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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Defiant Ones (Blu-ray)
The Defiant Ones (Blu-ray)
Universal // Unrated // November 28, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted December 10, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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THE MINI-SERIES:

Click an image to view Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution.

During the first few minutes of HBO mini-series The Defiant Ones, I was concerned it would be a four-hour promotional piece for Apple Music and Beats by Dre headphones. Fortunately, the partnership between rapper Dr. Dre and record producer Jimmy Iovine that culminated in that $3-billion deal is more complex than one pop-culture merger. The series, from director Allen Hughes, chronicles the rise of Dre and Iovine and their separate careers that would ultimately culminate in a lucrative and creatively beneficial pairing at Interscope Records. Stocked with rare footage and newly shot interviews from players like Trent Reznor, Ice Cube, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, the late Tom Petty, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Sean Combs, Stevie Nicks, Snoop Dogg, Gwen Stefani and Eminem, The Defiant Ones offers fans a glimpse behind the scenes of a music dynasty.

Shot for those already somewhat accustomed to the involved artists and record industry, The Defiant Ones does not spoon-feed viewers with every single piece of information about each artist and industry player. It is assumed that you know who Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine (or at least his company) are, and if you've never heard of N.W.A., 2Pac or the Source Awards, you may have trouble keeping up. The series more or less moves forward in time over the four, roughly hour-long episodes, but there are plenty of diversions. We hear about Iovine's working-class family and Dre's upbringing in Compton, with words from his mother, Verna Young. A big topic of discussion in the series is how producing F. Gary Gray's Straight Outta Compton helped Dre move past the creative limbo of his never-realized "Detox" album and get back into the studio. And N.W.A. features heavily in the narrative, particularly Ice Cube's departure from the group over disagreements with Dre and Eazy-E.

Particularly interesting are anecdotes about the young Iovine working with Fleetwood Mac, Petty and Springsteen. Known for brutal honesty and being largely unwilling to compromise, Iovine also discusses less successful endeavors. We hear from Nicks about her love affair with Iovine, and Springsteen discusses clashing with the producer over his album's sound. The birth of Interscope and the heyday of CD production stirred something inside this ‘90s adolescent, and viewers are treated to lines of customers outside Tower Records awaiting new album releases in a fashion never to be seen again. The title refers to the overall groundbreaking nature of these artists and producers, and the middle episodes discuss controversies involving East Coast/West Coast rap feuds and acts like Reznor's Nine Inch Nails and protégée Marilyn Manson.

Hughes keeps the pace rolling throughout, and The Defiant Ones is above all entertaining. It courts controversy but never revels in it. You hear about plenty of conflict, but the series is largely a celebration of its talent. This is not an exhaustive documentary on each artist featured, nor is it intended to be. Noticeable omissions include Dre's recent tragedy of a son who died of an overdose, and as much as Manson and Lady Gaga are discussed as being influential to Iovine and Interscope, the lack of fresh interviews is disappointing. I really enjoyed this mini-series, and Hughes proves a talented wrangler of personalities.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

The 1.78:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfers accurately reflect the source material, which is a mix of newly shot digital video and archival footage, which comes with its own peculiarities. The interview footage is largely crisp and clean, with plenty of detail and texture. There is the expected digital noise in nighttime scenes about Dre's yacht, but this material is largely crisp, colorful and pleasing to the eye. The archival footage is in mostly good shape, and is blended nicely amid the new material.

SOUND:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is excellent. There is a lot of music here, and that is, of course, the soul of this production. Fortunately, the track supports it with excellent element separation, bass accompaniments and strong sound pans. The track is mixed in such a way that the musical selections sound great in 5.1. The dialogue and ambient effects are never crowded, and the entire affair is sonically pleasing. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are available.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This four-disc set includes two Blu-rays and two DVDs. Each disc contains two episodes. The discs are stacked on each side of a case that is wrapped in a slipcover. There are no extras.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Allen Hughes' excellent HBO mini-series The Defiant Ones chronicles the intersecting lives of rapper Dr. Dre and record producer Jimmy Iovine. The four-episode show offers compelling behind-the-music footage and newly shot interviews with key players. Whether you check out this Blu-ray or catch it on HBO, The Defiant Ones is Recommended.


Additional screenshots:

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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