Street Smart (Blu-ray Review)

Street-SmartThe gritty urban drama Street Smart is directed by Jerry Schatzberg (Scarecrow, The Panic In Needle Park), from a screenplay by David Freeman, starring Christopher Reeve (Superman, John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned) and Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby, Deep Impact, The LEGO Movie).  And it co-stars Kathy Baker (Clean and Sober, The Glass House), Mimi Rogers (The Rapture, Someone To Watch Over Me), Andre Gregory (My Dinner With Andre, The Last Temptation of Christ), Rick Aviles (Carlito’s Way, Ghost) and Jay Patterson (A Million Ways To Die In The West, City of Angels).  I had never heard of this film, and it was a neat opportunity to see Christopher Reeve in a film that was new to me at least.  It also features him in a very meaty and interesting role on top of that.

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A New York magazine reporter on the verge of losing his job, Jonathan Fisher fabricates a story about prostitution that reignites his career and brings unwanted attention to a powerful pimp, Fast Black. The police, believing the story is true, feel they are closer to putting the notorious pimp behind bars. As pressure mounts for Fisher to reveal the identity of the lead in his story, he’s unaware that Fast Black has plans of his own for the writer who’s jeopardized his business.

You know, there’s a warm feeling I get when watching an older film from the 1980s and the Cannon Films logo graces the screen at the open.  I grin, as I’m one of those schmucks that enjoyed (and still do) their schlocky output.  Here’s an interesting one, as its not an big action film, but an investigative drama.  And its also a collaboration between Cannon and Christopher Reeve.  Cannon famously did the failure of Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (Also released in 1987).  So, I’m wondering if this film was part of that deal with getting Christopher Reeve back in the blue tights and red cape.

Here’s what’s going to sell you on this one; Morgan Freeman as a pimp.  This could be silly (and yes, sometimes it just brushes that level), but its not.  Freeman is confident and sells the hell out of this role.  He makes “Fast Black” both credible and smart.  That combination has him come across as vile and scary.  Without Freeman in the role, it could have been completely laughable or just tired.  The man is a walking legend, but its awesome to see in this earlier role before he really took off, that he was just as good as he is today.

Christopher Reeve is also pretty terrific here in a role of a troubled hero.  His supporting cast is pretty fun too.  Kathy Baker chews scenery and steals many a scene as the fun loving prostitute who helps him along.  And yeah, 1980s Mimi Rogers is something to swoon over.  I also noticed Danny’s dad/April’s boss from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a prosecutor that has a bit of a meaty role later in the film.

Overall, this is a pretty interesting little movie digging into investigative journalism taking on a risky subject and traveling to a city’s underbelly to get a big story.  There is some good intensity and shocking directions with which the film takes.  This film may feel a little dated at times, but I think it still works, and remember as always, when you watch a film from 1986, you can’t hold modern knowledge/trappings against it.  You have to give it its calendar year.  After all, regardless, its an entertaining film.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1o80p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Street Smart features a very nice “hands off” transfer that Olive Films tends to deliver.  Detail is above average, and the image is crisp and just a hair soft on the sharpness.  Surfaces feature detail like gloss, scuffs, scratches and clothing fabric has visible patterns and threading when this feature is at its best.

Depth:  Depth is pretty solid.  Movements are cinematic and the background detail is as good as the focus allows.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep.  Depending on the lighting, it can lose some detail and feature a hair of crushing.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty accurate or natural.  Blues definitely pop and stick out.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and consistent (scene transitions feature some flickering).  The facial details, like pores, stubble and freckles feature prominently in close ups.

Noise/Artifacts:  Grain and some dirt/specs at minimal intervals.

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Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics: For street drama, this one really does do the trick.  The mix features a good balance and the vocals, score and effects free of one another for the most part.  Action bits, when there, are good, loud and intense in this mix.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Loud, crisp and clean.

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Street Smart contains no supplemental features.  Menu offers “Play Movie” and “Chapters”.

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Street Smart is a pretty damn good movie that will tug at you, making you kinda feel like crap at times.  That’s because it does some pretty good character work with its main players.  You feel for them and against them.  As is par for the course, this Olive Films Blu-ray does not feature any supplemental features.  The video on this is very good and the audio is above average.  Fans of the film should be happy its made the Blu-ray jump and will likely find satisfaction with this release for what it is.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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