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Straight To Hell Returns

Post-Repo Man cult favorite returns with improved special effects —John Adams (review...)

Alex Cox returns... Straight to Hell

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Every so often, an independently produced movie makes waves with the American public. My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Bend it Like Beckham made it into the mainstream, and late last year, Americans got to know The Station Agent.

Miramax releases a simple DVD today, as humble in scope as the movie, but with as big a heart.

Trains and (Friend)ships

Proximity is often enough for making new friends
Proximity is often enough for making new friends
A humble little DVD release with a big heart
A humble little DVD release with a big heart

Finn McBride (Peter Dinklage) is a dwarf. In the course of the movie, only two people don’t make some noise of surprise or some rude comment about his stature, so it’s understandable that he just wants to be left alone.

He opens the movie as a clerk in a hobby store that specializes in model trains. When the owner dies, Finn inherits an abandoned depot in a small town in New Jersey. The station is perfect for him, and he moves in.

Before he can even hang his mailbox, he’s besieged by Joe, an outgoing hot dog vendor (Bobby Cannavale) who also sells a mean coffee outside the depot. Then Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), the crazy driver of the SUV that almost ran him down, shows up with an apology and a bottle of wine. It seems Finn won’t be able to retreat as fully as he had hoped.

The story takes several turns, but mostly it follows Finn as he settles into his new community. The Station Agent shows how effective proximity can be in creating new friendships. And while there are some uncomfortable moments where strangers make rude comments to Finn, or the friends make fools of themselves, these don’t detract from the movie’s engaging, kind heart.

DVD Extras

Five deleted scenes are included, none of which are more than a minute long. Director Tom McCarthy explains their brevity by saying that with such a low budget, the script had to be tight even before the cameras rolled.

The other extra feature is an audio commentary recorded with four good friends: Peter Dinklage, Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, and McCarthy (the three principal actors and the director). The commentary is a mixed bag. My initial reaction was negative. The comments are haphazard and rarely insightful. Ten minutes in, I wrote down the first interesting fact on the track: the depot had been newly restored and the set designer had to grunge it up for the movie.

But eventually I warmed to the conversation, not because the content became more interesting, but because the friendship between these four people started to come through. I interviewed Cannavale last fall and found him to be a bubbly talker, and that personality really comes through on the audio track. With a mind and a mouth moving like a speeding train, he’s hard to pin down and hard to shut up; he is as outgoing and likeable as his character Joe. McCarthy and Clarkson are able to hold their own against Cannavale in the commentary, but Dinklage often gets lost in the cacophony of camaraderie.

Picture and Sound

Picture and sound quality are very good. McCarthy includes many establishing shots where the cinematography (by Oliver Bokelberg) lingers on a beautiful still life, so the crisp, vivid picture is a treat. The soundtrack is encoded in Dolby Digital surround and is unremarkable, except for the evocative Western-sounding music by Stephen Trask.