Review by Gordon Justesen
Costner, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Trey Wilson, Robert Wuhl
Director: Ron Shelton
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, DTS HD 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: July 10, 2018
“The sucker teed off on that like he knew I was gonna throw a fastball.”
“He did know.”
“I told him.”
Bull Durham was a most successful case of a good material made by the right people. It was written and directed by Ron Shelton, a former minor league ball player, who has since been responsible for some of the most important and delightful films about sports, including White Men Can’t Jump and Tin Cup. Starring at the helm is Kevin Costner, who at the time was on the rise as one of Hollywood’s hot tickets. Costner and the sport of baseball go hand and hand beautifully, as also seen in Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game. These two talents have blended together to make a sports movie that really knows what it’s talking about.
The movie takes place in Durham, North Carolina, and is set in the minor leagues, with the Durham Bulls having a so-so season. Each player seems to have a flaw or two, except new catcher Crash Davis (Costner), a veteran of the minors, who seems to get it all right. The Bulls have an imperfect pitching talent in Nuke Laloosh (Tim Robbins), whose fastball is a winner, but whose sense of control and maturity simply isn’t there. At the romantic heart of the movie is Susan Sarandon, whose character of Annie Savoy is quite an original one. She believes in the religion of baseball, and each season selects one ball player each season to titillate. This season sparks problem, because Annie seems to be caught between two players; Crash and Nuke.
Crash, not believing in the same philosophy as Annie, refuses her advances, but Nuke is very eager to sleep with any attractive woman. Annie’s selection of her one player depends solely on who are the top prospects of the season, which Crash and Nuke definitely fit into. Nuke begins an affair with her, but when he begins an impressive streak, thanks to his teachings from Crash, he begins to stray away from Annie, leaving her no other options but to want another man, with Crash as the likely candidate.
The movie is knowledgeable of both love and baseball, but the best scenes in the movie take place on the field. Crash and Nuke don’t get along very well, but on the field Crash as catcher is the boss indeed, and watching Costner and Robbins interact and at times quarreling on the pitcher’s mound is both edgy and hysterical. One memorable funny moment comes when Crash instructs Nuke to throw the ball at the team mascot. The most howling moment, however, is when Crash gets into it with an umpire after a bad call.
Shelton and Costner proved to be a winning combination for both this film, and their superb golf comedy Tin Cup, and I’d like to see them team up for another movie in the future. Costner is at his sharpest here, portraying Crash as a pure bad ass of a player who has a touch of unexpected romance in him. Sarandon is superb and astonishingly sexy in one of her most memorable roles to date, and Tim Robbins provides a wonderful breakout performance as the out of control Nuke.
In the realm of sports movies, Bull Durham hits a definite home run.
I haven’t seen the movie since it’s DVD incarnation, but I can certainly say there’s absolutely no surpassing this new 4K sourced presentation courtesy of Criterion! Supervised by director Ron Shelton, this transfer definitely showcases an upgrade in overall quality. The level of clarity is ever so present throughout the movie, not just in the sequences set on the baseball diamond (where it shines the most), but also in simple indoor scenes as well as nighttime ones that weren’t so incredibly displayed before. Colors are also much more vibrant here than ever before!
Criterion also provides a nice upgrade in sound quality, which is offered in both DTS 5.1 and 2.0 mixes. The game sequences play especially grander this time around, concerning crowd noise and such. Dialogue delivery is as superb as it gets, which is of paramount importance since this is strictly a dialogue driven film, and frequent music playback gets outstanding treatment as well!
Criterion delivers a grand slam Blu-ray release, importing extras from previous releases and incorporating a few new ones. We get two commentaries, one featuring Ron Shelton and the other featuring Kevin Costner and Tim Robbins. There’s also a new conversation between Shelton and film critic Michael Sragow, as well a a program from 2001 featuring interviews with cast and crew, including Shelton, Costner, Robbins, and Susan Sarandon. Also included is an appreciation of the film from 2008 featuring former players, broadcasters, and sports-film aficionados, as well as a segment from NBC Nightly News in 1993 on the final season of baseball at Durham Athletic Park, where the film takes place and was shot. Lastly, there’s an interview with Max Patkin, known as the Clown Prince of Baseball, from a 1991 episode of NBC’s Today, a Trailer and an insert featuring an essay on the film by baseball writer Roger Angell.
The glory days of minor league baseball are wonderfully captured in Bull Durham, as well as the ups and downs of the love on the side. Credit director Ron Shelton and star Kevin Costner for crafting a winning home run hit of a movie, and Criterion for delivering a terrific must have Blu-ray offering!