Number 23 (The)
R1 - America - New Line
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Shane Roberts (7th August 2007).
The Film

For his birthday mild-mannered dog catcher Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) is given a second hand copy of a book called 'The Number 23' by his wife Agatha (Virginia Madsen). The more Walter reads, the more the events of the life of the sleazy main character Detective Fingerling seem to mirror his own. When Fingerling becomes a killer Walter becomes convinced that he is somehow destined to be the same.
First off, I'll start with a warning : this is a film by Joel Schumacher, a director of fluctuating quality at the best of times (mostly on the bad side). Fortunately this is not the Schumacher of "Batman Forever" (1995) or the terrible "Batman and Robin" (1997). Unfortunately it is more the Schumacher of "8mm" (1999) and "Bad Company" (2002): glossy and boring. An interesting and mostly original script is almost completely ruined by his usual over-flashy and pretentious style.
The Fingerling sequences are ok because they need to maintain a fantasy noir look of the old pulp detective magazines that they're inspired by, however; the rest of it just looks like every other 'gritty' thriller that's been ripping off the likes of "Se7en" (1995) and "Stir of Echoes" (1999) in the last several years.
Jim Carrey has proved himself more than capable in dramatic roles before in "Man on the Moon" (1999) and especially in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004), but in a dark psychological thriller like this one he is out of his depth. He's not bad as Walter the husband and father, but it's nearly impossible to take him seriously as Fingerling. I just can't believe Ace Ventura is a 'hard as nails' detective having raunchy sex with femme fatales. It doesn't help that he has very little chemistry with Virginia Madsen. Someone known for more intense roles, say Kevin Bacon, Edward Norton or even Tim Robbins would have been better.
Virginia Madsen on the other hand is quite excellent in both of her roles. After playing the standard wife in peril in "Firewall" (2006) recently this sounds too similar but turns out there's a lot more to it and she does a lot more with it. Agatha seemingly goes from loving and loyal to conniving and untrustworthy as Walter becomes obsessed with the book, and she is very convincing as both. Secondly as Fabrizia, Fingerling's girlfriend in the book sequences, she's playing the sexy femme fatale role she perfected in numerous thrillers like "The Hot Spot" (1990) and "Slam Dance" (1987) earlier in her career.
People with an interest in numerology or a fascination for conspiracy theories like "The Da Vinci Code" (2006) should get some enjoyment from the plot revolving around what is referred to as 'the 23 enigma', the theory that this supposed magic number can be found in everything from details in everyday life to major events in history (Caesar was stabbed 23 times, 9/11/2001 = 9+11+2+1+23, etc).
This intriguing idea has been turned into a reasonably good psychological thriller with some nice twists and surprises but it's let down by unoriginal directing and miscasting.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 2.35:1 this anamorphic transfer is another solid package from New Line. The image beautifully balances the hyper-real fantasy world and Walter's reality, however sharpness was compromised and I felt the image was on the soft side. Despite this the differences in visual style are rendered beautifully here in fine detail. The film's tone is dark so the look is suitably grim, as a result the image is a bit dark but blacks are deep and bold and shadow detail is consistently good throughout. I found no traces of grain or compression related issues such as artefacts or noise amid the black levels, no edge-enhancement either. New Line has delivered a brilliant looking transfer that perfectly captures the mood of the film.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English Dolby Digital EX 5.1 surround track as well as an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its 5.1 EX track. Much like the transfer the audio track is equally impressive, although this is a low-key thriller there is a lot of activity to heard in this mix and the range from subtle ambient and atmospheric surrounds to aggressive is present and handled well throughout the 5.1 space. Dialogue is clear although at times the actors are soft spoken so you might want to punch up the volume occasionally. The score adds another payer to this intricate mix that will almost certainly immerse the viewer.
This disc does not feature any optional subtitles.

Extras

New Line has included a series of extras that include an audio commentary, 16 deleted/alternate scenes, three featurettes, a feature on the numbers, a fact track, the original theatrical trailer, bonus trailers plus some DVD-ROM content. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

This DVD includes the option to view two versions of the film, the original "Theatrical Cut" and an "Unrated Cut". The film's extras are annoyingly categorized into two sections "All Access Pass" and "Beyond the Film", below is a listing of all the extras on this disc in both sections.

The film's director Joel Schumacher provides a feature-length audio commentary accessible only on the "Theatrical Cut" of the film only. Throughout the track he remains screen-specific as he comments on his involvement in the film dating back to when he made "Tigerland" (2000) and loving the screenplay, he adds some insight into the number 23 enigma, as well as on his casting choices mainly in wanting to work with Carrey again after "Batman Forever" (1995). He does also shed light on the visual style of the film including the use of locations, the sets and also visual effects elements but does spend a lot of time gushing about his brilliant cast and crew that made the film possible. It's interesting to discover that he's collaborated with many of the crew on several projects and enjoys working with the same people as relationships and shorthand methods are developed over the course of several projects. If anything he makes you believe he truly loves working with these people and is passionate about making films (even though his track record is a rocky road). One thing's for sure, it's not a boring track and worth a listen enough though there's a fair bit of back-patting.

A collection of 16 deleted/alternate scenes are also featured on this disc. They can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' function. The scenes included are:

- "Alternate Opening" runs for 1 minute 53 seconds, sees Walter run over by a bus before it cuts back to a week prior.
- "Walter Chases Ned" runs for 22 seconds, Walter chases after the pit-bull dog through a forest.
- "Nathanial's Institute" runs for 1 minute 25 seconds, flashes back to when Agatha and Walter first met.
- "Walter In Bedroom With Book" runs for 54 seconds, Walter finds familiarity in the story.
- "Engine Problems" runs for 46 seconds, Walter radios dispatch that his truck is experiencing an engine problem.
- "Spying On The Suicide Blonde" runs for 1 minute 10 seconds, Walter peeks at the Blonde as she contemplates hanging herself.
- "More Engine Problems" runs for 28 seconds, Walter radios dispatch and lies about having problems with his engine to take time to read more from the book.
- "Empty Truck" runs for 16 seconds, radio dispatch is having a hard time getting a hold of Walter.
- "Happy Birthday From The Suicide Blonde" runs for 38 seconds, the blonde wishes Walter a happy birthday.
- "Alternate Bookstore Clerk Scene" runs for 1 minute 3 seconds, an alternate take on the scene where Walter wants to know more about the book and how to find the author.
- "Emotional Leave" runs for 1 minute 29 seconds, Walter gets emotional leave from work.
- "Fingerling Finds Note" runs for 1 minute 17 seconds, Fingerling reacts badly to the note.
- "The Police Sergeant" runs for 54 seconds, a Sergeant tells Walter he can't arrest him for a crime he's about to commit, and gives him advice.
- "Robin Asks About Mailbox" runs for 35 seconds, Robin enquires about opening a P.O. Box.
- "Laura And Kyle Buy Knife" runs for 17 seconds, the two check out knives to buy.
- "Alternate Ending" runs for 1 minute 9 seconds, Walter writes a letter to Robin telling he'll be out early and we see that Robin has also become infatuated with the number 23.

Next up we've got "The Making of The Number 23", a featurette which runs for 22 minutes 20 seconds. This EPK clip takes a look at the development process, the script and basic synopsis of the film as well as how the various key cast and crew got involved in the film. The clip briefly covers the enigma of the number 23 and why it's important to Carrey, we also get an understanding of who the characters are and their journey's through the film among other things.

"Creating The World of Fingerling" is a featurette which runs for 11 minutes 11 seconds and focuses on the visual style of the film covering the photography and lighting schemes between the fantasy book world and Walter's real life as well as a look at the tone created by the visual effects in helping to achieve a hyper-real world by shooting on green-screen and using the latest CGI effects to seamlessly integrate actors into surroundings without it looking like an obvious effect.

"The 23 Enigma" featurette runs for 25 minutes 2 seconds and takes a closer look at the while 23 enigma and how numbers help create parameters in lifer and their use in science and religion etc. Experts in the field of mathematics delve into the purpose of numbers and the use of math in everyday society, and the clip also looks into numerology and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Additionally on this disc is a sub-section entitled "How To Find Your Life Path Numbers" feature this includes:

- "Intro" which runs for 1 minute 52 seconds, a numerologist introduces us to this section of the DVD that will help the viewer work out your life path number.

- "Calculating Your Number" runs for 43 seconds, this is a short demonstration on how to calculate your number, once you know your number check the "Number Summaries" for the interpretation, the number include:

- 1 runs for 24 seconds.
- 2 runs for 27 seconds.
- 3 runs for 30 seconds.
- 4 runs for 28 seconds.
- 5 runs for 55 seconds.
- 6 runs for 40 seconds.
- 7 runs for 33 seconds.
- 8 runs for 54 seconds.
- 9 runs for 50 seconds.

An interactive trivia fact track runs as part of the Infinifilm functions, this feature is only accessible on the "Theatrical Cut" only, while watching the film you can gain access to facts and clips featuring the cast and crew as well as well as information from noted professionals in the fields of mathematics and numerology. The clips included throughout this feature are:

- "Original ending" which runs for 2 minutes 43 seconds.
- "23's in the film" which runs for 1 minute 29 seconds.
- "Fingerlings tattoos" which runs for 1 minute 48 seconds.
- "23's on the set" whcih runs for 2 minutes 22 seconds.
- "Original concept for this film" which runs for 36 seconds.
- "Theory of cupcakes" which runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.
- "The 23rd day of shooting" which runs for 1 minute 50 seconds.
- "VFX sequence: The story book" which runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds.
- "VFX sequence: The suicide blonde fall" which runs for 36 seconds.
- "VFX writing in room" which runs for 59 seconds.

Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 20 seconds.

A series of bonus trailers are also included for:

- "Mr. Woodcock" which runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds.
- "Fracture" which runs for 36 seconds.
- "Snakes on a Plane" which runs for 32 seconds.
- "Pan's Labyrinth" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" which runs for 34 seconds.
- "The Butterfly Effect 2" which runs for 33 seconds.
- "The Hard Easy" which runs for 1 minute 21 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are some DVD-ROM features, which includes a "Select Your Numbers" feature as well as web links to the New Line site as well as the official site for the movie.

Packaging

This DVD is packaged in an amaray case that is housed in a cardboard slip-cover.

Overall

The Film: B Video: B+ Audio: A Extras: A- Overall: A-

 


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