American Gigolo (Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray)

A Los Angeles escort is accused of a murder which he did not commit.

June 17, 2024 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Before Richard Gere did such notable roles as An Officer and a Gentleman and Pretty Woman, he started out doing what most actors do, low key movies. As low key an actor as Richard Gere is, this would seem almost the exact opposite of what he would usually play. While he plays lawyers to a tee (Red Corner and Primal Fear), he has also shown us a range that has made him not just another Hollywood face. It was this movie, American Gigolo, that gave Gere the most notoriety and really put him on the map as a true leading man. Gere plays Julian, a gigolo (which, for those of you who don’t know, is basically a male prostitute) who gets into some hot water with the law after a trick goes bad. Gere, playing the character of Julian is very interesting to watch. He is one of those actors that despite the color of his hair, has really not aged in the last twenty years. Seeing Richard Gere play a gigolo was something that I was looking forward to, as I heard that it was one of his better (if not his best) role.

The life of a gigolo is really no different that the life of a prostitute, and rightly so as it’s basically the same job. However gigolo’s seem to be a bit more high-profile, if that’s not a contradiction in terms, than their female counterparts. Julian has a pimp, but has left his original pimp to go for the bigger money. Julian’s character is superficial who is only concerned about money, cars and how good he looks all the time. It’s when he does a favor for an old friend, a trick out in Palm Springs, that makes things go bad. The trick itself is fine, the husband is a bit of a “bully” wanting his wife to be slapped and other assorted things done to her. It’s only after this that a few days later the woman turns up dead and all of the sudden he has Detective Sunday (Héctor Elizondo) breathing down his neck. Add to this the strain of having one of his tricks that is starting to fall in love with him. In addition the woman who is so infatuated happens to be a Senator’s wife (or promising Senator) and it just so happens to be an election year.

While the plot isn’t exactly the hardest to figure out, it’s the acting that really steals the show. While some movies are based purely on hype the rest are pulled together through the direction or the actors in the movie, and this is the latter. Julian has to come to terms with what he is, as it seems that he has almost become immune to his so called title. There’s no doubt that he takes pride in his “work”, but at the face of a true romantic interlude with Michelle (the senator’s wife), he has to make a decision in order to save himself. Having heard a lot about American Gigolo in the past, it’s not a movie that I’ve ever seen before, so I was excited to see it. I have to say though, despite the great acting and plot, it has several rough scenes in it. Even for a movie twenty years old, many terms and visual images (such as Richard Gere in a full frontal nudity shot for about 20 seconds) have yet to be repeated. This film took some risks and they paid off in making Richard Gere the star he is today. I recommend it.

Video: How does it look?

I think it’s been well over two decades since I sat down and watched this film, the last time being when it hit DVD in the early 2000’s. Suffice it to say that the new 4K offering certainly ups the ante from Paramount’s old standard definition disc. I feel this is the kind of film that’ll never blow anyone away with its visuals. The 1.85:1 HEVC 4K image certainly got a facelift giving us more detail, stronger and bolder colors and an overall more theatrical look. Flesh tones seem a bit on the muted side, but contrast and black levels are strong. It’s a worthwhile upgrade and fans of the film will appreciate this new 4K image.

Audio: How does it sound?

There’s a bit more depth to this DTS HD Master Audio track, but again – it’s not something that’ll shake the pictures off the walls. Vocals, for which this film is known, sound crisp and sharp. And while some surround effects persist, by and large it’s a front-heavy mix that resides in the front three channels. There’s…really not a lot else to say. It’s a step up from the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that was on the DVD, but this isn’t a film for audio, to be sure.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • Audio Commentary – Film critic Adrian Martin does a solo track and though it’d have been nice to have Gere’s thoughts, I realize it’s not always a realistic probability. Nevertheless, he offers a good play-by-play track with plenty of acclaim and admiration for the film and the actors involved.
  • Interviews – Broken down into seven more digestible featuettes, we find these that focus on various aspects of the film.
    • Below the Surface – Director Paul Schrader gives us his comments as well as the film’s origin, casting and so forth.
    • Six Ways to Sunday – We get a pretty in-depth look at the character played by Héctor Elizondo.
    • The Business of Pleasure – Actor Bill Duke gives us his insight into his character as well as his comments on the film.
    • Montages and Monologues – The film’s editor, Richard Halsey, provides us with his view of the film’s pacing and overall look and feel.
    • The Non-Conformist – This is a first (for me, anyway) as we have the film’s cameraman, King Baggot. Admittedly, he does offer a different perspective and gives us his .02 on the film.
    • Man Machine – Composer Giorgio Moroder as well as music supervisor D.J. Dan Wilcox combine with their comments and give us some anecdotal quips about the movie.
    • American Icon – Finally we have Jennifer Clark, Professor of Communication and Media Studies, who looks at the film’s fashion. Yes, you read that correctly.
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Image Galleries

The Bottom Line

Richard Gere wouldn’t really make his mark until 1983’s An Officer and a Gentleman and later in the 90’s with Pretty Woman and Primal Fear. But don’t let the lack of notoriety of this film deter you, it’s got some great performances. Arrow’s disc offers the best-looking picture to date as well as several new features. For fans of the movie, this it it.

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