The Commitments is one of those all-time classics. I loved it in the cinema, I loved it on DVD and I’m loving it again on Blu-ray.
It’s the tale of an unlikely band being brought together, against the odds, to sing soul. They bicker, they fight, they fall out, they argue, they fight some more, they practice (occasionally), and it’s all leading up to the gig of their lives, in the hope of being signed by a major label, and with the promise of soul legend Wilson Pickett attending.
Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, along with the author Roddy Doyle, the group of young Irish lads and lasses are managed by Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins), who constantly dreams of being interviewed by Terry Wogan on his then, thrice-weekly evening BBC1 chat show, Wogan.
Andrew Strong plays headstrong and foul-mouthed lead singer Deco, and still today, he tours and releases albums, but doesn’t tour with the official Commitments band. The role of singer falls to Dave Finnegan, who takes the position of bouncer-cum-drummer Mickah Wallace. The extras go into more detail about “Where Are They Now”, although that’s more from around 2003/4, since that’s when the longest and latest of the featurettes was made.
There are so many classic moments in this movie: potential singers at Jimmy’s door, wanting to audition; on revealing the band’s name, The Commitments, Deco asks “How do you spell it?”, and Jimmy replies: “T-H-E”; the band practicing and upsetting a baby; the priest correcting one of the band on the singer of When A Man Loves A Woman; and I can’t help but laugh loudly every time I hear “Say it once, say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud”, no matter how many times I hear it. And I didn’t realise until now that the original novel replaces all of the last mentions of the word “black” with “niggers“, but then had they used that in the film, it wouldn’t have gone down well.
Every character makes their mark, and all the cast are on point, and overall, it’s still as priceless 25 years on as it was back in 1991. If you’ve never seen it, you MUST buy it. If you have seen it, you WILL buy it. And if you haven’t, check out the two music videos featured in this review. I’ve been listening to their music on Youtube this past week. It’s great to reconnect with it.
And I think, from now on, I’ll also imagine my life being interviewed by Terry Wogan…
The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen ratio and in 1080p high definition, and it has a gorgeous picture which might look a little off-sharp, but only because it was shot on film. There are no print flecks or hazy issues some discs can give you.
The audio is in DTS HD 2.0 Stereo, and the music pummps out hard. You know the songs, you know how they go. They’re perfect.
There are some brilliant extras on this release:
- 25 Years Later: Interview with Alan Parker and Cast (19:09): Some interesting interview snippets here – from Parker, Robert Arkins (Jimmy Rabbitte), Glen Hansard (Outspan Foster) and Ken McCluskey (Derek Scully) – but they’re all individual interview clips mixed in with film clips. So, it’s not a whole group of the cast sat together which would’ve made more sense. I would’ve thought a huge hit like this, and on a 25th Anniversary release, would’ve merited more than a 19-minute video in what is the only brand new item.
- The Making of Alan Parker’s Film, The Commitments (22:37): Shot in 4:3 and at the time of the film being made, this mixes in clips from the film mixed in with chat from the cast and crew. Also, it has ad breaks mixed in, so it looks like something from the US.
- The Commitments: Looking Back (47:11): Presented in 16:9, Ken McCluskey says towards the end, “It’s 2004, now”, yet the copyright date at the end of 2003. Either way, it’s around halfway been now and when the film was made, but it brings us up to date with where a lot of the cast were at that time.
I thought the 19-minute new featurette was a bit miserly, but with a featurette from now, 2004 and 1991, it gives a great flavour overall, especially since a lot of the cast are not featured in the new one.
- Dublin Soul featurette (14:53): This is like an extension of the above piece, but with a look at some of the locations, including the Northside and Southside divide, plus more of the music.
- The Making of The Commitments (8:05): Similar title to one of the above, but this is an American-voiceover featurette. It brings us nothing new, but it’s great for completists..
- “Treat Her Right” music video (5:51): with an intro from Alan Parker and Robert Arkins, this takes footage from the “Looking back” featurette and uses it as letterbox 16:9 within the 4:3 frame.
- Production stills: 14 on-set pictures.
- Behind-the-scenes stills: And ten more.
- Audio commentary: with director Alan Parker
The menu features clips from the film set to a piece of Mustang Sally. There’s an odd number if chapters in 13 (the last being for the closing credits), and the English subtitles aren’t always accurate, such as when Jimmy’s brother wants to use the hairdryer, and his sister, Sharon (Andrea Corr), replies “Go an’ shite!” but it comes up as “Go and shush!”
The Commitments 25th Anniversary Edition is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, and click on all the images and packshot in this review for the full-size versions. I’ve picked two of the stylish pictures, especially.
Running time: 118 minutes
Released: September 19th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 (Stereo), DTS 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Alan Parker
Producers: Lynda Myles and Roger Randall-Cutler
Screenplay: Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais and Roddy Doyle (based on the novel by Roddy Doyle)
Music: Wilson Pickett
Jimmy Rabbitte: Robert Arkins
Steven Clifford: Michael Aherne
Imelda Quirke: Angeline Ball
Natalie Murphy: Maria Doyle Kennedy
Mickah Wallace: Dave Finnegan
Bernie McGloughlin: Bronagh Gallagher
Dean Fay: Félim Gormley
Outspan Foster: Glen Hansard
Billy Mooney: Dick Massey
Joey ‘The Lips’ Fagan: Johnny Murphy
Derek Scully: Ken McCluskey
Deco Cuffe: Andrew Strong
Mr Rabbitte: Colm Meaney
Mrs Rabbitte: Anne Kent
Sharon Rabbitte: Andrea Corr
Darren Rabbitte: Gerard Cassoni
Rabbitte Twins: Ruth Fairclough and Lindsay Fairclough
Greg: Michael O’Reilly
Duffy: Liam Carney
Imelda’s Sister: Aoife Lawless
Father Molloy: Mark O’Regan
Roddy the Reporter: Phelim Drew
Dave from Eejit Records: Sean Hughes
Ray: Philip Bredin
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.