Written by: David Ayer
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Harris Yulin
- Running audio commentary with Fuqua
- Theatrical trailer
- Deleted scenes
- Alternate (extended) ending
- Behind-the-scenes documentary
- Music videos: “#1” by Nelly and “Got You” by Pharoahe Monch
Released by: Warner Home Video
My Advice: Get It.
There is one reason that this film works as well as it does. That reason is Denzel, and I don’t think anybody’s surprised by this. We’re talking about an actor who can, as we witnessed in Bone Collector, outact an entire cast and make a terrible film at least watchable–all while lying flat on his back. But this isn’t your typical Denzel role, not in the least. Here he’s swearing, kicking major arse and is full-on intense from the word jump. Providing good backup is Hawke, who is a smart enough actor to kick himself right in beside Denzel’s wake and use that as added propulsion. It’s really a film for the two of them to do some killer duet acting, and the entire setup makes for a film that’s more edge of your seat than most thrillers of recent years. Sure the final third of the thing veers off into preposterous territory, and sure these two actors and their characters deserved a better ending–but the sheer momentum of Washington and Hawke carries the picture through before you can cringe too terribly.
The good news is that Warners, who is not known for being kind to DVD releases, actually gives a decent turn with this one. The centerpiece is the running commentary by third-time director Fuqua, and his comments are a helluva lot better than most directors in general. From the get go with the image of the rising sun, he’s discussing the vision that he had for the film, how it compared to Ayer’s original screenplay– everything that you always wish would come across in a commentary. So Fuqua gets gold stars, he was well prepared.
Next down the ladder are the alternate and deleted scenes. The extended alternate ending is a toss-up between it and the original one, since in context of the film it’s no more silly than the other problems in the final act. The deleted scenes are a grab bag–some you can tell were cut (and rightly so) for pacing’s sake. Some give a little extra insight into the characters or details about the street, but the film doesn’t suffer without them. They’re nice to have, though.
In addition to the two music videos, which I’m never too much into to be frank, there’s your obligatory behind-the-scenes bit. The good news about this documentary is that it’s actually better than average. Sure, it’s your standard fifteen minute HBO job, but the insight from the actors and Fuqua are worth giving it a watch. It’s more than just “Here’s who I play and here’s what their deal is.” It’s an explanation of where the film was shot, and what that meant to the community–and how it reflects on how Fuqua got started as well.
What it boils down to is great performances in a decent flick and a more than decent DVD. Fans of Denzel should go out and…hell, they already own it, who am I kidding? Fans of the police drama/crime genre should definitely give it the coin as well. But even if you don’t own the thing, it really is a must see in some form.