Review by Gary W. Tooze
Audio: English TrueHD Plus 5.1, English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, DUB: French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English (SDH), French, none
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Featurette: Brian De Palma on Carlito's Way, Featurette: 'Making of...' , Photo and Poster Gallery, Theatrical Trailer
Released: October 23rd, 2007
Al Pacino, in first collaboration with director Brian De Palma since Scarface, plays a Puerto Rican named Carlito Brigante, an ex-con, who, within a time-honored code of nobility, tries to go straight. His character's grace and dignity help carry the duality of the film and bind us through his honorable noble-thief intentions. Penelope Ann Miller is uncharacteristically playing a stripper (the good) and is certainly capable of pulling some strings of sensuality, but the true star, and continually proven best actor of his generation, in one of his least recognizable, but most memorable, roles as dishonest Jewish lawyer Kleinfeld (the bad) is Sean Penn - who incidentally did this film solely for money to help fund his masterful The Crossing Guard. De Palma, whom I have consistently been on the fence about, cuts a smooth stylish cloth of both exciting action and intense emotions. The film is a rough ride... but an impacting one. One of the better, if not the best film to come out of the vacuous Hollywood of 93'.
A fairly straightforward '30s-style gangster tragedy about a man doomed to an early grave by his society and his own code. Carlito (Pacino) wants out of the rackets, but to get there he has to 'play Bogart', running a discotheque, and even then he can't escape his friends - lover Miller and lawyer Penn. Just as Carlito can't reconcile who he is and where he came from, so Brian De Palma can't quite craft an anonymous mainstream movie. The picture comes alive in its set-pieces, most notably in the climax at Grand Central Station. It runs long and is ultimately not much more than a showpiece, but Pacino looks every inch a movie star, and De Palma provides a timely reminder of just how impoverished the Hollywood lexicon has become since the glory days of the '70s.
Once again Universal HD releases continue their penchant for zooming ahead of their SD counterparts... if not really reaching the stellar heights that the new format can escalate (as shown occasionally by Warner or even Paramount). I would say Carlito's Way is another example - although I would say I think this is a shade superior than their usual HD releases. This DVD release has some very strong moments - excellent detail in close-ups and colors noticeably brighter than the crop of SD releases compared HERE and HERE. Skin tones appear unmanipulated. Still some unusual dirt speckles in the opening scenes and infrequent digital noise (far less than usual) - but this is a strong image - better than I anticipated. The few outdoor scenes are brilliantly filled with cascading light and black levels throughout are exceptionally good. Yes, I like the image quality on this HD DVD from Universal.
Screen Captures Taken from the Blu-ray REVIEWED HERE
As well as the standard 5.1 - Universal has seen fit to put the track as a English TrueHD Plus 5.1. It sounds very good when called upon. My only complaint/query is that the volume level is quite low and I had to crank it up quite high for normal hearing ability. Dialogue audio is fairly unremarkable and supported by English or French subtitles, in a white font with black border.
This HD releases offer the samesupplements as the 2003 'Ultimate Edition' SD release (a flipper with the feature on one side and extras on the other - NOTE: there were a few reported problems playing the SD on standard machines) . I never found them overly interesting. Unannounced deleted scenes, a short featurette with De Palma talking about the film and another on the 'Making of...' (entitled 'Promotional Featurette'). Superfluous photo and poster gallery and a theatrical trailer (not in hi-def). I'd trade them all for a decent commentary.
At some point Universal (and the other studios as well) will have to buck-up and start to offer unique supplements with their hi-def releases. The feeling is that most people don't care about the extras and so they are scrimping. As shame as this would be a releases that might deserve a little boost.
De Palma's obviousness is starting to grow on me and I enjoyed this film in my hi-def viewing more than ever before. I don't think it was just the improved sound and image - Pacino and Penn are so good they could carry the film - if required. I like the Channel 4 review (above) that compares it to (updated) old gangster films - it can be that simple a premise. Anyway, for the DVD - this is the best version if you are a fan of the film. I recommend this new HD DVD as the best digital representation available.