The Wedding Party DVD Review
Written by Eric "The Hitman" Strauss
DVD released by TLA Releasing
Directed by Dominique Deruddere
Written by Jean Van Hamme and Dominique Deruddere
(Based on the comic book "Lune de Guerre" by Hermann and Van Hamme)
2005, Region 1, 92 minutes, Unrated
Armin Rhode as Hermann Walzer
Uwe Ochsenknecht as Franz Berger
Arne Lenk as Mark Walzer
Josef Heynert as Andy Walzer
Imogen Kogge as Hannelore Walzer
Julia Schmidt as Yvonne Walzer
Just the thing for a fellow who got engaged this weekend to watch, The Wedding Party tells the story of what happens when an egotistical, gun-toting father of the groom matches wills — and firepower — with a desperate chef he embarrasses at the reception.
The latest international film TLA has picked up for its "Danger After Dark" line, The Wedding Party might be the most straightforward, and best.
And I'm not just saying that because my father is a pleasant academic with nary a violent bone in his body.
I'm saying that because The Wedding Party has everything you want in a black comedy: Excellent acting, clever writing, a few pretty women and guns, guns, guns.
On Mark and Sophie's happy day, every other couple that travels with them to an isolated, struggling hotel has some kind of dysfunction. Mark's father, Hermann, is an overbearing jackass who stops the caravan to dinner to shoot some pheasants he sees in a field. Mark's older brother, Andy, is almost as bad, but without the pomp and pompousness — "This is just like 'Medal of Honor,'" he gleefully says at one point.
The bride's parents are no happier together than the groom's, and her brother is shamelessly flirting with his sister — who harbors a relationship with one of her father's, um, hired guns that she keeps a secret. Once the bullets — and grenades! — start flying and the booze starts flowing, the problems with those relationships and more pop up, a future of married life in stark contrast to what should be the optimism of such a day.
Everything goes to hell because the wealthy Hermann Walzer has had his eye on the hotel property for some time, but its owner/chef, Franz Berger, refuses to sell despite his struggles. When a "final offer" is followed by a disastrous shrimp cocktail, the wedding party storms out, led by Hermann.
Berger locks them out, citing the unpaid bill, which wouldn't be so bad, except… Sophie and her mother-in-law are locked in the ladies' room.
That leads to a kind of German Mexican standoff, with the Walzers — armed Hermann and Andy and pacifist Mark — outside, and Berger, his staff and guests inside.
If Armin Rhode is forced to play one note as Hermann, he plays it like a virtuoso, complete with tics and twitches and a mix of the charm that's made Hermann rich and the tyranny that's made him such a bastard. Uwe Ochsenknecht gives Berger the right notes of shock, despair and anger, and Arne Lenk and Imogen Kogge do "tormented" well as Mark Walzer and his trapped mother, Hannelore.
The supporting cast is likewise terrific — the script by Jean Van Hamme and director Dominique Deruddere, based on a comic, gives most of the characters at least two sides, and the actors stretch their ranges to match: A happy-go-lucky guy turns violent, a wounded man struggles to stay conscious, a sassy woman turns scared and a quiet one gets drunk and has some fun.
Of course, there are accidents and incidents, and pretty soon everything is so far out of hand, even Hermann and Berger are thinking about backing down.
But a final, awful, accidental shooting leads to what promises to be a violent climax — which leads to an ending that is oddly underwhelming, yet entirely appropriate.
This isn't a horror movie, after all — not every "Danger" after dark is a vampire — but a satire, albeit one with lots of blood and a few beasts wearing the guise of men.
Video and Audio:
The 1.85:1 anamorphic video is mediocre, but serviceable. The picture as a whole is grainy, soft and washed out, but that could be the fault of the source elements. The digital noise during some moving scenes — watching one wounded man twitch could make you seasick — must be the fault of the disc.
The German Dolby 5.1 track is better, with solid bass and some use of the surrounds in a front-heavy mix. There is plenty of shouting and gunshots, and the high end never tops out; the effects also never drown out the dialogue.
English subtitles are optional, as is a German 2.0 mix.
The only extras are the excellent trailer for The Wedding Party and a series of other TLA Releasing trailers (Strange Circus, Next Door, Evil and the "Danger After Dark" Collection).
The Wedding Party is a tightly paced film that still leaves room for characters that keep your attention, and has the fortune to have a strong cast that makes them work. It's a movie in which half the time you don't know whether to laugh or cry — a hysterical scene with an old man and a hand grenade leads to another man's revelations of infidelity and realization that he truly loves the wife he's cheating. Yes, the climax fizzles, and it's almost the only predictable part of the film. But that also means The Wedding Party stays true to its characters, and that's commendable. Not to mention, entertaining.
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