Written by Senora BichoThe 1993 thriller directed by Dominic Sena touts Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis as the stars; however, David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes do all of the shining.
Brian (Duchovny) is a journalist who obtains an advance to write a book about serial killers. His girlfriend, Carrie (Forbes), is an avant-garde photographer frustrated with rejections and dreams of moving to California. Brian finds a solution that will satisfy them both: a cross-country drive visiting historic murder sites. To save on gas money they advertise for road companions. Early Grayce (Pitt) is a violent, unemployed parolee looking to start a new life with his childlike girlfriend Adele (Lewis), and the road trip out west seems to be the answer he is looking for.Carrie has apprehensions about the couple from the start, but Brian convinces her that there is nothing to worry about. The stark contrast between the couples is evident from their first meal together, and Carrie is concerned they won't pay their fair share. Brian is fascinated by Early and thinks she is being too judgmental. When it comes time for Early to pay for gas, he kills a man with ease in the service-station restroom. Things continue to intensify until it all comes to head with Brian and Carrie fearful that they will survive the journey.
Pitt is convincing as the psychopathic killer who creates the majority of the tension just watching him unravel while the trip progresses. Lewis is well cast as the doe-eyed girl that accepts and loves Early despite the abuse he inflicts on her. However, she starts to get annoying as the film progresses and is a bit one dimensional. We get a taste of the horrific background that put the character in the situation she is, although more facets and depth could have been added to the role in the hands of a different actress. I have been a fan of Forbes from her days on the television series Homicide and she is excellent as the struggling artist desperate to separate from evil when she spots it in Early. Duchovny also delivers a strong, believable performance with his naivety to what is right in front of him. In addition to the strong acting, the research of the famous serial killers creates a terrifying foundation that builds as the current killings reach their climax.The new release includes a Blu-Ray disc featuring an unrated version of the film and a DVD flipper disc with the unrated version and the theatrical version. There are no additional bonus features. The Blu-ray video is presented with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the audio is a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Solid, warm colors are on display, and other than occasional softness issues the picture is satisfying to watch. The dialogue is clear and well balanced in the mix. Unfortunately, the surrounds don't offer much in the way of immersive ambiance.
Although a tad lacking in high definition, Kalifornia doesn't suffer because the picture and audio aren't the focal points; it is a successful psychological thriller due to character building and strong acting while slowly building the tension. If that type of film appeals to you, it is worth watching.
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Kalifornia on Blogcritics.