Tuesday, February 19, 2008

American Gangster on DVD

“You know, I don’t think they want this to stop. I think it employs too many people - judges, lawyers, cops, politicians prison guards, probation officers. They stop bringing dope in this country about 100,000 people are going to be out of a job.”

Based on true events the film follows the life of the rise and fall of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), one of the most successful drug kingpins in history, and Ritchie Roberts (Russell Crowe) the one honest cop in a den of thieves who brought him down.

This is an interesting tale, although the film seems to stop just as it gets going; even in this new extended edition the epilogue, and point, of the film seems rushed. For more on the plot of the film read my original review.

Out today are the two-disc Collector’s Edition DVD and the three-disc Deluxe Edition DVD. The later, along with all the extras of the first (for about $10 more), also includes a 32-page collector’s book, a featurette on the music of the film with interviews from Common and T.I.P./T.I., music videos, a downloadable digital copy of the film for PC’s, and featurettes on the film from both Black Entertainment Television and Dateline NBC.

The two-disc version includes both the original theatrical version of the film and an unrated extended edition. Aside from the extended ending sequence the unrated version is only marginally different from the original and offers nothing to account for it’s “unrated” hype which seems like it could easily have also earned an R-rating. It’s no better or worse the the version you saw in theaters. The theatrical version also has commentary from director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Steven Zaillian. Both were recorded separately and the two commentaries have been spliced together on the same track which means the flow isn’t quite right in places and there is no conversation throughout the commentary. If they wanted to do these separately I’m not sure why they didn’t just include two separate commentary tracks.

The second disc provides one deleted scene and an alternative ending (both of which add up to less than 5 minutes), short featurettes on the production side of the film including a script meeting, instruction on drug testing heroin, and setting up the climactic drug bust. There’s something in each worth looking at, but nothing which would tip the scale and make you buy the DVD.

The best feature, by far, on this collection is the 78-minute documentary which examines several parts of the film from writing to production and includes a look at the real-life figures of Richie and Frank, the filming of the Ali-Frazier fight, the music, the costumes and locations of the film. Although the other features are nice, here’s the one that makes checking out the DVD worth it, even for those who have already seen the movie.

The film alone makes this one worth checking out. The two-disc edition provides a few bells and whistles, some extra footage, and a pretty good documentary. It’s worth checking out, as is the film if you missed it in theaters. I haven’t had a chance to peruse the Deluxe Edition, but, except for those fans who count the film as one of their all-time favorites, I’d say the two-disc version (for $10 less) should be enough for most.

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