A very nice assortment of mob films with a well crafted documentary to boot.
Sometimes this set seems little more than an excuse to repackage some DVDs and make a buck.
The Mob Box Set comes with such movies as Donnie Brasco, Snatch and Bugsy. In addition to all this, it even comes with an original documentary on the Mafia titled The American Gangster. I must admit, at first I wasn’t too excited about this set. Other than Bugsy and the documentary, I had seen the other films in this collection. I have talked about Snatch in my other reviews and to be honest, while I liked Donnie Brasco, I just never really took to it the way I did say a film like Casino. This set just seemed like a clever way for the studio to take some popular Mob titles, pack them up all nice and neat and make a make a few more dollars off of them. With the amount of Mob titles in Sony’s library they could conceivably to do this forever.
Then I started watching the movies and something really strange happened. I suddenly had a much greater respect for Donnie Brasco. Maybe it’s because I like Johnny Depp more now than when I screened the film in theaters, but something was different about this film. Then I watched Snatch and I even didn’t mind that this film was repackaged for the umpteenth time. Finally, I screened Bugsy and I was just blown away. Warren Beatty as Ben ‘Bugsy’ Siegel was one of the finest performances I think I have ever seen in a genre movie such as this. Usually, it isn’t the star of a Mob film who turns in the best performance. There’s a reason why Joe Pesci won an Oscar for his role as Tommy in Goodfellas. In Bugsy it almost seems like a chore for the other actors to keep up with Beatty’s frenetically charged character. The American Gangster documentary is also very interesting and provides an in-depth look at some of the characters we have seen fictionalized in the movies.
While one could certainly purchase Bugsy separately, I think having these films play against one another (as different examples of the same genre) is very interesting and makes The Mob Box Set worth owning.
The Stealing Stones feature works like so, a diamond comes up on the screen as you watch the movie, and if you click it you are allowed to see what would have come next if that particular scene had not been deleted. This is actually a really cool feature if for no other reason it allows viewers to see a much longer, more layered version of this movie.
Producer and Director Commentary
I found this Producer and Director Commentary to be almost subdued. Somebody should have given director Guy Ritchie and producer Matthew Vaughn (especially Vaughn) some caffeine or something. These two just sound beat. They talk a lot about the actors and why they wanted them in this movie, but for the most part this commentary track plays like two guys just trying to stay awake.
Original Featurette and “Out of the Shadows”
The Original Featurette seems like it was made around the time that this movie was first made. The Out of the Shadows piece is a more recent look at this film. It talks about Donnie Brasco’s genesis as a movie, how it got to the big screen and why the actors, director and everyone else wanted to make this film. While I found that both of these featurettes had their merits, I actually prefer the more recent one simply because it seems to go a bit more in depth into this film’s behind the scenes story.
Deleted Scenes and Photo Gallery
The Deleted Scenes come with an optional director’s commentary. Mike Newell is someone who seems to put a lot of time and thought into his movies. As a result, it makes sense that he would explain these scenes and why they were deleted. For the most part, they seem to have been excised because they got in the way of the story that was being told. The Photo Gallery is a montage of shots from this movie with lines from the film pertaining to that particular character or person on screen. Nothing too special, but a nice way to make a standard photo gallery seem a bit more interesting.
Mike Newell is someone who is perfectly suited to make a gangster movie. Sure, he may come from a background and lifestyle that is 100% different than that which he is putting across on screen, but the bottom line is that he really cares about these characters. He is someone who seems to revel in putting behavior across on screen. He isn’t judging it either, Newell merely presents what is on screen and lets the viewers make up their own minds.
The American Gangster documentary is in 1.33:1 Full Screen. Bugsy can be screened in the 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format. Donnie Brasco plays in the 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format, and Snatch can be played in both the 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen ratio and the 1.33:1 Full Screen ratio. I wasn’t that surprised how well all these movies played. They were all first released when DVDs were just starting to penetrate the market, but over the years the format has become a lot more stable as it were. These films all looked really good and in many ways seem to be the cream of the later Mob movie crop.
Snatch, Bugsy and Donnie Brasco are all Dolby Digital and Mastered in High Definition. The American Gangster is in Dolby Digital. Sound in a Mafia movie is very important. In fact, in a gangster film it isn’t so much the ambient music or the sound FX which make it but the music itself. There is something about the strains of the 1940s, or the bubblegum tunes of 1950s which really lend credence to these kinds of films. Yeah, Snatch and Donnie Brasco don’t really have too much of that, but they have enough of the feel that it resonates onscreen in a very important way.
All four movies come in slim, plastic digipack cases. Their individual covers look like smaller versions of their original DVD releases. It doesn’t seem like anything has been done to set these covers apart from their initial releases. The cardboard cover artwork that houses all the plastic covers is really poorly designed. It says The Mob Box Set in red lettering, it lists out the titles of the set in the same color and then has some rope going across the front of the box. The back lists out all the movies, showing their covers and giving a description as well as a cast list. This packaging is very off-putting and if I didn’t know better, I would just think this set was trying to throw a bunch of films together to get my money. Thankfully, this set really isn’t that at all but perception and first impressions are everything.
One thing that sets this set apart from a lot of box sets with different titles (as opposed to those boffo box sets for one title) is the inclusion of a really well designed booklet about the movies in this set. Not only does this examine the films from a technical standpoint, it also touches on how the films came to be made. It also gives the reader a bit more history on the Mafia and how the Mob Film became such a fixture in Hollywood. It is things like this that have really had a hand in setting this set apart.
As I mentioned above, I had expected this to be just another box set with movies thrown together (in many ways it is that), but it’s the moments where the genre is really acknowledged and highlighted that I think The Mob Box Set has it’s strongest impact.
Bugsy was released December 10, 1991.