[box cover]

The Harvest

Self-referential Hollywood movies don't usually work very well — how many of us can really identify with depressed, out-of-work screenwriters? — but sometimes, as with the 1993 thriller The Harvest, the "write what you know" trope is spun in such a bizarre manner that it really delivers. Miguel Ferrer (Robocop, TV's "Crossing Jordan") plays Charlie Pope, the aforementioned depressed out-of-work screenwriter — broke, on the ropes, and about to be fired from his latest job. Having botched numerous versions of the true-crime script he's been assigned, Charlie's sent by his amusingly obnoxious producer (Harvey Fierstein) to Mexico to do some research on a contract killing. Unfortunately for Charlie, it turns out that the murder wasn't the sexy crime-world hit that he'd researched — it was actually revenge on an expatriated pedophile, and Charlie's producer says that pedophile movies are box-office poison, a turn of events that corners the already-blocked Charlie, who's facing his dead-last chance to sell a script. Things look up when he meets a hot blonde (Leilani Sarelle, Ferrer's real-life ex-spouse) but quickly spirals into weirdness when he's shanghaied on the waterfront one night and wakes up in a makeshift hospital missing a kidney. Running from murderous thugs, trying to keep one step ahead of mysterious strangers who, it appears, now want his other kidney, too, Charlie desperately tries to write his movie while, just as desperately, he tries to figure out how the bizarre events he's been sucked into are tied together. A straight-to-video entry on its release, The Harvest suffered from being difficult to market easily — written and directed by David Marconi (who also wrote Enemy of the State [1998]), it's very dark, often quite funny, and more a little surreal, utilizing dream sequences and flashbacks throughout, creating a noir-ish tension as the story continually twists in clever, unexpected directions. Ferrer is flat-out brilliant as a not especially likable leading man — self-absorbed, mean-spirited, depressed, and justifiably paranoid, the Prozac-popping, booze-soaked Charlie is hardly conventional hero material. But Ferrer, who's made a career out of making obnoxiousness downright charming, gets a tailor-made showcase here, pulling out all his best stuff from deadpan sarcasm to weaselly slime — and he still holds the film together as a genuinely sympathetic central figure. Sarelle, best known as Sharon Stone's lover in Basic Instinct (1992), met and married Ferrer during production of this film and their chemistry smolders — especially in a very hot sex scene set in a very small Volkswagen. However, there's a sick prescience when Charlie says of Sarelle's character, "I believe she's gonna be my future ex-wife" — the couple divorced in 2003. Keep a sharp eye out for Ferrer's cousin, George Clooney, in a surprising cameo as a none-too-pretty transvestite in a nightclub scene. Columbia TriStar's DVD release of The Harvest offers an excellent transfer — unfortunately, it's full-screen (1.33:1) only. But the colors are rich, the contrast excellent — along with being a dandy thriller, this is a really lovely film visually — and the composition doesn't suffer noticeably in this aspect ratio. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (English only, no subtitles) is equally good, with even the potentially messy nightclub scene separating dialogue nicely from ambient music and noise. It's a pretty bare bones disc, with the only extras being trailers for Resident Evil: Apocalypse, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and Secret Window. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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