Here’s the dilemma with these kinds of movies; it’s hard to successfully fit a hard R story into a PG-13 package. Usher is a big draw in the under-18 market, so the challenge is to take a strong dramatic story and mold it to hit that balance between Hard Eight and Raise Your Voice. However, I have said it before, and here we go yet again… movies that try to appeal to everybody will successfully appeal to nobody. This is a movie that is a bit too racy and violent for your average 12-year-old girl, but way too soft for adults.
The plot is the same kind of thing you have seen time and time again. Usher plays a Hip-Hop DJ trying to break into the music business on a national scale. One night at a party, he saves the life of his friend’s father, who is a Mafia boss. As a result of his heroism, he is made to be the bodyguard of the boss’ daughter (despite the fact that he has no experience in such a role). Naturally, he soon falls in love with the bosses’ daughter, and a conflict of interest ensues.
Of course, what formulaic romance movie would be complete without the star’s goofy sidekick? True to form, the boss’ other child is Usher’s friend, a white kid that speaks nonsense and peppers his lexicon with liberal use of the word “yeeeeeeeeaaaaahhh” and â”dizzouble dizzutch” speech. Why Chazz Palminteri would agree to be in this film as the mob boss is beyond me, but he is most definitely the best thing this movie has going for it.
One thing that I can say is that Lionsgate has done their best to make something special out of this sow’s ear. The audio track on this disc features some great low end. It’s heavy, but tight and clear. Much like a finely tuned car stereo, the track hits the perfect balance between being strong but not boomy when it comes to what emerges from the subwoofer. The bass notes strongly support the score, but don’t overpower it.
The track also makes good use of the surrounds, especially when it comes to the score. Elements of the music are split out, and support the main melody from the back of the room. This makes for an interesting and involving sound field that is really fun to listen to.
On the down side, some of the dialog is a bit hard to hear. To be fair, I think a lot of this has to do with the discrepancy between the volume level in the club scenes and the volume level in dialog driven scenes. It may be accurate, but it’s hard to listen to. As a result, the best way to watch this film is with your thumb on your remote’s volume button.
The quality of the video is even better than that of the audio. This disc handles black levels very well, which is crucial in this film, as so much of it takes place at night or in a dark club. Not only do the black levels look great, but the colors are spot-on. In fact, the whole image is bright, sharp, clean and clear. As far as color and clarity goes, this transfer is first rate.
The only problems that I could find come by way of edge enhancement. The problems show up not only along the sides of actors faces, but also along the widescreen bars on the top and bottom of the images. It is not a major issue when the rest of the frame looks so great, but it is just nagging enough to pull down the video section’s overall score.
For all of the time and attention that went into the audio and video quality of this disc, the offering of supplemental features sure is on the light side. There is the usual collection of trailers for similarly-themed films, as well as three deleted scenes. Given the films tight shooting schedule, I am surprised that they had any deleted scenes at all. These three were probably just about it. Finally, there is a surprisingly informative documentary featurette called 25 Days and Not a Minute More. The extras are certainly limited, but this featurette is a step above the standard electronic press kit, offering some interesting information that adds to the viewer’s enjoyment of the film.
So here’s the summary: movie bad, disc good. As you can tell from the title of the featurette, this is a film that was shot in 25 days. Quality and nuance was clearly not a priority. The main goal of this film was to get as much on celluloid as quickly as possible every day of the shoot. While this is a great way to get a film shot in a hurry, this is clearly not a recipe for quality. Lionsgate has done their best to make this film look and sound the best that it possibly can, but there’s just no way to change the tone and the nature of the film itself when producing the DVD. What’s done is done.