Hot on the heels of their release of The Henry Rollins Show - The Complete First Season comes IFC's DVD debut of Henry Rollins - Uncut From NYC, a ninety-minute stand up comedy/spoken word piece from late 2006 that finds the sometimes singer/actor/writer in front of a very receptive crowd at The Town Hall in Manhattan, New York. The audience is into it, Rollin's is pumped up and obviously in very good spirits, and everything is fair game.
In the past, Rollin's spoken word performances have been a mix of observations, rants, comedy and darkly serious diatribes. This time around, the more serious material is eschewed in favor of more comedic material but if the content isn't as heavy or intense as some of his past material has been, the delivery is no less insane. Rollins takes the stage and starts in on the Australian government, talking about how a seemingly innocent conversation with a man on a plane lead to the folks in charge down under labeling him as a 'person of interest' based entirely on a book that he was reading during the flight. The entire premise is ridiculous but it makes for good comedy even if the reality behind the circumstances is actually a little depressing.
From there, naturally, he launches into a few rants about the current administration and the possible results of next year's presidential election, touting Condoleeza Rice as his favorite candidate, stating that nothing would make him happier than to have a black lesbian in office. Our next stop is Wal-Mart where Rollins talks about how when sometimes he's on tour the only place they can park the bus to pick up supplies is Wal-Mart and how this inevitably leads to bizarre shopping experiences at everyone's favorite discount super store. Rollins' observations on the people who work there, why they work there, and the people who shop there are as disturbingly true as they are funny.
He rants about a day he spent in Oklahoma and closes by delivering a hilarious diatribe about a trip he took on the Trans-Siberian Express which brought him from one side of Russia to the other over a week's time. He talks about the ride, the conditions and the food before explaining in a fair bit of detail the undesired effects that they had on his body.
Obviously slanted towards the left, Rollins' politics are never the less grounded in reality. This allows him to skewer those that deserve it without coming off as too much of a loose cannon. The guy is obviously hyper intelligent and his attacks are well thought out (one reason they're so effective) and delivered with manic sincerity (the other reason they're so effective).
If you don't side with Rollins' politically, odds are pretty good you'll miss the humor here as he definitely doesn't shy away from political issues but even if you're not with him on foreign policy or whatever current events catastrophe you'd care to put in its place you've at least go to respect the guys integrity for speaking his mind and not caring what anyone else thinks. He's sharp enough to back up his points and animated enough to be funny.
The performance on this disc is presented in a slightly (sadly, non-anamorphic) letterboxed transfer that preserves what appears to be the original aspect ratio and which keeps the compositions intact. As far as the quality of the video goes, aside from a little bit of shimmer here and there, things look quite good. Color reproduction is good and the black levels are consistent throughout even if you might notice a tiny bit of compression if watching on a larger set. As with a lot of live performances sometimes the lighting washes out the picture just slightly but that doesn't happen all that often here and for the most part things look fine.
Each Henry Rollins - Uncut From NYC is presented in an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 track that, while not overly impressive, handles the material quite well. There's not much in the way of channel separation but the material rarely calls for it. Dialogue, obviously the most important part of this performance, is clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion and the levels are all properly balanced.
The only supplement, aside from chapter selection and menu screens, is a featurette entitled Rollins: No Holds Barred which is a thirteen minute long selection of material that was taken out of the finished version of the performance contained on this DVD. Some of it seems pretty spontaneous and most of it is quite funny but it works better here alone than it would have in the actual finished version of the presentation as it doesn't quite fit with some of his other bits.
More of a stand-up comedy piece than a typical Rollins spoken word performance, Henry Rollins - Uncut From NYC is an enjoyable and intelligent presentation that should appeal to those who enjoy Rollins' sense of humor and over the top intensity. The IFC disc looks and sounds okay (it really should have been anamorphic) and the extras, while brief, are enjoyable. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.