The Commitments 25th Anniversary Blu-ray review

Title: The Commitments: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray
Genre: Comedy, drama, music
Starring: Robert Arkins,
Andrew Strong,
Maria Doyle,
Johnny Murphy,
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Picture: 1080p
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English.
Runtime: 1 Hour 53 mins
Extras: Featurettes,
Deleted Scenes,
Making Of,
Music video
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
Release Date: US: Aug 30 2016
UK: Sep 19 2016

A true cult classic in every sense of the word, and the on/off soundtrack in numerous households across the country for the past two-and-a-half decades, Alan Parker’s The Commitments is now 25 years old, and has a shiny new Blu-ray release to celebrate the anniversary of this true classic.

Based on Roddy Doyle’s book of the same name, and scripted by Porridge/The Bank Job writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, The Commitments follows a young music-lover named Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) as he strives to assemble a soul band, scours the Northside of Dublin for musicians and singers, and looks to take his group to the big-time.

Directed by Alan Parker (the Angel Heart director with a history of music films; including Pink Floyd The Wall, and Fame), The Commitments is an utterly unique piece of cinematic history; a witty piece of musically-charged cinema which not only spoke to the youth of the times, and the working-class people of Dublin who could relate to the eating, the attitudes, and the lifestyle pictures, but people of all generations and territories, and is every bit as relevant today as it was a quarter of a century ago.

Still immensely witty, it’s a hilarious journey filled with bickering, teasing, scathing remarks and amusing retorts, and showcases the dreams and aspirations of each of the band members; making it big; having fun; doing something musically special; or simply getting out of the unemployment line; and is told at a lightning pace, with authentic dialogue (much of which was improvised), and bolstered throughout by a fantastic and truly timeless soundtrack.

With classic songs like Mustang Sally, Try A Little Tenderness, Treat Her Right, and In the Midnight Hour, it’s a toe-tapping tale of trials, tribulations, and twenty-something musicians told through the performances not of trained actors, but twenty-something musicians; further adding to the authenticity of this musically-charged drama about hope, success, and the idea of making it.

Well shot, well acted (especially as hardly any of the cast were real actors – though many would continue, or go on, to be successful musicians and actors, including lead singer Andrew Strong, Robert Arkins, thespian Johnny Murphy, singer and actress Maria Doyle, singer and actress Angeline Ball, and even Andrea Corr of The Corrs), well written, and totally authentic, The Commitments is a true cult classic, one of the best pieces of Irish cinema ever created, and although a touch dated (what isn’t after 25 years?) it’s still as fun, fresh, witty, enjoyable, and relevant as it ever was.



While a cursory first glance may lead you describe The Commitments new Blu-ray transfer as a touch soft compared with newer films of the same vein, there’s an authenticity and natural quality to the image (boasting a thin and natural layer of grain throughout) which really makes Dublin’s dirty streets come alive with its strong level of detail and solidly reproduced textures. A mostly dull palette accentuates the grimy look of pre-’90s-revival Dublin, but is often given chance to ‘pop’ thanks to the inclusion of notably colourful elements (showing solid contrast and colour reproduction), and fine detail continues to shine in numerous close-ups of the various band members.

There is a touch of inconsistency, as the various gigs tend to look cleaner and sharper than the rest of the film (especially the exterior shots) and are much more in line with modern releases, yet this only adds to the glamour of these scenes and isn’t distracting enough to become a hinderance in any way. Plus, as the transfer is largely free of any compression issues, and looks a million times better than any previous DVD release, it’s clearly the best The Commitments has ever looked.


Likewise the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track which accompanies The Commitments is suitably strong. While the majority of the audio resides within the front channels, the rears do get a workout when the music kicks into high-gear, thoroughly enhancing the musical numbers, and the gigging scenes. Dialogue is clean and crisp throughout, and although there’s a clear distinction between the dubbing of the re-recorded dialogue scenes, and the musical numbers which were recorded live (and sound phenomenal), it’s a generally strong track with no issues whatsoever.



The majority of the DVD extras have been ported to the new Blu-ray release; including four featurettes, Dublin Soul (an interesting look at the locations and soul of the city in which The Commitments is based); Looking Back (a 45-minute-long doc from 2003 covering all aspects of the production, and containing interviews with Alan Parker, Roddy Doyle, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, as well as the majority of the cast); and two Making Of’s (a 1991 made-for-TV doc with plenty of interviews and on-set footage, and a more modern EPK style one); as well as Parker’s audio commentary (recorded for the 2003 DVD release, it proves to be a fascinating listen for any fan, and an extremely detailed account of the production); and a music video to Treat Her Right, with accompanying into where Robert Arkins and Alan Parker discuss the video.

Also included is a brand new featurette; 25 Years Later: Interview With Alan Parker and Cast (a great way to see what some of the cast members look like now, and although we only hear from Robert Arkins a.k.a. Jimmy, Glen Hansard a.k.a. Outspan Foster, and Ken McCluskey a.k.a. Derek, we get to spend a little more time with them and hear some interesting stories about filming in Dublin, what The Commitments meant to them, and Johnny Murphy – who sadly passed away in February 2016), two image galleries (with production, and behind-the-scenes, stills), a digital copy of the film, and a collectible booklet (sure to be treasured by any fan); meaning this is not only the most complete, but thoroughly exhaustive, extensive, and well thought-out collection of bonus materials any Commitments fan could hope for.


The Bottom Line:

It’s impossible not to recommend The Commitments to those who haven’t seen it; a uniquely enjoyable, energetic, warm, and wonderfully heartfelt film with a fantastic cast who not only live up to the excellent soundtrack, but actually created it; it’s wholly deserving of its cult status, and a real must-see music movie.

The 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release is also not only a great buy for new fans, but long-time fans alike, as it’s not only by far the best The Commitments has ever looked and sounded, it also comes bundled with a wealth of DVD special features, and some well crafted new bonus materials which are well worth exploring.

Refreshing, relevant, fantastically funny, and full of fun, it’s a witty drama set to a sublime soul soundtrack you have to experience; The Commitments: 25th Anniversary EditionBring It On Home To Me.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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Matt Wheeldon is the Founder, and Editor in Chief of Good Film Guide. He still refers to the cinema as "the pictures", and has what some would describe as a misguided appreciation for Waterworld.