After the travesty that was meant to be a picture, we can now enjoy Scorsese's opus as it was supposed to be seen. The difference is immediate; gone is the DNR, all but gone is the edge enhancement to be replaced by stunning detail, depth and a warmth to the picture that was always there but cruelly removed on the previous incarnation.
You can pick any scene to showcase just how good this print now looks; I'll concentrate on the opening fight in the snow (that used to look so awful as to be unwatchable) which has a crispness and fine detail to skin, clothing, weaponry, dead rabbits and even the snow - which now has variations in colour, texture and depth. The wide shot of the gangs as they face off demonstrated oodles of detail, the brickwork of the buildings, the snow drifts.
Colour is now much warmer, gone is the contrast boosting, so there is no blooming or over bright whites, skin tones are tamed, the palette is gorgeous with earthy hues, yellows and browns are deep and smooth, no posterization is evident. Brightness and contrast give beautiful deep blacks, there is now shadow detail giving rise to a much deeper frame.
With no DNR there is a soft veneer of grain that preserves the filmic quality, the picture now looks like film and when played correctly on a calibrated screen is simply wonderful to watch. The work done here is nothing short of breathtaking; this has gone from being a contender for worst Blu-ray picture to being a contender for best Blu-ray picture!
Any problems? Well, if you search hard enough you may see the briefest glimpse of edge enhancement, but on paused images even an inch from the screen this can be a challenge. Perhaps my only beef is that this is the picture we should have been given on the original release (I mean how did it ever get the past quality control of mastering studios?) and that maybe some sort of discount should have been given to us unfortunates that bought that shoddy disc.
A reduction of sound tracks to an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, of which the former is reviewed here. Careful scrutiny between the PCM track of last year and this new DTS-HD track yield no discernable differences, therefore what follows is the description previously written. Right from the off Howard Shore's score fills the room, those whistles and drums of the Irish matching to war. The battle itself is full of surround effects, shouts, punches, kicks, the snapping of bone. However, it's not as immersive as reference tracks, the directionality is good but loose.
Yet where it really shines is with the directionality given to the dialogue which is spread throughout the frontal array mimicking the action on screen; particularly effective with the street singers as they sidle in from either the left or the right. The surrounds also spring to life to give plenty or ambiance to bar, street and dock areas but subtly rather then full on immersion.
Tonally the mix is pretty good, there is decent enough bass, Day-Lewis' growl is suitably deep, however it is not as deep or resonating when it comes to gun shots or cannon fire which remain satisfying rather then chest thumpingly good. In all a very good mix.
Once again the extras package remains unchanged, as do my thoughts.
- Audio Commentary with Martin Scorsese
Director Scorsese comes up trumps with a truly engaging talk about his pet project. Full of enthusiasm and information it's like the man in in the room regaling you with exploits and history about the making, casting and just about anything else you can think of about the film. Understandably there are a few gaps, it's a long film, however this just gives you a time to absorb what's already been said. Though thoroughly entertaining, I just wish there had been a little more of the films problems (budgetary and editing) before it was finally released.
- Costume Design featurette - 0.08.00
We are introduced to Sandy Powell who heads up a talk, accompanied by some of the cast, about the enormous amount of outfits created for the film based on historical accuracy and dramatic licence.
- Set Design featurette - 0.09.12
Designer Dante Ferretti talks us through the preliminary art and model work before showcasing the enormous sets built in Rome for the film. Various actors pipe up to agree on the lavishness of the set and how they helped with the authenticity of the films look. Plenty of behind the scene footage and discussion of Ferretti and Scorsese's collaborations in past films.
- Exploring the Sets of Gangs of New York - 0.22.31
Somewhat of an extension of the above feature in which Scorcese joined by Ferretti walk around the massive sets, showing the attention to detail given. The aerial shots really hammer home the scale of these sets; and to think Lucas would have done it digital ......
- History of the Five Points - 0.13.33
Gives some historical context to the film, introducing the area, how it became the slum it was and the corruption of the gangs and government alike; fiction was never like this!
- Discovery Channel Special: Uncovering the Real Gangs of New York - 0.35.04
Working in tandem with the above feature the early history of New York is discussed by historian and archaeologist and how the Five Points was destined to be the den of depravity it became and how gangs and gang warfare were the only way to survive. Startling stuff indeed.
- U2 Music Video: The Hands That Built America - 0.04.39
I actually quite like the song, even if the video is just an ad for the film.
- Trailers - 0.0.05
Theatrical and teaser trailer for the film
A healthy set of extras to really get behind the scenes of the film, although none are new, all being taken from the SD 2 disc set, the ball has really been dropped by not making anything HD, even 1080i would be something, but alas no, considering the picture has had such a makeover, why not upgrade these too? For me the historical facts make these extras and that is where they are weighted as, apart from Scorsese's commentary, the rest of the information is a little light.
Ambitious, absorbing, allegorical and archetypal; violent, vicious and visionary - Scorsese's Gangs of New York is all of these and more. Telling the (mostly) true story of the birth of New York, the big apple indeed as it was rotten from the core out and nothing more so than the Five Points governed and ruled by the street gangs with the authority of the Government. The epic treatment that has been lavished upon this production is not lost; like all great stories it is a tale well told and the passion that Scorsese brings to each and every frame is right up there to see.
It is clear that this is the release we should have had two years ago. So please join me in blowing a raspberry to that original release, after 3. 1, 2,3, bbbbhthththtthhtttthh and consign it to the bin if you haven't already.
With a quality picture along with the decent sound and extras package we now have a very worthwhile disc, and one that can sit along side the best the format has to offer. It is a shame then that it is slightly tarnished by that abomination released two years previous offering nothing more than the upgraded picture as the rest of the disc remains the same.
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