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Malcolm X (Blu-ray Review)

We’re going to take it way back to the early 90’s for our next review in which actor Denzel Washington and Director Spike Lee team up to bring the story of Malcolm X to the big screen. Spike Lee’s grand opus about the controversial figurehead of the nation of Islam in the 60’s has finally made its way to the Blu-ray format in a deluxe edition brimming with extras and even a collector’s book. The film clocks in at over three hours, so will the origins of Malcolm X be a fascinating tale of intrigue, deception, and murder or will it be a bloated mess of a film that is too self indulgent for its own good? We shall see. 

 

Film

Malcom X is Spike Lee’s 1992 biopic of the late Malcolm Little who was known as Malcolm X. Some would also say that this is Spike Lee’s greatest film. Whether you believe that or not one thing is certain, Malcolm X is one of his most ambitious films ever. It’s sort of a two part component: the making of the film and the finished film. It would be a grand undertaking for the young filmmaker, but Lee was in demand after Do The Right Thing, so that was used as leverage and to his advantage.

Malcolm X opens up with Malcolm Little (Denzel Washington) trying to come up in the underworld as a small time hood with a penchant for loud zoot suit stylings. He hangs around with his best friend Shorty (Spike Lee) and the chaps go about concocting schemes on the easy. It’s any but easy as boys soon find out. Little comes into contact with West Indian Archie (Delroy Lindo). Lindo like Little, because of his “I don’t take crap from anybody” mentality. Soon thereafter, Little and Archie have a falling out over money and Little and Shorty are arrested, charged, and found guilty of various crimes. The men receive am 8-10 year prison sentence. Hell had arrived.

What’s interesting about watching the first part of Malcolm X is that Spike films it as almost an origin tale like they do with superhero films, but deviates just a bit. When the film opens you see Little as young man, but during the course of the film, you will see extended sequences featuring Little as a boy, what his parents were like, and so forth. You even get to see what kind of a man he was with the ladies of all persuasions. Malcolm had game. This of course isn’t done to be gratuitous, but is most appreciated, because it gives the overall product a sense of depth.

When we pick up with Little, who upon converting to Islam, changed his name to Malcolm X, we not only see a character matured, we see a total transformation of a man. X settles down and had a family and children, but never lets up on trying to organize African Americans together for the greater good. This is easier said than done, because unlike Martin Luther King Jr’s approach through peaceful options, X went the opposite route and would tell his supporters to rise up and make their voices heard “by any means necessary.”

As the years progressed Malcolm X became sort of an icon and members from within his group started to question whether this was a good thing or not as it seemed to overshadow what the group was trying to get across and by also putting the current leader Elijah Muhammad out of the spotlight altogether. Malcolm X for all intents and purposes became a rock star. This is where the film takes some liberties in trying to describe and show you what may or may not have happened in the events leading to the assassination of Malcolm X.

As interesting and entertaining as Malcolm X is, what’s even more interesting is the lengths Spike Lee had to go to get the film made. He gave up his very lucrative salary and solicited some of his famous friends for help. These friends included: Oprah, Bill Cosby, Magic Johnson, and Micahel Jordan among others. The studio balked and agreed to let Lee make his film the way he wanted and the rest was history.

Video

Malcolm X is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1, widescreen. Considering the film is about twenty years old, the Blu-ray presentation does it justice. I did not notice any instances of DNR and grain levels remained nice and consistent throughout. I did catch the occasional speckle and dirt mark, but it added a bit of charm, kind of like a scratchboard print. Flesh tones appear natural and balanced, contrast is steady, and black levels are deep and inky. Color levels go from cool to hot in a moment’s notice especially during the party zoot suit scenes. Overall, Malcolm X is given the proper treatment on the Blu-ray format.

Audio

Malcolm X is presented DTS-HD MA 5.1. Dialogue is clear, centered, and balanced. Music plays an important role in the film as it surrounds the viewer during pivotal scenes of exposition – and during the more flashy parts involving a young Malcolm X. Even during the most “loud” scenes of clubbing and partying, dialogue levels are clear and you will not have a problem listening to what the actors are saying. The rear channels also carry the ambient tones nicely especially during the Malcolm X’s trip to Mecca. I am very pleased with the lossless track for Malcolm X.

Extras

This special edition release of Malcolm X features an impressive digibook along with a 40-page book filled with essays and commentary on the film itself. It’s a great looking package. In addition to the packaging Malcolm X contains audio commentaries by Spike Lee, Director of Photography Ernest Dickerson, Editor Barry Alexander Brown, and Costume Designer Ruth Brown. There is a collection of deleted scenes with a Spike Lee introduction, and a pretty awesome featurette that is no fluff. It chronicles the journey of getting Malcolm X to the big screen by any means necessary. Malcolm X also includes a bonus DVD of the 1972 documentary of the same name.

 

  • Commentary by Spike Lee, Director of Photography Ernest Dickerson, Editor Barry Alexander Brown, and Costume Designer Ruth Brown
  • Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Spike Lee
  • Featurette By Any Means Necessary: The Making of Malcolm X
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • BONUS DVD – Oscar – Nominated 1972 Feature-Length Documentary Malcolm X

Summary

Malcolm X is a great film, and in my honest opinion, a film that NEEDED to be told. I do wish that the deleted scenes included in the supplements were reinserted back into the film to flesh it out even more, but even at its current 201 minute running time Malcolm X is a force to be reckoned with and an important film that should not be overlooked. The collector’s Blu-ray package is a great way to acquaint yourself with Malcolm X if you haven’t already done so.

 

 

 

 

Order Malcolm X on Blu-ray!

 

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

1 Response to “Malcolm X (Blu-ray Review)”


  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Nice! The bonus DVD documentary may be what pushes me over the edge to order this.