It is a raw, harsh film, uncompromising in its subject matter and unflinching in its portrayal
Serpico Blu-ray Review
During the heyday of gritty, realistic and hard hitting Seventies cinema, a few names emerged as actors to watch, one of which was Al Pacino.After the urban horror and stark portrayal of heroin addiction in The Panic in Needle Park, Coppola cast him in The Godfather. Although that film was perceived as a Coppola/Brando vehicle, Pacino’s talent lead directly to him being cast in tonight’s feature Serpico. In it he plays Frank Serpico, the true story of a policeman that faces up to the corruption in the NYPD. He brings the intensity of The Godfather and the grittiness of Needle Park to create the character that placed him at the top of his game. Director Sidney Lumet famously gets the best from his and he certainly does with Pacino.
His freshed faced ideology at the beginning of the film is worn down throughout the picture, replaced with anger, resignation and despair. The film is about corruption, and Lumet films the city as such; it is dirty, used, the streets are paved with filth and the offices are plagued with grime. The deliberate pacing gives the audience time to adjust along with Frank. His decent into the corrupt world took time, and following his journey as he sinks further in is difficult to watch. Lumet, at one stage, tries to make Frank the villain for not accepting the bribes, and we urge him to, just to give the poor man some piece.
It is a very brave film made more powerful by being all true. It won numerous awards upon its release and rightly so, there is so much to admire.
Serpico Blu-ray Picture Quality
The disc has been given a theatrically correct 1.78:1 1080p transfer that is AVC MPEG4 encoded and Region free.
For a film that is over forty years old, the picture presented here is quite remarkable. The detail level is outstanding with hard edges throughout, excepting the occasional soft focus filming techniques used at the time. Skin detail, clothing weaves, newspaper prints, graffiti, fire escapes, book titles; all have pin point accuracy with this picture. Check out some of the landscape shots, particularly when Serpico meets up with a bunch of the corrupt cops, how it overlooks the stadium in the background, such a glorious sharp and detailed image throughout. Colours are rather muted, but this is intentional, the pallet is very earthy, though well represented without bleed or wash. Flesh tones are very natural looking, and some of the more gaudy clothing colours come off with verve.
For a film that is over forty years old, the picture presented here is quite remarkable
Brightness and contrast have been given a little push, meaning that some areas of the picture are very, very dark, pitch even, though there still retains some excellent shadow detail when required. Brighter areas never show any signs of clipping and detail is never lost. Digitally there was no compression problems noted, nor was there any edge enhancement. The original print has been superbly cleaned up exhibiting no damage whatsoever, and the ever present grain structure is fluid and nicely organic. Thus the picture looks as it should, a dirty, 70s grimy image, but it is richly detailed and a triumph of restoration.
Serpico Blu-ray Sound Quality
You have the option for the original LPCM mono track or an updated 5.1 dts-HD MA track and for the majority of the time, I plumped for the surround track. On the whole it’s pretty good, opening up the surround stage without ever sounding false. Dialogue is clean, clear and precise, emanating from the frontal array and never gets drown out within the mix – there was one problem though, during one scene, when Serpico is shouting at his girlfriend, at their loudest, both voices distort the sound track; this is an original defect and nothing to do with the processing. The score is well realised and gets the majority of the separation. Bass is very limited, the only LF effects are the occasional gunshot, otherwise the sub sits very quiet in the corner.
The 5.1 track opens the surround stage without ever sounding falseThe mono track seems severely restricted compared to the surround, it is however very well mixed and for purists is a joy to be included, but personally I prefer the surround track just because it opens up the sound stage and feels so much more immersive.
Serpico Blu-ray Extras
Serpico: Reel to Real (09.55) – Vintage chat with producer Martin Bregman and director Sidney Lumet where they discuss the genesis of the project, the original script, the book and how and what was needed to bring the story to the screen.
Inside Serpico (12.51) – Continuation of the above, with the same discussing the making of the film, from principle photography (a very restrictive budget and very short timescale – 5 months), acting choices, meeting the real Serpico, editing and its reception after premier.
Favourite Moments (02.35) – Another continuation from the above, this time both tell of their favourite scenes in the film.
Photo Gallery with Sidney Lumet Commentary (04.21) – As he discussed the scoring of the picture; his initial reluctance, and eventual collaboration with Mikis Theodorakis in what is an amazing score.
Original Trailer (04.08)
36 Colour Booklet – New and exclusive essay by critic and author of Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor, Karina Longworth, along with rare imagery and artwork.
IS Serpico Blu-ray Worth Buying
Serpico is a raw, harsh film, uncompromising in its subject matter and unflinching in its portrayal; made all the more visceral for its real world origins. It tells the story a police officer who refuses to take bribes, and his valiant stand against the corruption that was rife in the NYPD which alienated him from fellow officers, friends and lovers, and which took a very tragic turn before the spotlight was turned on and something was done. Al Pacino becomes the titular character in a performance that cemented his place as one of the greatest actors of his generation. With first rate direction and outstanding performances throughout, it remains a film that shows how uncompromising cinema can be.
Al Pacino becomes the titular character in a performance that cemented his place as one of the greatest actors of his generation
Eureka’s Blu-ray package is pretty decent, the picture is top notch, being very detailed and well coloured, it looks very much like it should, a grimy seventies film. Both the sound tracks are well presented, detailed clean and precise, with the surround track opening up the sound stage tremendously, and is the one I’d go for. The extras package, while a little limited is still worth a look.
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