Kalifornia barely made a blip at the box office in 1993, but it marked an important moment in Brad Pitt's career. He'd made a name for himself with Thelma & Louise and A River Runs Through It. Those films put him dangerously close to being typecast as a heartthrob. To avoid that fate, he signed on to play Early Grayce, a redneck killer. Both Pitt and the movie itself received generally good reviews, even if audiences ignored it. Shout! Select brings Kalifornia to Blu-ray in a special Collector's Edition on March 5.
David Duchovny plays Brian, a guy writing a book about serial killers. He wants to travel cross-country, visiting the sites where famous murders took place. His photographer girlfriend Carrie (Michelle Forbes) is going to take all the pictures. They need someone to share the driving and the travel expenses, so they place an ad. Their companions end up being Early and Adele (Juliette Lewis), a couple who live in a ramshackle camper and are desperate to get away. What Brian and Carrie don't know is that Early killed his landlord before hitting the road, and he's willing to kill again if the need arises. It does.
Directed by Dominic Sena, Kalifornia is a very odd film. Parts of it seem intent on being a thriller, while others are played as though the story is a dark comedy. Consequently, you aren't always sure whether to laugh or tense up. By the time the story winds to its finale – which is set at an abandoned nuclear test site and involves a lot of mannequins – you're likely to feel thoroughly perplexed.
Similarly, the screenplay never quite figures out what it wants to say about the dark side of human nature. Brian supposedly yearns to get to the heart of whatever turns people murderous, yet Kalifornia doesn't appear to have any real perspective on violence or violent people. That makes it somewhat of a hollow viewing experience.
Pitt is certainly good as Early, effectively bringing a sense of menace to the role. Lewis is also solid as the naive Adele, and Forbes does fine work showing how appalled Carrie gets as she sees Brian falling under Early's spell. Duchovny is the weak link, never making his character's fascination with darkness as authentic as it needs to be.
Kalifornia is one of those movies that doesn't appeal to everyone, but those who like it really like it. The picture and sound quality on Shout! Select's Blu-ray are excellent, and a couple of bonus features are additional strong points for fans. The 2-disc set contains both the unrated version and the theatrical cut.
Elsewhere, you will find a 25-minute interview with Sena, in which he talks about Pitt's desire to get away from “pretty boy” roles, how he managed to get Lewis to play Adele, and how the movie's road-trip story created some stressful days on set. The original electronic press kit is here, as well. It consists of a behind-the-scenes feature and cast interviews from '93. Trailers and TV spots round out the set.
For more information on this and other titles in the Shout! Select collection, please visit the official website.
Kalifornia is rated R for strong violence, and for sexuality and language. The running time is 1 hour and 57 minutes.