Staten Island/Brooklyn Rules (Blu-ray) (2009)
|Category||Crime||Bonus Episode-Film : Brooklyn Rules|
|Year Of Production||2009|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||James DeMonaco|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The idea of the Icon Entertainment Blu-ray Double Packs is reminiscent of the cinema going experience from many years ago, where a session involved a B movie as well as the main feature. It has advantages and disadvantages for the consumer. More on these later. The "feature presentation" with this release is the 2009 movie Staten Island. The pack comes with the bonus movie Brooklyn Rules.
Staten Island, as we learn from a faux documentary at the start of the movie, is the largest and the least populated borough of New York State. It is also, allegedly, the home of New York's prominent mob families. The film Staten Island weaves an intersected tale of the lives of three different characters, all brought together by a robbery gone wrong. The story is told in three parts giving us a chance to see the same events from different characters’ perspective. It's an interesting idea and one that works fairly well and helps keep the movie bubbling along. The film itself is no great shakes and has a strange comedic tone which, intermingled with the violence, recalls Pulp Fiction.
It is difficult to describe the plot without giving too much away. Ethan Hawke plays Sully Halvorsen, a dim-witted septic tank cleaner madly in love with his wife Mary, played by Julianne Nicholson of Law and Order fame. Putting the jumbled timeframe into chronological order it is the decision of Sully and Mary to have a baby that jump starts the narrative. Experiencing some difficulties with pregnancy, the pair visits a fertility clinic. Everything turns out to be fixable but, while sitting in the waiting room, Sully watches a video of the clinic’s specialty - using gene therapy to create super intelligent and healthy children. Worried that his own limited intellect will get passed to his child, Sully is obsessed from that moment with having their child "enhanced". Trouble is, the plan costs $50,000.
Where is a working class stiff like Sully going to get $50,000 from? There are probably a few places he could get it. Sully chooses the worst. He comes up with an idea to rob local crime boss Palmie Tarzo (Vincent D'Onofrio). Anyone can see that this was a bad idea. Tarzo is a quirky but dangerous mafioso. When the robbery goes wrong, as it was bound to and the robbers accidentally shoot and injure Tarzo's beloved mother, all hell breaks loose. Tarzo begins the process of hunting down and bumping off the robbers with his crew of not so loyal henchmen.
Whenever a robber is found and dispatched the goons bring him into the local delicatessen where deaf mute Jasper (Seymour Cassel) plies two trades. One is slicing meats for deli customers and the other slicing up unwanted bodies for the mafia. How these characters come to intersect is the fun in Staten Island.
As said, there are some odd things going on tonally with this film. D'Onofrio has made a career out of playing offbeat characters and Tarzo is no exception. With his small company of goons, his plans to take over the entire Staten Island are as doomed as Sully's plan to rob the boss’ home. Ethan Hawke has played "dumb as a box of hammers" characters before too, most notably in the excellent crime flick Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. There is something odd going on with Hollywood scriptwriter turned first-time director James DeMonaco in his use of Hawke in this movie. Combining his obsessive cleaning to wash off the septic muck and his dreams of genetic perfection it is hard to watch the film and not be constantly reminded of Hawke in the sci-fi flick Gattaca. Seymour Cassel plays the deaf mute character Jasper well although, not surprisingly, it is a little difficult to understand his motivations. When he wins big at the track he realises that he has no great plans for the money.
Staten Island is a film that many will like for its quirky take on the crime drama. Those who like their crime films mostly dead serious, see Brooklyn Rules below, will find it flippant and two perverse. Fans of D'Onofrio or Hawke may be the best audience for the film.
Staten Island was shot on 35mm film and projected at the cinema in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for the Blu-ray release.
The advantage of having a double pack of movies is that those films which are lesser releases, and may not otherwise get to our shores, are able to see the light of day. The disadvantage is that the films are presented each on one layer of a BD 50. Therefore the maximum file size is 25 GB. As it happens both Staten Island and Brooklyn Rules are just over 20 GB. Given that both are short (roughly 90 minutes) films and without extras it means that all the disk space allocated can be provided for the film. It is no different from having films individually on BD 25.
As it happens, the presentation of Staten Island is quite good without ever being exceptional. The level of detail in the faces and close-ups is impressive however the mid-range and longshots display some softness. The colours are bright and accurate. There is no evidence of compression in the transfer which no doubt results from its very brief run time. There are no artefacts or defects with the transfer.
There are English subtitles which give a good account of on-screen action.
There are two soundtracks provided for Staten Island. Both, unusually, are high-definition soundtracks. Icon Entertainment would have to be one of the few distributors that put both a Dolby Digital True HD 5.1 track and a DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track on the same Blu-ray. This decision has always been a little bit difficult to understand. Most receivers will decode both high-definition soundtracks and in case of the DTS HD Master Audio will down convert if the receiver does not support high-definition sound. In any event, I listened to both tracks and found the equally impressive.
This is mainly a dialogue driven film and most of the action comes from the centre channels. There is some use of a surround particularly when the shooting starts and the sub-woofer is engaged from time to time. There is an unusual effect sonically when the story comes to focus on deaf mute Jasper. The sound changes to reflect his experience, meaning that there is a muffled bass heavy blur in which the audience, like Jasper, cannot hear what is being said.
|Surround Channel Use|
The only extra provided with this Blu-ray is the bonus film Brooklyn Rules. Otherwise, the films are stripped down to the bare minimum with no extras whatsoever. The menu screen simply features a film selection.
Brooklyn Rules was reviewed on DVD on this site and that review can be found here. This is an extra to this Blu-ray and cannot be purchased as a separate release.
The film is also a take on the gangster genre albeit in faraway Brooklyn on the other side of Manhattan. It is the clichéd story of three friends - one who is the smart guy who uses his street wiles to try to getting up the ladder, another the guy who becomes involved with the mob with tragic consequences and the third an average Joe who is just trying to settle down with his girl and live an ordinary life. From writer Terence Winter who wrote for The Sopranos as well as creating Boardwalk Empire this is a surprisingly clichéd affair, however there is lots of fun to be had in the performances of Freddie Prinze jnr, Scott Cann and particularly Alec Baldwin doing his evil shtick.
Even though the film is allocated one layer of this dual layer Blu-ray the transfer is nowhere near as good as that for Staten Island. As a bonus movie this is probably not a deal breaker but those who are big fans of Brooklyn Rules would be well warned to perhaps look overseas to find a good quality release of the movie. This transfer is soft and features some unsightly artefacts. It is true it found first life in an interlaced format and was probably converted from a television print. Watchable, but only just.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region A Blu-ray of Staten Island is an interlaced affair though it does have some real extras:
Staten Island is not a film with a wide appeal. It is decidedly offbeat and the director has difficulty integrating the tones of violent gangster film and comedy. Still, it is worth a watch on a Friday night.
The Blu-ray transfer is adequate without being spectacular - it probably replicates the cinematic experience of Brooklyn Rules although the transfer of the film is quite poor.
|DVD||Cambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC-LX 81 7.1|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|