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Case Number 15536: Small Claims Court

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Chris Rock: Kill The Messenger

HBO // 2008 // 80 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // January 26th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Dennis Prince wonders if his "no" vote will get counted here.

The Charge

In a culture divided, those who complain loudest surely benefit from perpetuating the rift.

The Case

If comedian Chris Rock is the messenger here then, conceivably, the message is "division is good for us…well, for me anyway; you go find your own way to cash in on it."

This 2008 comedy tour follows Rock to three key points in his performances, those being Johannesburg, London, and New York City. The routine, presented here over the course of a rather trim 80 minutes, cleverly inter-cuts each appearance into a single presentation. To watch it in this way, you see the careful preparedness of the routine as the very words are repeated, practically verbatim, in a way that allows footage from one location to set up a joke and footage from another to seamlessly deliver the punchline. It's interesting to see in a single sitting such as this though it could likely make the concurrent three-disc DVD set quite redundant since, once you've seen one performance, you've essentially seen the other two.

Continuing with facts of the presentation itself, this single disc edition offers an excellent transfer, framed at 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen format, with color and detail that might make you wonder if you're watching a high-definition disc (and certainly this standard-definition DVD is improved by an upscaling player as viewed here). Color level is deep, rich, and pleasing to look at. Details are sharp, revealing some many intricacies of Rock's skin and clothing texture. There are some unexpected issues with macro blocking, however, in the Johannesburg sequences, the orangey scrim behind him being poorly represented in the compression. From the audio side, the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is just suitable, never spectacular. There are no extras in this release.

Now, on to the performance itself, here's where Rock surprised and disappointed this eager viewer. With all likelihood, you know that Chris Rock is rough, edgy, and starkly abrupt in his humor. Lacing his in-your-face assertions and accusations with harsh epithets (with more F-bombs than you can likely count), Rock's sermons can reliably be called energetic, entertaining, and egregious all at the same time. For this 2008 tour, however, Rock's usual I-don't-care-who-gets-offended tirades that points the finger of blame at everyone for our global and cultural situation are dulled by his unexpected grandstanding for a key political figure of the moment. Somewhere, the "we all are to blame" objectivity has been replaced by "some of you all are gonna pay, big time, if we get what we're hoping for."

When faithfully addressing the matter of "politics," one would need to establish a neutral position and, in the case of comedy, slap down both sides of the aisle and all those who dutifully follow in lock step. Here's where Rock stumbles in the approach that made him such a draw to a more diversified audience—here he's just another Obama supporter who speaks of his preferred candidate as the cure to all ills despite the fact that his hopeful-elect hasn't achieved anything outside of a silver-tongued speech. This isn't taking issue with Obama but, rather, with Rock. The material provided by both parties in the protracted 2008 presidential campaign could have easily made this "HBO event" a multi-night affair. Unfortunately, Rock pledges allegiance to his candidate and ignores some of the craziness that went on in Camp Obama. He carves the aged John McCain with unapologetic sharp-edged precision, even daring to take aim at the candidate's revered war record, yet merely brings a butter knife to the Democratic side, smoothing on a happy spread of it's-all-good-and-good-for-all sermonizing. Nevertheless, there's some funny material is this overlong segment of the show and supporters from both sides can still find irreverent enjoyment here. Unfortunately, Rock then reveals the biggest issue with his particular candidate: this is a black candidate for black people.

That's right—I said it.

Rock's routines have been applauded by people of all races, all colors, and all cultures due to his insistence of leveling his comedic crosshairs at all of them. He takes on racism from all sides, not only calling out narrow-minded whites but also back-handing blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and the rest, rightly citing the long-standing hypocrisies within each creed or culture. In doing so, he has been recognized as one of the premiere comedians who help us find our common ground through realization that each is as guilty as the other in the problem of racial tensions. This time, though, he allows his own culture to override his usual fair-mindedness and all but warns "whitey" to watch out—we're about to take over.

Someone should do a routine on this particular routine. This part's funny in some of the wrong ways.

(And, for the record, this reviewer proclaims no support for either party, only for fairness and transparency in the work of the people's business.)

Ultimately, Rock loosens his grip on his virtual "Change We Need" campaign sign and moves on to what we've come to appreciate about him, namely his brazen tackling of relationships, sex, orientation, and celebrity stupidity. He delivers some startling proclamations that elicit genuine laughs for the balance of the act though he again retreats to his racial home base when he again plays double standard in discussing if ever a white person can use the over-emotionalized "N-word." This is a usual element of his performances but this time it seems particularly separatist. Since he's already stirred the embers of "intolerant whitey," to now stand on further empowering a word, dismal though it has been in this country's history, as a "black only" word (while the comparable "cracker" can be tossed around with presumed justification), this only serves to retain the divide. Rock could take a note from Dave Chappelle's observations about the same topic. Not to say Chappelle doesn't still grind the axe against the white man but when he does so, he acknowledges that real change begins with oneself, not waiting for the other guy to make amends first. If one side waits upon the other for reparations, the divide will remain.

And, then again, there's good money in this perpetual conundrum and, I suppose, if the historically challenged black culture—Rock's implied assessment, not mine—were ever given opportunity to be representative as, say, President of the United States, well, then, what could be left to complain about? And if there's still plenty to complain about, well, all races and creeds could complain because mere visual representation does not cure culture-wide problems.

I wonder what Rock will joke about in 2012?

Court adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 77

Perp Profile

Studio: HBO
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• None
Running Time: 80 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Comedy
• Performance
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• None

Accomplices

• IMDb
• Official site








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