Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger
HBO // Unrated // $19.98 // January 20, 2009
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted January 19, 2009
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In 10 Words or Less
Back in black, around the world

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Stand-up comedy
Likes: Chris Rock
Dislikes: Race-based comedy
Hates: The Bush Dynasty

The Movie
I've been a Chris Rock fan since his "SNL" days, but his stand-up act is where he really shines (no matter how much I enjoy Pootie Tang.) It's a combination of what he jokes about, and the way he tells those jokes, sculpting a high-energy, fun stage persona that makes everything he says funny. There's almost a touch of disbelief when he rants on-stage, as if he's trying to convince himself and the audience that the things he's saying about race and gender are real, despite him knowing they are.

This special is a testament to how big a comedian he's become, as he performs his act in three countries, on three different continents, and despite maintaining the same bits across the globe, he still makes the varied audiences laugh, mainly because his act is so universal, talking about issues that affect everyone's life. And though he is aggressive and edge, he impressively does so without being an "angry comic." Yes, he gets loud, yes he screams, but it's all done in a way that makes it at least seem like he's having a blast.

As is usually the case with Rock, his act focuses on two topics, race and relationships. On race, he was served up a juicy softball in the form of the 2008 elections, but unfortunately the DVD isn't too timely, coming well after the elections are over, though his jokes, about Sen. John McCain's age, the appeal of President Barack Obama and the failures of President George W. Bush, are still going to elicit big laughter. His bits on interracial dating, focusing on the differences between black men and women, and the use of the N-word, highlighted by hilariously censored versions of a Jay-Z rap, are more relevant and honestly funnier.

When tackling the difficulties of being a man and the struggles associated with being in a relationship, the truth he dispenses is fantastically painful and hysterical, noting how being a guy is a pretty thankless job (though one can't help but notice the hypocrisy when you compare his view of being a man or a woman and being white or black.) His joke about the most romantic thing a man can say to a woman is pretty damn brilliant and incisive, and clearly illustrates the differences between the sexes.

The unusual construction of the special, which is culled from three performances during his recent world tour, is really just a gimmick, as it doesn't add much to the show. The editing is done rather well though, keeping things rather seamless, as his outfits and backdrops aren't too different from each other, and his delivery is highly consistent. The only time you'll really notice a difference is when it's intentionally highlighted, like when certain lines are emphasized by playing them once from each location, or playing a localized punchline from each venue. Since the editing is very nice, there's nothing to complain about regarding that aspect, but it feels like it could have utilized to some greater effect.

HBO is releasing Rock's latest stand-up special in two versions, a one-disc release and a three-disc set offering each show for separate viewing. This one-disc release is packaged in a standard keepcase, and features an animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu, with options to watch the special or select scenes. There are no audio options and no subtitles, but closed captioning is available.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen transfer is uniformly solid across all three venues, with a clean, relatively crisp image that handles the contrast between the dark background and Rock's outfits well, and has no obvious issues with dirt, damage or digital artifacts. The level of fine detail is nice also, though some angles are softer than the others.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 delivery is a bit of a let-down, considering how many recent stand-up DVDs sport 5.1 tracks that separate the audience from the comic more. Despite the limitation, the sound does the job, clearly presenting Rock's jokes without distortion.

The Extras
There's nothing here, which is definitely a disappointment. If you want extras, you have to shell out for the three-disc set, unfortunately.

The Bottom Line
Rock's comedy remains some of the most honest observational humor out there, especially in the realm of race and relationships, and taking his act to three continents serves to prove how universal it is as well. The DVD looks and sounds good, though the audio isn't top-notch, and there are no extras to enjoy. If you're a big Rock fan, you might want to step up to the collector's edition, but for the casual viewer, this will do just fine.

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