As a regular completely talentless nobody, I have no idea the type of pressure actors must be under to act in a major motion picture. Apparently these people work very very hard; waking up early, working under hot lights, taking all sorts of instruction, sitting through long makeup sessions, working long days for up to three months at a time (with only a few relaxing months off in between filming), and being forced to live in a trailer during that time. Of course the only compensation they receive is in the form of large sums of money, and really, who can put a price on all that hard work?
Even though actors are forced to live such a hard life that us little people really don’t understand, we still expect perfection on the big screen. When Ryan Phillippe stars in a film opposite Mike Myers and Oscar Nominated, Salma Hayek, I think the bar is set pretty high for people’s expectations. It almost makes me feel bad when I say it, since I’m an admitted “nobody,” but Ryan Phillippe should probably just quit while he’s ahead.
54 stars Phillippe as Shane O’Shea in a fictionalized take on the world inside 1970’s disco club, Studio 54, owned by real life, Steve Rubell (Mike Myers), an eccentric coke-head king of the disco parties. Shane grew up in Jersey City and wanted nothing more than to make it big in NYC. He found his ticket in by managing to land a job as a bus boy in Studio 54 thanks to his boyish good looks. Along the way, he meets up with good-hearted couple, Anita and Greg (Salma Hayek and Breckin Meyer), who let him crash at their apartment and completely take him under their wing.
Shane is a small time Jersey kid at heart who’s way too naive for his own good and ends up partying a little too hard and acting too big for his britches. It’s not long before he realizes that the big time world of Studio 54 and the disco lifestyle he was so fascinated with doesn’t actually provide all the happiness he dreamed it would.
The character development for our guy, Shane, is where the major failure of 54 is evident. This is in large part due to Ryan Phillippe not being able to bring any likeability to his characters. Phillippe has a lot of talent compared to what some actors have, but this movie could have been considerably better if he wasn’t the lead. A lot of the film involves Phillippe’s character doing voiceovers and when he’s on screen, there’s plenty of moments when he could be expressing so much more (the narration can be decent), but he’s just got that same pouty look on his face, and that monotone, whiny voice of his. It can't be a coincidence that Shane skates by on his looks to move up in the world in 54 and it’s like Phillippe had to have done the same thing to get the job acting in this film.
I really do like this movie even though I’ll admit it’s not that great. The main reason why I like it is because I was an adolescent girl when I first saw it and I didn't have such a problem with Ryan Phillippe as I do now. 54 has all the elements of what could have been a memorable film; based on a true story, lots of well written drama, and an interesting look back on the days of disco. Salma Hayek does what she does best and looks gorgeous pulling it off. The show stealer is Mike Myers who gives a rare performance that actually displays what he’s fully capable of--brilliance. Myers can pull off just about anything and he’s completely underappreciated for his role in 54 which should have earned him some form of recognition (not even an MTV Movie Award for this one). Myers carried the film as the creepy jerk of a character, Steve Rubell. I so wish he would take more roles that show off his ability to really act.
Unfortunately for all of us, Myers' performance wasn’t the focus of 54 and we were left with a poor example of an actor in the lead. You can salvage some interesting moments out of it if you just try to squint your eyes when Phillippe is on the screen. Sorry Mr. Phillippe, I know you must work hard at what you do, but why does it look so bad? Can’t you do any other facial expressions? Are you related to Kristen Stewart?
The video for 54 comes to us in a 1080p resolution via an MPEG-4 encode. The picture is riddled with soft images, and it's flat, and fuzzy at times. Generally the backgrounds are very out of focus and blurry. The Blu-ray picture is a little bit of an upgrade from DVD as there’s a slight bit of depth added to the picture. But just when I was trying to appreciate the added depth, I noticed the frequent dirt, scratches, and distractions that are speckled throughout. Colors are hit or miss but they do have some added vibrancy throughout the majority of the picture. Unfortunately, 54 still looks a lot like a DVD with an overall standard definition presentation making for a less than average quality transfer.
The audio is much better compared to the video. With an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track everything comes through like it should with a slightly shallow sound. Nothing too rich or outstanding that pops out and gets your hearth thumping, just standard Blu-ray up convert sound to compliment the disco beats in the background. There’s a lot of music throughout the track, all sorts of the hottest disco which may or may not make you want to throw up at times. Dialogue comes straight through the center channel in all situations, with noisy backgrounds of crowds, loud music, and Ryan Phillipe’s (horribly unconvincing) voiceovers. The best element of the audio on 54 is the bass thumping of the subwoofer, with the right amount of energy whether it’s thunder or loud wallops from the disco. Overall, the sound isn’t so bad but not reference by any means.
There was some real promise here in the extras for 54. Being a historical fiction, I was hoping to see some actual footage of Steve Rubell or Studio 54. I would’ve even been happy looking through old photos. Nothing of the sort can be found in the extras unfortunately, not even a commentary or behind the scenes. Pretty disappointing.
54 never did receive much critical acclaim and it’s not hard to see why. Ryan Phillippe ruined whatever chance the writers, directors, and decent actors had at pulling together what could have been a cult classic (maybe). Yeah, I might be a little too harsh on Phillippe right now, putting all the weight of failure on his shoulders, but I haven't seen a performance take down a movie like this for quite a while. With a less than average transfer to Blu-ray and a shameful list of extras, save your money and rent first before you buy.