Judge Adam Arseneau is a liar.
"If you're my age, no one's trying to sell you anything except life
insurance, hardcore pharmaceutical drugs, the hole in the ground, and "The
Best of Sting," and when someone comes up to you and hands you "The
Best of Sting," you realize that basically, somehow, you are dead."
Henry Rollins is many things to many people: Black Flag and Rollins Band frontman, poet, writer, spoken word purveyor, actor, voice-over artist, comedian, star of The Henry Rollins Show, USO performer, human rights activist, radio DJ, and on and on. The man keeps himself busy the way other people breathe oxygen, and does it with the furious intensity of a serial killer.
Henry Rollins: Uncut from NYC is the latest DVD recording of Henry's legendary spoken word engagements, filmed in 2006 at the Town Hall in Manhattan. Fans of the man's performances will know exactly what to expect here: 90 minutes of rage-fueled adrenaline and hilarity.
Facts of the Case
Topics covered by Henry Rollins in Uncut from NYC include:
"Person of Interest"
"A Day Off in Oklahoma"
"Is It Fish?"
If you've never seen Henry Rollins do a spoken word performance, you are missing out on one of life's pleasures. You needn't be a fan of the man's music to appreciate his personality, which is as large and vibrant as a supernova. Brutally honest and forthright, Henry has a reputation as an angry man, but not in the way of Lewis Black or a comedian's shtick. Rather, he simply speaks with great passion about subjects near and dear to his heart—just very loudly and schizophrenically. One minute, he is relating a hilarious joke or story he heard while on the road and, in the next breath, telling you how his best friend from his youth was shot in the head by police in Los Angeles. You really have no idea what to expect when he gets on stage, but one thing is for sure: he won't pull any punches.
Henry rambles like the Allman Brothers, constantly veering into subtopic after subtopic, wherever his adrenaline and coffee-fueled brain takes him, impeded only by the speed in which his lips can form words. His performances are really just rough outlines of the material—no two shows are identical. He always gets back on topic eventually, but often like an hour after the fact. It is part of his magnetic charm that you find yourself enraptured the entire time. Despite his total lack of training in presentation or spoken word, he is riveting and magnetic on-stage; full of passion and vibrant energy that commands attention. If he hadn't found his calling in sixteen thousand other professions, Hank would have made one hell of a motivational speaker or door-to-door salesman.
The highlight from the performance is Henry's manically insane trip on the Trans-Siberian Express, a seven-day train pilgrimage from Moscow to Vladivostok (taken out of sheer masochism), trapped inside a train car hurtling endlessly through the frozen landscape of Russia. Why make such a trip? Because he had a week off and felt the need to punish himself for having free time at his disposal. No, seriously. Henry's an intense guy. From the horrible communication problems with the train staff to the frozen toilet to the vomit-inducing food, the tale personifies everything good about a Rollins spoken word show: funny, out of control, surreal, and just a bit insane.
If you've seen any other Rollins spoken word DVD, you know what to expect. Production values are high, but extremely minimal—Henry gets on stage and talks for 90 minutes in front of a black backdrop, and then the audience claps and cheers. No fuss, no muss, no frills. Uncut from NYC is light, as far as Henry's spoken word performances go—most of the material is played for laughs, with little serious or sober subject matter discussed. Henry is clearly in a good mood that night, and the pieces flow seamlessly into each other, to great crowd reaction.
The transfer looks surprisingly decent, with pleasingly sharp details, nice color representation, and deep obsidian black levels. Eyeballing, it looks like the performance was filmed in HD and came out great on DVD. The only downside is the matted letterbox performance—anamorphic would have been nice to see. A stereo audio presentation suffices, capturing the performance clearly with balanced audience and ambient noises. Dialogue is nicely audible, but Henry has problems controlling the volume of his voice, so you may find yourself jumping slightly when he starts to rave and spit.
The only extra is a small featurette—more of a deleted scene selection, really—called "Rollins: No Holds Barred." We get 13 minutes of Henry on stage going off on a variety of subjects, edited out of the concert performance for flow purposes, no doubt. It is all good stuff, all extremely disjointed and random, but totally hilarious—everything from politics to Oprah to Ted Nugent.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The inherent flaws with Henry Rollins DVDs are their redundancy. There are quite a few Henry Rollins spoken word performances available on DVD at the moment, like Henry Rollins: Live At Luna Park and Henry Rollins: Shock And Awe and, for the casual viewer, Uncut from NYC doesn't offer any more appeal than any of his other discs. Every performance is really the same shtick: It's Hank, in front of a crowd with a microphone, usually with a static camera, hollering for an hour and a half. The performances change, but really, not by much—whatever Henry's got on his mind, or what he is particularly angered or amused by.
Nothing really stands out about Uncut from NYC for the casual fan over the plethora of other performances out there. His performances are always energetic, always angry, always funny, with remarkable consistency. Unless you're a hardcore fan, one DVD is as good as the next.
Uncut from NYC is a solid performance, not Rollins's funniest or best, but the dude's been doing spoken word engagements for the last two decades now, so cut the guy some slack. For the casual fan, not much distinguishes Uncut from NYC above previous spoken word recordings, but that also makes it an easily recommended buy—all his stuff is great.
Me, I'm a Henry Rollins fan. I read his books, listen to his monologues, and catch his spoken word shows every time they come through town. This Judge takes all the Rollins he can get.
Hank is the man. If you disagree, he'll eat your soul. Fair warning.
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• "Rollins: No Holds Barred" Featurette
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