production on a new film right now. Describes it as a kids' gangster film ...

  • Heh ... funnily enough I was engaged (still am, actually) in a very silly conversation with Toonen on Facebook as this published. If what we're talking about actually happens I'll be a very happy man ...

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