Judge Daryl Loomis has seen enough pomade for one lifetime.
Our reviews of The Departed (Blu-ray) (published March 5th, 2007), The Departed (HD DVD) (published February 26th, 2007), The Departed: Special Edition (published February 13th, 2007), Goodfellas: Special Edition (published December 6th, 2004), Goodfellas (Blu-ray) 20th Anniversary Edition (published March 4th, 2010), Goodfellas (Blu-ray) (published March 5th, 2007), Goodfellas (HD DVD) (published May 15th, 2006), Heat (published August 1st, 1999), Heat: Special Edition (published April 11th, 2005), Heat (Blu-Ray) (published November 10th, 2009), Mean Streets: Special Edition (published August 24th, 2004), Mean Streets (Blu-ray) (published July 19th, 2012), The Untouchables (published March 2nd, 2001), The Untouchables: Special Edition (published October 18th, 2004), The Untouchables: Season 1, Volume 1 (published June 13th, 2007), The Untouchables: Season 4, Volume 1 (published August 2nd, 2012), The Untouchables: Season 1, Volume 2 (published October 17th, 2007), The Untouchables: Season 2, Volume 2 (published August 26th, 2008), The Untouchables: Season 4, Volume 2 (published August 2nd, 2012), and The Untouchables (HD DVD) (published September 13th, 2007) are also available.
"And when the cops, when they assigned a whole army to stop Jimmy, what'd he do? He made 'em partners."
Normally, I don't write this section until after I've watched the movie, but this is a special occasion. The reason I'm writing it early for the Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary Blu-ray collection from Warner Bros is because, of the five movies in the set, I like one, haven't seen another, and generally don't like the other three. That said, I haven't seen any of them in years, so I'm genuinely interested to see if my feelings have changed about any of them after all this time. Let's find out.
Facts of the Case
Mean Streets: It's the 1950s and Charlie (Harvey Keitel, The Piano) runs around Little Italy doing collections for his uncle and tries to build his status in the local mob. He has taken his old buddy, Johnny Boy (Robert DeNiro, Raging Bull under his wing, but he's volatile, unreliable, and makes Charlie's life harder, but his ties to his street family is too strong to just abandon him.
The Untouchables: In Prohibition-era America, Al Capone (DeNiro) has a stranglehold on the bootlegging industry, threatening or killing anyone who stands in his way. The Feds can't touch him, so they bring in a young and hungry agent named Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves to tail him. He brings together a group that includes beat cop Jim Malone (Sean Connery, Dr. No), young hothead Giuseppe Petri (Andy Garcia, Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead), and accountant Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith, American Graffiti) to do whatever they can to stop Capone. The press labels them "The Untouchables" and, together, they have the brains and the means to stop the corruption that plagues the streets.
Goodfellas: Henry Hill (Ray Liotta, Hannibal) is an up-and-coming gangster in New York under the tutelage of Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino, The Rocketeer) and has been since he was a kid. Together with his friends James Conway (DeNiro) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, Casino), they're the golden boys of the group. That is, until Tommy kills Made-Man Billy Batts (Frank Vincent, Last Exit to Brooklyn) and Henry starts running cocaine behind Cicero's back, when the heights they have achieved now make them prime targets.
Heat: A group of career criminals conduct a heist on an armored car, where they steal nearly two million in bearer bonds. During the heist, one of the crooks shoots a guard, forcing them to kill the other two. The carnage raises a red flag for the police, who assign Lt. Vincent Hanna (Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman) to the case. As he stalks the crooks, they plan one last huge score, forcing the police and the criminals toward a date with destiny.
The Departed: Two cops just entering the force take very different paths. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio, Catch Me If You Can) goes deep undercover to observe the dealings of crime boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson, The Shining). Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon, The Bourne Identity) enters the Special Investigation Unit to root out organized crime with an eye on Internal Affairs. Both men are full of secrets, though, and as their paths begin to cross, each side realizes there are infiltrators in their midst and the bullets start to fly.
So, despite my decision to be open about the films on Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary, my opinions about these movies are basically the same as they always were. Mean Streets is a great film; I recognize the prowess and interest of Goodfellas, though I can't really bring myself to care very much about it; Heat is slick as hell, but overly talky, filled with romantic subplots that have no relevance, and generally bloated; Untouchables is just a subpar movie all the way around.
The big surprise was watching The Departed, which was no surprise at all once I learned that it was a remake of the classic Infernal Affairs. Scorcese's version is fine; there's a lot of stunt casting, which provokes interest, but has very little value. Mostly, I was intrigued by how he adapted it for a Boston precinct, and he does it really well. It's no Infernal Affairs but, really, what is?
The really interesting thing to me is that, decades removed from the studio system when directors would be contracted to make the same kind of movie over and over, three of the five of these films are by Scorcese. They are, indeed, the three best films in the set and he's very skilled at this kind of movie, but I think it says something about modern gangster movies that there's no variance in filmmakers for the genre. That the other two movies are far inferior says the same thing. Still, there's no denying that his three movies are well-made and well-acted and, without them, the set would be virtually worthless.
Ultimate Gangster Collection: Contemporary arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. The discs themselves are fine as they are, but the problem is that they are all straight repackaging of discs that were previously released. Each of them is fine on its own and it's nice to have them all together in one place, but it deeply limits the value of the set. Some of the image transfers are better than others, with The Untouchables, as the oldest release, looking the worst. The Departed is probably the best looking of the lot, but the best restoration comes from Mean Streets. The other two are average, but completely acceptable. The sound mixes on all the discs are pretty good, but vary almost as much as the images and in almost identical ways.
Extras across the board are strong, but again, all exist elsewhere. The only one that's considerably different than its original release is the disc for Goodfellas, which is missing the second disc from its release. There's no surprise there, given that it's one disc per film, but it diminishes the value of that disc more than the rest. Most of the films have commentaries and featurettes, while a few have deleted scenes and other various bits of supplements. It's not like the discs aren't objectively good; all of them are. The problem is in the value of the set. Anybody who owns all the original discs will have no interest, while people who own a few of them and want to complete the collection are better off buying the originals. The only consumer value is for those who don't own any, are fans, and for some reason haven't already bought them. I find that market limited, at best.
While I realize both that (at least four of) these films are very skillfully made and hold a lot of cultural value for audiences, I'm just not a huge fan of them. Given that these are clearly the best of the best, it's clearly a problem I have with a genre. That said, no matter of my personal feelings about the individual films, the collection itself is a disappointing repackage of previous releases, dressed up to look new and, thus, has very limited value, but I am glad to have revisited these films, if only to have my old opinions reaffirmed.
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Scales of Justice, Mean Streets
Perp Profile, Mean Streets
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, Mean Streets
Scales of Justice, The Untouchables
Perp Profile, The Untouchables
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, The Untouchables
Scales of Justice, Goodfellas
Perp Profile, Goodfellas
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, Goodfellas
Scales of Justice, Heat
Perp Profile, Heat
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, Heat
Scales of Justice, The Departed
Perp Profile, The Departed
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, The Departed
• Deleted Scenes
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