Gangs of New York—Touchstone Pictures (Blu-ray)
I was pretty surprised when Scorsese didn't walk away with the Best Picture statue for this one. Gangs of New York is one of those amazing productions that just gets so much right. The outstanding photography, set design and attention to detail make this a modern day classic. This is also one of my favorite performances from Daniel Day-Lewis (who should have got the Oscar for this one too). The film looks at early New York and the turmoil the gangs caused as immigrants were coming in to the country in droves and the infamous 5-points area.
Since I am a huge fan of this film I was really disappointed when I viewed this one on Blu-ray. The original DVD release of this film was pretty bad with excessive edge enhancement and compression issues. This HD release almost looks like a scaled up version of that same DVD and exhibits many of the same issues. This image has been so heavily processed that it doesn't even remotely resemble high quality HD. Fine detail and film grain have been completely removed and the image has a hard processed look that completely robs dimensionality and depth. Instead we're left with a flat image with noticeable noise reduction artifacts such as image swimming and details that look exaggerated and unrealistic. Honestly, this could be one of the worst looking HD presentations to date for a film that should have looked incredible on the format. I really hope Miramax recalls this one or goes back and redoes the master and transfer soon.
While the video was uninspiring the uncompressed PCM soundtrack is excellent. I've always enjoyed this film's sound design and the intensity it brings during the battle sequences. The sense of atmosphere and envelopment in the locations is outstanding and dynamic range is preserved wonderfully with this uncompressed mix. Dialogue is balanced nicely with the score and atmosphere and tonal balance is dead on. If only the video was even close to this rich soundtrack.
Extras appear to be largely the same as the previous DVD release and include production features and historical features on the history of New York and the themes of the film. You also get a feature commentary from the director and some trailers.
While I wish I could recommend this one on Blu-ray at this point I would say stay away. Miramax has really dropped the ball on this presentation and delivered a huge disappointment in the video department. For such a great film this release should have delivered so much more.