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on July 4, 2000

(USA - 1998 - color & black and white)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Theatrical soundtrack: Dolby Stereo SR

If DVD is about anything at all, it's about rescuing worthwhile movies from undeserved obscurity. And Victor Salva's RITES OF PASSAGE (1998) is a GREAT movie, a textbook example of economy and precision, brimming with honest emotion and high quality drama. On the one hand, it's a wrenchingly powerful examination of a young gay man (Jason Behr, from TV's "Roswell") coming to terms with years of neglect at the hands of an abusive father (Dean Stockwell) who doesn't know how to communicate with him. And on the other, it's a hairy-chested thriller about a father and his grown-up sons (Behr and Robert Keith) who must set aside their differences when their visit to an isolated mountain cabin coincides with the arrival of two escaped convicts (James Remar and Jaimz Wolvett) who are searching for buried loot. These disparate strands are woven seamlessly into a satisfying whole, allowing gut-wrenching thrills to develop naturally from the emotional stand-offs which underline most of the featured relationships.

A heavyweight cast rises to the challenge of Salva's extraordinarily complex script, and the film's technical construction simply cannot be faulted. It's a testament to all involved that the plot never becomes static or claustrophobic, despite the single isolated setting (the bulk of the film takes place in and around a mountain cabin during one particular night), and while the heroes and villains are clearly signposted, Salva's corkscrew plot encourages us to repeatedly question our understanding of the characters and their motivations. For all its action and suspense, this thriller has a tender heart and a vivid appreciation of human virtues and frailties.

Salva and Behr recorded an articulate, humorous, and hugely engaging commentary track for the original US DVD which explained the origins of the script (rooted in Salva's own childhood with a difficult stepfather), the casting process, and a wealth of production details. Salva lavishes praise on all his collaborators, particularly on Behr whose superb performance is the crux of the entire film, to a point where Salva eventually becomes a little embarrassed by his own effusive compliments. To his credit, Salva's appraisals seems like genuine reactions to the consummate skill of his cast and crew, and it's left to Behr to point out the writer-director's own significant contribution to the movie's artistic success.

Bottom line: Rent it, buy it, or borrow it, even if it's just to drool over Jason Behr (!), but whatever you do, DON'T MISS IT. POWDER proved that Salva could work magic with a substantial budget, while RITES OF PASSAGE demonstrates his unique ability to create similar miracles with virtually no money at all. An absolute delight from start to finish.
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on December 7, 2000
I admit to searching this title out because I am a huge Jason Behr fan, but I never expected to be so blown away by his acting skills. It's very nice to see him out of "Max's" skin.
Behr's portrayal of the outcast son of a rather well off family is impeccable. Cambell, also is gay, and this is not accepted well by his father (Stockwell). Their all ready shaky relationship turns almost hostile due to Del Farraday finding his son in another man's embrace two Christmas' ago. Del apparently beat the boy, Billy, and threw him from the cabin. Behr gives his heart to this character, and it is so beautiful to watch.
The cast is just amazing. Dean Stockwell has always been a favorite, and he plays the condescending, overpowering, father figure (with a heart) perfectly. The actor who plays DJ Jr., Robert Keith, was also wonderful. The tumultous relationship between these three men is wrenching to watch.
James Remar, whom I had never heard of, was so good at being the slippery, bad guy, who had more tricks up his sleeve than really necessary. Frank is a master criminal, a dangerous man, and a slick liar, all rolled into a very strong character. His mere presence in the cabin with the Farraday family is a suspense filled effect. He mocks, he teases, he throws heated glances, and laughs so powerfully that it makes your bones cold. The obvious tension between Remar and Behr's characters is thick. His nonchalant attitude makes him hard to read, but no character is as they first appear.
Between secrets that unfold and lies that are told, you never know what is going to happen next. The story has many different layers and subplots, however, they are all so written. They appear seemless. I have never been so glued to a screen before! I recommend this to anyone and everyone!
Victor Salva has done it again. He was astouding with Powder. That was one of the most beautiful movies I have ever watched. Salva is a master at human nature and the human psyche. He repeats a wonderful performance with the story and actors behind Rites of Passage.
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on October 20, 2000
I bought this movie originally because Jason Behr was the star, and also because of it's theme. The movie deals with the struggle Campbell (Behr) who is recovering from the loss of his lover Billy, and the neglect of his father.
I identified with Campbell, as I too have a turbulent relationship with my father; and have also lost my partner, so by the end of this movie I was drowning in my own tears.
Behr plays the character Campbell extremely well, pushing his fantastic acting ability to the limits. He has such a fabulous way of expressing his emotions, and making you the viewer; have compassion for his character.
The DVD is excellent, deleted scenes, one a personal fave, when Campbell goes to see his mother. Audio comments by director and Jason Behr, please buy this one!!
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on August 30, 2001
"Rites of Passage" is a finely tuned psychological thriller that does more than just keep our stomachs tightened for an hour and a half. This story of a father and his two sons being held at the whim of a convict is more than that, digging deep into its characters to give the story a much richer complexity and intrigue. As far as thrillers go, I was breathless; as far as human dramas go, I was hooked.
The film introduces us to Del Farraday (Dean Stockwell) and his son D.J. (Robert Keith), who run into one another in a San Francisco hotel. In hopes that he might quiet any objections his son may have about seeing his father with another woman, the two venture to the family lakeside cabin for a weekend of bonding. That is, until they arrive and realize that Campbell (Jason Behr), the youngest son, is also there, and immediately we get the feeling that there is bad blood between father and son.
As it turns out, it goes back years ago, when Del caught Campbell giving his heart to another boy by the name of Billy, and lost himself in rage. The two have had no contact for months at a time, so it comes as no surprise that when Del reveals his affair with another woman, an argument ensues. But any and all arguments are cast aside when two strangers arrive, who turn out to be escaped felons, one of whom has a connection to Campbell's lost Billy, and with whom Campbell has an agenda.
To reveal any more will ruin the plot's many twists and turns, though not so much the thriller ones as the emotional ones. This is one well-crafted film from Victor Salva, the director of "Powder." His work on that project and his work here prove his worth as a filmmaker in that he can do so much with a large budget film, and take material such as this and turn it into solid entertainment with a minimal budget.
Salva's most winning aspect of this film is his attention to the emotions of his characters, particularly Campbell, whose homosexuality fuels most of what's going on in the plot. Campbell is given the typical emotions of someone who feels empty and lonesome, but under the powerful performance of Jason Behr, these emotions are so impacting and believable that they add so much to the overall effect of the film. Salva is also careful not to turn the film into a coming-out story, but more of a story about coming to terms.
The father/son examination this film partakes is simply stunning. This human drama unfolds very effectively as Campbell and his father, played in a winning performance from Dean Stockwell, must come to terms with one another, what has happened in the past, and what is going on as they find themselves in danger. There is always some measure of loyalty that each holds for the other, and the film portrays that loyalty in such a light that nothing could ever shake it.
Another good aspect is the way in which Salva allows the psychological drama to play on those emotions. One of the escaped felons, Frank (James Remar), plays on Campbell's childhood memories of his father's disdain for him, using it as a tool to win him over and keep him loyal. Remar pushes the envelope with his witty and chilling performance, and to watch the interaction between he and Behr in the most intense moments will keep you on the edge of your seat.
While it is most definitely an unknown film, "Rites of Passage" will be remembered by those who see it. It not only winds the chord of suspense until the knot in your stomach is unbearable, but it gives us characters whose emotions we can identify with and understand. These emotions come out through some very strong performances, and some very provocative directing. I got so much more from this film than I expected, and hold it up as one of the best human dramas of recent years.
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on April 3, 2001
I decided to purchase this movie based on the reviews I read here on I read a few reviews and right away I knew I was captured, I had to buy it. I must say that each actor is given the role that fit them most, no one appeares out of place or out of character in the part they portray. The film is quite vivid in its delivery of past occurances, it does not bore the viewer. Even though I felt satisfied with the history of the past, I felt so touched about the situation with Billy that I wanted to learn more about his relationship with Campbell. One has no choice but to be sympathetic to Campbell (Behr), he expresses just the right amount of emotions. This film was cleverly directed, the little bit of suspense keeps the viewer entertained. The gay issue, I feel is very well presented, many who watch the film can relate because the story is very realistic. I say realistic beacuase there are so many young, and even older gay individuals who experience similar situations with a parent's understanding of who they really are. I like the fact that this is not just a movie based on gay individuals or issues, there is actually a very good plot. Rites of Passage is a magnificent picture that allows the viewer to open up and feel the emotions of happiness, despair, fear and love as they flow. I was satisfied.
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on June 25, 2000
The Farraday men are men with secrets. And when all of them end up at the family's mountain get-a-way unexpectedly -- one secret turns deadly in this unique and chilling thriller from writer/director Victor Salva (Powder). Old wounds and resentments between father and son arise as Dell (Dean Stockwell) realizes that his homophobia may be pushing his youngest boy, Jason Behr (Roswell) into the arms of a much darker and deadlier father. This movie is wild and creepy in all the right ways. A thriller!
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on August 21, 2000
Rites of Passage starts off like a suspense thriller. Two men are in the woods camping when along comes a man asking for help. It doesn't take long for them to figure out that the man is an escaped convict. But by then it's to late, a second convict shows up and murders the two campers.
After this, the movie quickly moves to its real substance: family drama. It's a story about a father and two brothers that somehow remind us of Cain and Abel. Not because one brother was good and the other evil, but because the father viewed them that way. Campbell, the youngest of the two brothers, is the father's disappointment. DJ, of course, is the father's pride and joy.
By coincidence, they all end up together in the family's cabin in the woods. Needless to say, the family quarrels begin as the father's adultery surfaces. Of course, the father isn't the only one who has skeletons in the closet. In the meantime, guess who shows up? None other than the escaped convicts.
At this point, the scriptwriter continues the family drama while introducing elements of suspense and mystery. For the first time in years, I sat glued to the screen wondering what was going to happen next. Hats off to the scriptwriter, who cleverly introduces new twists and turns without losing focus of his central theme: the consequences of father/son relationships.
Great acting crowns this superb script, making Rites of Passage one of the most intense, original and rewarding movies I've seen.
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on May 7, 2001
The commentary by the writer-director and lead actor is very good; fun and informative. Overall great performances and a tight story, the type with twists and turns as happens in real life. Most of the time you can't see the surprises coming, sometimes you can. I think it depends upon how involved you are in thinking about the last scene that played or whether a character's attitude or dialogue is preoccuping you with a memory of something from your own life. The movie combines drama-mystery-suspense and romance, as well as concepts of redemption and reconciliation. The basic premise about a homosexual son who has been disenfranchised from his father and yet accidently meets up with him at the worst possible moment in their lives - with escaped-from-State-pen felons on the loose and headed their way - is a contrivance that gets the basic plot moving, so you can't resent it. In fact, you wouldn't have much of a movie without it. The film plays like a theatrical production, with its minimalistic sets (a cabin by the lake), but the plot and acting is so realistic you don't feel constricted. If you like the writer-director's film POWDER (as I did) you might want to catch this one also as an example of great story-telling, but POWDER and RITES have nothing to do with each other in terms of plot. POWDER is cosmic and RITES deeply personal. Only two problems with this film/DVD and why I didn't rate it 5 stars: 1) There isn't more of it (more flashbacks to enjoy the characters more fully); 2) Occasionaly the characters speak in a rather florid fashion that even extremely well-educated types don't, as if they were characters in a play rather than real life.
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on June 25, 2007
This is a fine film however, the Digiview Entertainment DVD edition is the version that has been edited for broadcast television. Full screen with the profanity blanked out. I'm not very disappointed since I only paid a $1 for this DVD at Walmart. The story of the film is very engaging but, feels very closterphobic like a filmed stage play. All in all not a bad deal considering what you usually find in the dollar DVD bin. Good quality picture (compared to other bargain DVDs) just not the version of "Rites of Passage" available on other DVD editions. If you're a fan of the film and want to own it on DVD this is not the edition to purchase.
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on December 16, 2001
This film is much better acted than written. The five leads (Dean Stockwell, Jason Behr, James Remar, Robert Keith and Jaimz Woolvett) may not be major feature film actors, but all do a respectable job and create a certain suspense and atmosphere. And Heaven knows, it's not easy to act when your character is poorly written.
The main problem is the premise itself: gay son of macho father, who has chased son's lover away (lover then dies without son ever seeing him again), starts to write letters to a relative of the dead lover, who is in prison for being a rotten person. Through their letters they develop a "deep" relationship. Now it's time for the pen-pal to break out of prison, with a gay cellmate in tow, grab gay son - who is willing to be his accomplice - and the money that he buried before he went up the river (yes, the old bury the money routine!). Unfortunately, macho father shows up unexpectedly with straight brother at the family's log cabin in the woods, where the gay son is meeting his fugitives (talk about your bad timing!). Gay son's fugitive pen-pal now decides to have "fun" with macho dad and brother. Suddenly things get out of hand, tied up - so to speak - and the gay son, just can't quite figure out how to get his pen-pal back on the right track. In the end, he basically has to kill him (lets him drown, actually) and stoically goes off the jail, because now macho dad has become super pappa, who loves him to bits!
Boy, what some guys won't do to get their fathers' attention!
The other problem here is the fact that homosexuals are displayed as either stupid, criminal, psychopathic or all three. The film tries hard to be a legitimate "I-want-my-father-to-love-me-even-though-I'm-a-queer-film", but just can't pull it off without making gays look like the outcasts that their fathers think they are. Victor Salva (writer/director) obviously hasn't realized that some macho dads dislike the fact that their sons are homosexual, even though their sons are intelligent, good-hearted people, who are assets to society - not like the creeps in his film!
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