Aug 242018

First Reformed might be a technically well made drama, and Ethan Hawke does turn in an amazing performance, but I never found the story all that enthralling and in fact some of the scenes were unintentionally funny.



First Reformed

Genre(s): Drama
Lionsgate | R – 108 min. – $24.99 | August 21, 2018

Date Published: 08/24/2018 | Author: The Movieman

Directed by: Paul Schrader
Writer(s): Paul Schrader (written by)
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cedric Kyle
Features: Commentary, Featurette
Digital Copy: Yes
Formats Included: Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Full Frame 1.33
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 22.6 GB
Codecs: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A

Lionsgate provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.

THE MOVIE — 2.25/5

Plot Synopsis: Reverend Ernst Toller (ETHAN HAWKE) is a solitary, middle-aged parish pastor at a small Dutch Reform church in upstate New York on the cusp of celebrating its 250th anniversary. Once a stop on the Underground Railroad, the church is now a tourist attraction catering to a dwindling congregation, eclipsed by its nearby parent church, Abundant Life, with its state-of-the-art facilities and 5,000-strong flock.

When pregnant parishioner Mary (AMANDA SEYFRIED) asks Reverend Toller to counsel her husband (PHILIP ETTINGER), a radical environmentalist, the clergyman finds himself plunged into his own tormented past, and equally despairing future, until he finds redemption in an act of grandiose violence.

Note: This section does contain MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS so reader’s please be aware!

Quick Hit Review: First Reformed received plenty of high praise and although it was aptly written and directed by Paul Schrader, and unlike Grindstone, the production companies didn’t swoop in and change it, much like equally critically praised The Witch, I found many of scenes funnier than thought-provoking, one in particular could’ve been ripped right from Portlandia where a memorial service is being held a clichéd toxic lakefront and as the ashes are being spread, the church choir is singing Neil Young’s “Who’s Gonna Stand Up” protest song. All these days later I can’t tell if Schrader was playing this seriously dramatic or there was some sort of parody in there somewhere.

Taking that aside, I did genuinely enjoy Ethan Hawke’s impassioned and passionate performance… for the most part, until the end where one specific shot he does overdo a bit. Even so, this perhaps is one of Hawke’s better roles in quite some time. And in her few scenes, Amanda Seyfried is quite good as well, holding her own opposite Hawke. Oh, and Cedric the Entertainer is now credited as Cedric Kyle, making sense since this is an entirely dramatic role, even if one aspect it was hilariously symbolic when Hawke’s Toller asks if God forgives what we have done to our planet and what the mega-church should do, and Kyle’s reverend character literally turns his luxury highchair around representatively blocking anything Toller had to say. As YouTube’s Matthew Buck would say, “SYMBOLISM!”

But I digress. One of the biggest wtf’s came with the ending when the movie goes full-on metaphorical when Toller and Mary make a spiritual “connection” floating in the atmosphere (a la Superman: The Movie) showing the environmental beauty and man-created disasters. Like the memorial scene, I guess this was supposed to be another “thoughtful” sequence, personally I found it more bewildering. Of course, it doesn’t stop there, Toller comes close to becoming an eco-terrorist, utilizing a suicide vest to blow himself and notable attendees of the anniversary event.

One of the biggest comparisons with First Reformed was perhaps Paul Schrader’s best scripted work, also about a socially ostracized main character in Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle with Taxi Driver. I can see why but I found that movie far more disturbing, but also exhilarating, drama-thriller versus this one which does tend to be overly heavy-handed in its messaging which more often than not was more on the ridiculous spectrum rather than thought-provoking.



This release comes with a matted slip cover and inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy. Not a whole lot of features, but there is an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul Schrader and a behind-the-scenes featurette, Discernment: Contemplating First Reformed (15:43; HD).


VIDEO – 4.5/5

Lionsgate releases First Reformed onto Blu-ray presented with a full frame 1.33 aspect ratio. The 1080p high-definition picture is sharp and well defined and colors are on the limited spectrum, though this is dark looking movie given the topic. Black levels do look stark throughout showing no signs of aliasing or artifacting.

AUDIO – 4.0/5

The movie comes with your standard DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which is basic mainly because the bulk is dialogue or atmospheric ambient noises, but very little, if any, score. In fact, I was wondering if my surround system was even working when the movie began as there literally was zero sound until after the logos.


OVERALL – 2.5/5

Overall, First Reformed might be a technically well made drama, and Ethan Hawke does turn in an amazing performance, but I never found the story all that enthralling and in fact some of the scenes were unintentionally funny. Schrader isn’t a favorite filmmaker of mine, far from it, and ranks right down there with Terence Malick in some of his pretentious style, which was on full display in the third act. The Blu-ray itself has good video/audio transfers and limited features.





Check out some more 1080p screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>