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Born To Win (Fun City Editions) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Born To Win (Fun City Editions) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Fun City Editions
    Released on: April 26th, 2022.
    Director: Ivan Passer
    Cast: George Segal, Karen Black, Paula Prentiss, Hector Elizondo, Jay Fletcher, Robert De Niro
    Year: 1971
    Purchase From Amazon

    Born To Win – Movie Review:

    Directed by Ivan Passer shortly after he immigrated to The United States from his native country of Czechoslovakia, 1971’s Born To Win revolves around a man named J. (George Segal) who lives in New York City and who once made a decent enough living for himself as a hair stylist. Unfortunately for J. and those who cared about him, he starts dabbling in heroin and soon becomes a full-blown smack addict. Soon enough, chasing that high i the only thing that matters to him and his family, especially his put upon wife Veronica (Paula Prentiss), no longer want anything to do with him.

    Eventually, J. befriends Billy Dynamite (Jay Fletcher), another heroin addict whose addiction is out of control and it isn’t long before the pair starts running cons all across Manhattan to come up with the money to get more drugs. J.’s luck seems to change when he meets a woman named Parm (Karen Black) after she busts him trying to steal her car. They hit it off really quickly and seem like a good fit for one another, but J.’s need for heroin over shines everything else in his life and soon he finds himself wanted not just by a pimp and pusher named Vivian (Hector Elizondo) but by a NYPD drug squad member named Danny (Robert DeNiro) as well.

    Based on a play written by David Scott Milton and set to a great score by William Fischer (who also did Roberta Findlay’s Tenement!), Born To Win easily coasts to the finish line on Segal’s charm and skillful turn as a loveable loser. Despite his many and obvious problems, you just can’t help but like J., and all of the credit for that goes to Segal who does a fantastic job in the lead role. Of course, it doesn’t hurt things in the lead that he’s surrounded by an equally fantastic supporting cast. Karen Black is ridiculously charming here as J.’s new friend, they really have great chemistry together and you can’t help but hope they’ll be able to escape his problems together. Jay Fletcher, instantly recognizable from his work in Foxy Brown, is also really good as J.’s pal, they basically serve to enable one another and go along with each other’s bad ideas and there’s a good amount of warmth to their relationship. Paula Prentiss is also very good in her supporting role, and how can you not appreciate seeing Hector Elizondo and Robert DeNiro in smaller but important roles in the film? Burt Young from Rocky even shows up here playing a street rat type.

    The movie also benefits from some great footage of early seventies New York City, specifically Manhattan and Midtown but we get a neat scene at JFK as well. Films like this are always interesting to see for that reason alone, as the city has changed so much in the fifty-plus years since this movie was made, and as such, Born To Win serves as a time capsule of sorts and a document of the city that once was.

    Passer paces his picture well and the picture is nicely edited and put together. Production values are strong across the board. This isn’t a picture made with a massive budget, it’s more of a character piece, but it doesn’t hurt things at all as it’s not like it’s full of special effects or anything. Overall, this works really well and fans of vintage NYC-based movies and just good acting in general should find a lot to appreciate here.

    Born To Win – Blu-ray Review:

    Born To Win comes to region A Blu-ray taken from a “new 2K restoration from its 35mm interpositive” framed at 1.85.1 widescreen on a 50GB disc, with the feature taking up 27.6GBs of space. The transfer is excellent. It retains plenty, sometimes lots, of natural film grain but is otherwise in very nice shape, showing only minor white speck here and there, nothing more than that. Colors look perfect and black levels are nice and deep. There’s impressive detail throughout much of the film and typically we get strong depth and texture too, though some scenes do look softer than others, almost certainly due to the way that they were originally photographed. The picture always looks like film, never showing any noticeable noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression related issues.

    The only audio option is a 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are offered in English. No problems with the audio to note, the dialogue is easy to understand and follow, there’s a bit of depth to the score and effects and the track is free of any hiss or distortion. The levels are properly balanced and there’s no audible sibilance to complain about, it all sounds very good.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary by Jason Bailey and Michael Hull of the Fun City Cinema podcast that is quite interesting to listen to. They go into quite a bit of detail as to how the story was originally written for live theater and the changes that it went to on its way to becoming the film as we see it here. There’s also plenty of detail on Ivan Passer, on the cast and crew involved with the production and on the different New York City locations that were used
    The disc also includes a trailer for the feature, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection options and comes packaged with a booklet containing an essay on the film from archivist and writer Justin LaLiberty titled ‘Born To Lose: Ivan Passer’s Born To Win And NYC Loser Cinema’ that is well worth reading and accompanied by some nice archival photographs. The disc also comes packaged with some cool reversible cover sleeve art.
    Born To Win - The Final Word:

    Born To Win is a well-told human interest story, a drama with moments of humor, tension and sadness performed by an excellent cast. Fun City Editions’ Blu-ray release presents this underappreciated gem in fine shape and with an interesting and worthwhile audio commentary as its main extra. Recommended!



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Born To Win Blu-ray screen caps!

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