So many gangs want to kill Judge Victor Valdivia they've started carpools and gun-sharing programs. Go green!
Our reviews of Gangland: The Complete Season Four (published August 20th, 2009), Gangland: The Complete Season One (published October 1st, 2008), Gangland: The Complete Season Six (published November 13th, 2010), Gangland: The Complete Season Three (published April 3rd, 2009), Gangland: The Complete Season Two (published December 11th, 2008), and Gangland: The Final Season (Blu-Ray) (published March 30th, 2011) are also available.
They're fierce, brutal, and ruthless—and bent on leaving their deadly mark on the streets of America.
In its fourth season, Gangland seemed to be running out of gas. Though some episodes were still interesting, there were far too many that were repetitive and focused on insignificant subjects. In Gangland: Season Five, there does appear to be more of a balance. There's actually some historical content, and there are some stories that need to be told. Overall, it's a better season than the fourth, although it's still hard to shake the feeling that the show really should quit while it's ahead.
Here are the eleven episodes compiled on three discs:
• "Machete Slaughter"
• "Blood River"
• "Hustle or Die"
• "The Death Head"
• "Circle of Death"
• "Dog Fights"
• "Hunt and Kill"
• "Deadly Blast"
There are some remarkable stories here. The story of the Hell's Angels' Canadian war is one that most people in the United States haven't heard, even though it was as brutal as any Latin American civil war and cost many innocent civilians their lives. Similarly, the episodes on white supremacist gangs are worth seeing to see just how these groups have formed and how they have begun to increase their visibility even as the U.S. becomes more multicultural. It's also fascinating to see how the cultural oppression felt by immigrant groups like Haitians in Florida and Dominicans in New York, much more from other minorities than whites, led to the foundation of some of the worst gangs ever formed.
Still, even though this has a better mix of episodes and more consistent storytelling than the previous season, Gangland just doesn't quite pack the punch it once did. There are far too many moments that are simply echoes of earlier episodes (usually when gangbangers proclaim, no matter where they're from, that "It's all about the money!"), and it's true that most gangs aren't really that different from one another. That may be a necessary hazard of long-running nonfiction shows, especially ones built on such a narrow premise, but it does tend to make this less compelling than it should be. When Gangland premiered, it was interesting to see gang stories dissected from the inside out, but by now the novelty has worn off. The show just isn't as shocking, even despite some of the horror stories heard here. It's better than the fourth season, which was dull and numbing to an unpleasant degree, but only viewers who are really interested in the subject will get the most out of this set.
Ultimately, this is a better season for Gangland than the previous one. In its best episodes it equals the highpoints of the earlier seasons. It also remains cheap and profitable for History, so there's no doubt that the series will certainly continue. Nonetheless, though longtime fans will have no problem picking up this set to round out their collections, this is not the best season for newcomers. Start with the earlier ones first.
Technical specs are typical History: non-anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, Dolby stereo mix, both acceptable. There are no extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
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