Plot: What’s it about?
We’ve all seen the influence rap & hip hop music has had on some folks, what with all the baggy pants, ebonics slang terms, and various other elements, but just how deep does this whole vein run? In New York City’s hip hop scene, we find two very different types of people, privileged white kids looking to gain access and troubled black kids trying to turn some cash, by pushing records. The white kids usually fall into the traps of sexual promiscuity and violence, while the black kids see the music as a way to express themselves and perhaps, make a career out of something they like. But on both sides, pressure is present and bad choices can be made, it just depends on each person down which path they turn. Thanks to wealthy, white documentary filmmaker Sam Donager (Brooke Shields) and her gay ex-husband Terry (Robert Downey, Jr.), the turns one group of white kids take will all be on film. As new bonds are created and broken, who can be trusted and for how long, all in the name of money and acceptance?
When I see “Iron” Mike Tyson punch the ever troubled Robert Downey, Jr. in the trailer for a movie, I know this is a movie I have to see. And since Black and White fits this description, I decided to give the disc a spin and see how it all turned out. But with that one moment of Tyson vs. Downey, Jr., I know the film would be worth seeing again, so keep that in mind. Alongside those two performers is an eclectic blend of folks like Brooke Shields, Marla Maples, Allan Houston, Gaby Hoffmann, Claudia Schiffer, and man more, all of whom add a sense of depth to the picture. The performances are good on the whole, though not always what you might expect and the rap artists struggle with most of their lines. But the basics of the material come off and in the end, that seems to be more than enough to make this a movie that’s worth a look. You don’t have to be a rap fan either, as I am not and I found Black and White to be a terrific film overall. This is not a great film and in truth, not even a really good one, but it does have enough positive elements to warrant a rental, which is my recommendation here. If you do like the film enough though, Columbia/Tristar has issued a disc well worth the cash, so don’t hesitate to pick this one up.
As I mentioned above, this film owes itself to one scene, where “Iron” Mike Tyson punches Robert Downey, Jr. Now the movie has some other moments worth a look, but this one is so cool and funny, the rest of the picture never even stood a chance. But in the end, I feel this sequence (which is featured in the film’s trailer) will attract some new viewers, which is always a plus for any movie. If you want to see more of the great “Iron” Mike, then check out some of his old fights or the film Play It To The Bone. As far as Downey, Jr. (Home For The Holidays, U.S. Marshals), he proves that when he isn’t in rehab or prison, he can still give solid turns. Of course, his talent is pretty much wasted here, but he does the best he can, given his way too stereotypical role. You can also see the likes of Gaby Hoffmann (Uncle Buck, Volcano), Scott Caan (Ready To Rumble, Enemy of the State), Jared Leto (Fight Club, Requiem For A Dream), Joe Pantoliano (Bound, The Matrix), Brooke Shields (Freeway, The Blue Lagoon), Marla Maples (Maximum Overdrive, For Richer For Poorer), Ben Stiller (Meet The Parents, Mystery Men), and Claudia Schiffer (PrΩt-α-Porter, Richie Rich), along with a host of sports stars and rap artists.
Video: How does it look?
Black and White is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a very sharp and well defined presentation, which seems to preserve the film’s unique visuals pretty well. The colors are very rich at times, sometimes too much so, but that is the intent here, so no complaints from the peanut gallery on this one. The level of detail is very good and I saw no problems with the source print, while compression flaws were never even a minimal presence. This is a terrific transfer and coming from Columbia/Tristar, I wouldn’t expect anything else.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is a hip hop based film and as such, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track allows the music to surround the viewer. Again, I am not a real fan of this music, but it is well presented here and you can understand why such a focus is placed on it. The sound effects are more tame, but some surround use is still evident in the end, though I wish the track was more active overall. Aside from some hard to understand slang terms, the vocals come off well and show no signs of problems. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround track and optional English subtitles, which are always welcome.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc has a lot of supplements included, such as an audio commentary track with director James Toback. Toback has a lot to say about the film’s production, but also the messages within the picture, which means a nice scope is offered here. I am not one of Toback’s most ardent supporters, so I didn’t expect much from this track, but I was pleased with it in the end. You also get some talent files, an isolated musical score, a series of video interviews with Toback, a couple music videos, and the film’s theatrical trailer. The real deal though comes from the deleted scenes, where we can see an alternate take on the Tyson vs. Downey, Jr. sequence, which is bound to please us all. Another deleted scene is also included, but who cares? Ok, I do, but it just doesn’t measure up to “Iron” Mike’s presence.