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  Directed by
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • None
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Cast/crew biographies

Empire Records

Warner Bros./Warner Bros. . R4 . COLOR . 90 mins . M15+ . NTSC


Wow, working in a record shop is like the coolest job in the world, right? Meeting all those famous rock stars, an endless stream of phenomenally cool customers, all the free CDs you can eat...

Well, take it from somebody who has lived the experience, if your idea of cool is ingesting mountains of heaven knows how carcinogenic fumes from shrink wrapping machines, wielding a pricing gun for hours on end, cleaning endlessly in a losing battle against the dust thrown up by trams and peddling infinite amounts of Celine and Mariah recordings to mindless sheep incapable of thinking for themselves beyond "I heard this on YUP FM so it must be good" then yes, it is indeed a good gig. And if you're not the buyer in a chart store that's open to blatant bribes then you can pretty much kiss the thought of freebies goodbye, but hey, if you're REALLY lucky you may be blessed enough to meet such luminaries as Toni Pearen, Collette or Girlfriend! And then there's that fateful day when your relatively open-minded place of employment gets swallowed up by the video industry equivalent of Microsoft, and freedom of expression takes a back seat to corporate robot conformity - no tattoos, no jewellery, hems down to here (points at floor) and towing that corporate line...

The staff of independent store Empire Records are facing this exact latter problem, with their owner planning on selling out to the Music Town chain, leaving them with an endless supply of orange corporate-branded aprons and little else. Inadvertently discovering what's going to happen whilst closing up one night, resident Mr Miyagi Spock-boy Lucas decides to save the day by biking on down to Atlantic City with the day's takings. Needless to say it doesn’t exactly go as planned, and his boss, Joe, is less then impressed - see what you get when you listen to Jim Morrison?

Plot-wise - well, that's pretty much it. Record shop gets threatened by corporate giant, staff fight to save it from evil oppressors, while the usual run-of-the-mill day-to-day record store stuff still goes on - an in-store appearance from a sleazy ponce-turd of a washed up soapie star turned singer, staff shaving their heads, shagging in the back room, drug problems, cat fights, mooning over co-workers, dealing with shoplifters and in-store funerals.

"Well, damn the man!"

With Empire Records, what could have easily been a mess with such a loose plot really works in a lots of fun, rather meaningless way. This is one of those cases where the cast gets it across the line as a winner, with the likes of Anthony LaPaglia (Joe, the stressed boss), Rory Cochrane (the rather out there Lucas, although he's a mean catcher of shoplifters), Robin Tunney (slaphead with a death wish, but plenty of 'tude, Debra) and Renee Zellweger (exhibitionist and aspiring singer (there's always at least one in every record shop) Gina) all giving fabulous performances. Oh, and I guess the boys out there may be rather keen to see Liv Tyler wearing virtually nothing, too...


Another new Warner release, and so another NTSC disappointment. If you can get past the ridiculousness of this entire situation - that of releasing discs for a television format that is not native to this country, and that many wouldn’t even have the faintest notion what it actually is, not to mention the sheer laziness and cheapness of simply not being bothered to create discs for this region in the first place - then what's left is quite pleasing visually.

Colours are quite delightfully vivid, although there are a couple of times when things tend towards the over-saturated side - most notably a certain red "thingy". Shadow detail is reasonable, there's not much in the way of grain and it's all anamorphically enhanced and in the original cinematic ratio of 2.35:1. There are quite a few distracting white speckles to accompany us on our filmic journey, and a couple of instances of mild edge enhancement and shimmering. Being a single layered disc there are naturally no layer change issues.


A fairly enjoyable 5.1 soundtrack is delivered to us. While there's not a heap in the way of surround opportunities in such a talky film, the extra speakers are utilised well to round out the musical side of things, with some subtle yet effective subwoofwoof use on same. Synching is fine and dialogue is never difficult to understand.

As would be expected in a film entitled Empire Records, the soundtrack features all manner of contemporary songs - no epic and lush orchestral arrangements to hear here folks, please move along. It's a curiously eclectic collection, ranging from The Buggles, Flying Lizards and Dire Straits to scary metal noise merchants Suicidal Tendencies, Acca Dacca, Cruel Sea and The The (with the sublime This is the Day), stopping by Throwing Muses, the Cranberries when they were good and a whole pile of boring US slacker whine-rock merchants as well.


A static menu, an anamorphically enhanced 2.35:1, two channel theatrical trailer that gives away far too much plot (such that there is) - and makes the film look to be wankier than it indeed is - plus very standard cast and crew bios for some of the actors complete with dreadfully incomplete filmographies. Sadly, that's it.


The video's alright, the sound is pretty good, the extras are virtually non-existent. It is so disappointing that this is another NTSC release, and in the end it is up to you whether you consider such dumb marketing moves worthy of support or not. Damn the man, indeed!

Film-wise, sure it presents a completely romanticised view of the whole working in a record store experience, however as an hour and a half of engaging 'generation X' entertainment, Empire Records manages to deliver - plot or no plot.

And at least the heated arguments over what music is to be played are frighteningly realistic...

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      And I quote...
    "Another NTSC release - damn the man, indeed!"
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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