Blu-Ray Review: The Fisher King (Criterion Collection)

As a society, we finally seem to be starting to have long overdue conversations about mental health. However, the stigma still remains. Tragically, this has all come too late for Robin Williams. The actor, who had struggled with mental health for decades, seems to have finally been bested by dementia. In The Fisher King, writer Richard LaGravenese takes the Arthurian legend of the keeper of the Holy Grail and comes at it from a different angle.

Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is everything you’d expect from a shock jock: Narcissistic, irreverent and unkind. Nothing seems to faze him, until one day, his comments inadvertently cause a listener to go on a killing spree. Three years later and now at his lowest ebb, Jack is attacked by a couple of thugs as he contemplates suicide. He’s rescued by a strange homeless man called Parry (Williams) who claims to be on a mission to find the Holy Grail. When he discovers that Parry lost his wife in the mass-shooting, Jack sees a path towards redemption.

Whilst there are many familiar elements, The Fisher King feels like a toned-down Terry Gilliam film. Working with someone else’s script, it feels much more narratively constrained than we’ve come to expect. Both Williams and Bridges are superb, but there are times when the tone feels erratic and just plain wrong. Their foils, Mercedes Ruehl and Amanda Plummer, are vital in grounding the drama. The Fisher King is often funny and occasionally profound, but it suffers from being disorganised and cluttered. However, it’s a powerful drama which showcases Robin Williams at his brilliant best.

Special Features:

  • New, restored 2K digital transfer, approved by director Terry Gilliam, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary featuring Gilliam
  • New interviews with Gilliam, producer Lynda Obst, screenwriter Richard La Gravenese, and actors Jeff Bridges, Amanda Plummer, and Mercedes Ruehl
  • New interviews with artists Keith Greco and Vincent Jefferds on the creation of the film’s Red Knight
  • Interview from 2006 with actor Robin Williams
  • New video essay featuring Bridges’s on-set photographs
  • Footage from 1991 of Bridges training as a radio personality with acting coach Stephen Bridgewater
  • Deleted scenes, with audio commentary by Gilliam
  • Costume tests
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Bilge Ebiri

The Fisher King is released on Blu-ray by Criterion on Monday 19 June.

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