American Gangster: Extended Edition (2007)

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Released 13-May-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Alternative Version-Extended Version
Audio Commentary-Director & Screenwriter
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 150:28
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (73:21) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Ridley Scott
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Denzel Washington
Russell Crowe
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Josh Brolin
Lymari Nadal
Ted Levine
Roger Guenveur Smith
John Hawkes
RZA
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $29.95 Music Marc Streitenfeld


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In)
English
Arabic
Danish
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, right at the end

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

This film had a long and arduous journey from idea to screen involving three different directors and a variety of main cast members. One of these incarnations resulted in large payouts to Denzil Washington & Benecio Del Toro as they both had deals which meant they got paid even if the film was cancelled. Eventually though it all came together in what is probably a dream teaming for this film being the combination of a great director, Sir Ridley Scott, two best actor Oscar winners in the lead roles (Denzil Washington & Russell Crowe) and an Oscar winning screenwriter (for Schindler's List), Steve Zaillian. This is an extremely well made, written and acted film which is compelling viewing for its 150 minute (or 168 minute in the extended version) running time. The original inspiration for the film was an article published in a US magazine entitled The Return of Superfly. This was one option considered for the title of the film.

The story is 'inspired by' the real story of 1960s & 70s Harlem drug dealer, Frank Lucas (Washington) who changed the way drugs were imported and distributed by going direct to the growers in South -East Asia rather than using middle men. The other main character is an outcast policeman, Richie Roberts (Crowe) who ended up bringing him to justice. At the beginning of the film, Lucas is the right hand man & driver for an aging gangster in Harlem, Bumpy Johnson (Clarence Williams III). When Bumpy dies of natural causes, Frank decides to take over the drug business in Harlem himself surprising the other gangsters with his low-key but strong willed approach.

Roberts on the other hand is seemingly the one honest cop in Harlem. When he and his partner, Jay find early one million dollars in a criminal's car, Roberts is determined to hand it in despite the consequences. This results in Richie & Jay's ostracisation from the force as the other cops think they can't trust them not to turn them in. As Richie is no longer welcome in the police force, his commanding officer arranges for him to be transferred to a federal narcotics task force and form his own team of other honest cops. This is where he starts to try to track down who it is that is taking over the Harlem drug business, however, Lucas does not start out as an obvious target for his investigations. The Italian mob are considered to be much more likely to be running the operation.

As you would expect from actors of such high calibre both Washington & Crowe live and breathe their roles, both being completely believable. The supporting cast which includes Armande Assante, Cuba Gooding Jr, Josh Brolin & Chiwetel Ejiofor are also excellent. Additionally Ruby Dee, as Frank Lucas' mother was nominated for many awards including an Oscar for this film. Another Oscar nomination was also given for the wonderful art direction which recreates the times in great detail. The music is another high quality element of this film featuring a score by Mark Straitenfeld combined with some well chosen funk and soul of the times. The music is by turns brooding, exciting and never overpowers the film or dialogue. The sound design also stands out with its excellent use of the surround speakers in virtually every scene adding street atmosphere or the sounds of the city around the characters.

Ridley Scott and the screenwriter present us with a very complex villain in this film. He is educated, committed to his family, shows great business sense but then in a moment can kill someone on a busy street in broad daylight or set a man alight. This is even more prevalent in the extended edition which includes more insights into the character of Frank Lucas. (More details about the extended edition can be found below in the extras section). The complexities of the character is certainly one of the strengths of the story presented here. It is perhaps only in the area of dramatic plot developments where this film does not quite hit the incredible heights of the greatest mob films such as The Godfather. There are no scenes of great drama to match things like the murder of Fredo or the shooting of Don Corleone after buying fruit. Obviously, when working with a true story as inspiration you cannot create such scenes. The style used here is more realistic and un-romantic than other films in the genre.

This disc includes an anti-piracy message but it is skippable.

Regardless this is excellent cinema which can be highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

The video quality is generally very good but not without issues.

The feature is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio.

The picture was mostly quite sharp although some scenes and shots seemed to be somewhat smoky in appearance. This especially seems to afflict darker scenes. I am not sure what has caused this but it could possibly be associated with trying to adjust the brightness of these shots. An example from 107:05 is show below which was intercut with very clear shots of Denzil Washington who is facing Amande Assante in this scene.

There was no evidence of low level noise. I also noticed some light background grain in other scenes.

The colour was excellent with no issues in colour noted.

The only artefact I noticed was some edge enhancement such as at 71:34.

There are subtitles on this disc in 8 languages, English, Hungarian, Arabic, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian & Swedish. All languages are available for both the feature and director's commentary. They are clear and easy to read. There are also burnt in subtitles for foreign languages used in the film itself.

The layer change occurs at 73:21 in the theatrical cut and 84:17 in the extended version. Neither are noticeable.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

The audio quality is very good but disappointingly only encoded at 384 Kb/s. This si especially disappointing considering the excellent sound design mentioned above.

This DVD contains an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 384 Kb/s along with a Hungarian dub with the same technical specs. The only other audio track is the commentary which is Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kb/s.

Dialogue was mostly clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.The dialogue was sometimes a little hard to make out, mostly due to accents and/or mumbling. The subtitles proved useful.

The score and songs used in this film sound really good providing significant atmosphere.

The surround speakers were in constant use reproducing the sound design mentioned above incorporating lots of city and street atmosphere such as trains rumbling by, cars, trucks, helicopters and gunfire.

The subwoofer was well used but not overpowering.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

This version of the film is the one-disc version. A two disc collector's edition is also available.

Menu

The menu design is of quality including animation, an introduction and music from the soundtrack.

Extended Version (168:47)

This would seem to be more of alternative cut rather than a director's preferred cut. It includes a number of extra scenes which are all certainly interesting and the extended version is definitely worth watching but I would personally start with the theatrical cut if you haven't previously seen the film. The extra scenes include some more time on the relationship between Frank & his mentor, Bumpy Johnson, a less important scene of Richie renting office space, a significantly extended scene of Richie chasing a drug dealer through The Bronx, an excellent scene which reveals more of the Frank Lucas character as he gets maudlin at Christmas and an extended alternate ending. This scene didn't add a lot to my mind and the way Denzil Washington was holding his coffee cup really freaked me out! A very worthwhile extra.

Commentary - Sir Ridley Scott & Steve Zaillian

An interesting commentary which is only available on the theatrical version. My only real criticism of this track is that Scott & Zaillian are not doing the commentary together which may have improved the flow of the discussion. It has obviously been edited together. Regardless, there is certainly interesting information to be gained here especially from Ridley Scott. Discussion covers editing choices, the tone they were going for, Scott's personal experience in Harlem when the film was set, wardrobe, the involvement of the real characters, the previous attempts at making the film along with some insights into the film industry. Worth listening to.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

There is no direct comparison to this local one-disc version of this film. In Region 1 there is a two-disc version along with a three-disc version both of which contain more extras. The two-disc Region 1 version seems to be the equivalent of our two-disc collector's edition. If you are an extras nut then the three-disc version from Region 1 is probably the choice for you. If you just want the film (in both versions) then the local one-disc release is a good option. Up to you.

Summary

An excellent gangster film directed by Sir Ridley Scott and starring multiple Oscar winning actors.

The video quality is very good but certainly not without issue.

The audio quality is very good.

The disc has two high quality extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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