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HBO presents

Chris Rock: Kill The Messenger 3-Disc Collector's Edition (2008)

"What do women want? Everything. Everything. Everything. Only women can get away with than answer. Everything. Nobody else is allowed to say 'everything'."- Chris Rock

Stars: Chris Rock
Director: Marty Callner

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:19m:32s
Release Date: 2009-01-20
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B B+B+B- A-


DVD Review

Comedian Chris Rock appears to be moving into (no pun intended) rock star territory with this 3-disc release of his most recent HBO special Kill The Messenger. Shot and edited together from three separate performances in New York, London and Johannesburg, this is a portrait of a standup transcending the genre, rising above it all with an 80-minute set that finds Rock at his full-bore raunchiest (I cannot recall the last time I heard the word "p*ssy" used as often), though underneath there's a keen intelligence that few comics possess.

The concept of intercutting the three performances together is initially a bit off-putting. And it's quite easy to identify which locale is which, because Rock has distinctly different outfits for each, so when a given bit is sliced and diced together there is a tendency to silently mutter "Johannesburg", "London" "New York" to yourself—or maybe that was just me. The one thing that struck me the most was how his mannerisms and emphasis were nearly identical no matter where he was, and somehow that tarnished that notion that a skilled comic like Rock was actually doing something off the cuff.

I mean, deep down I know that he has eloquently fine-tuned his act, working on just how to say what and when to make that certain facial expression to sell a punchline, so that what appears like stream of consciousness vitriol is really something that has been worked on and worked on carefully. I get it. But the bouncing around globally took me out of the moment briefly, and instead had me thinking how it must be hard to do the same string of demonstrative comedy the same way every night. While I think I would have preferred to focus on just one stop of the tour, one of the benefits of this 3-disc release is the opportunity to kind of pick and choose yourself, and to see all three performances in their separate entirety (see Extras below).

That sensation of being bothered by the intercutting passed about 40 minutes in, because Rock by then was clearly on fire. The expected political bashing of Bush and McCain gives way to a nice chunk on Obama, who doesn't quite bear the same level of anger, though Michelle Obama may think otherwise. It's here that Rock propels out of the usual Democrat/Republican fray, and pushes himself into relationship and racial discussions, expounding on the conflicts of interracial dating, the correct time for a white person to use the so-called "n" word and the problems with ringtones. This is not sanitized Rock either, and his language is properly rich, coarse and full of a multitude of well-placed expletives.

One wouldn't normally refer to a standup comedy DVD release as epic in proportion, but this 3-disc set of Kill The Messenger is certainly just that. Fans of Rock get four different-but-similar versions of his act, and the nuances and differences across them are striking.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: HBO's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer might not initially wow you, but the amount of detail revealed during closeups of Rock shows a lot. There aren't a lot of bright elements to accurately elaborate on, but black levels look rock solid throughout, as Rock's dark clothing stands out sharply against the darker backdrops. Audience shots—usually problematic—show off the usual imperfections, notably poor image detail.

Subtle, but nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: There aren't any bigtime complaints to be had with the basic functionality of 2.0 audio mix, though I'm rather surprised this one didn't come with a larger 5.1 offering, especially given the whole globehopping premise of this set. It is standup, so it isn't like there's a need for anything fancier, but still. Rock's voice is full-bodied and understandable, so there's no issues there; the disappointment comes with the crowd sounds, which here really seem not nearly as immersive as they could have been. I look back at a comparatively small release like Jeff Cesario: You Can Get a Hooker Tomorrow Night, and I still marvel at how truly live that 5.1 mix sounded, and how much the surround sound of the audience reactions made Cesario's set help me feel like I was there.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Chris Rock: Never Scared
3 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
3 Discs
3-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: You can tell just by holding this 3-disc set that it's something substantial; the trifold case is housed inside of a side-opened slipcover, one that seems to attract fingerprints like a magnet. Disc one carries the original HBO special (1h:19m:32s), cut into 12 chapters. Also on disc one is a preview for Chris Rock: Never Scared.

Now here's where it gets interesting. Jumping over to disc two we find a digital copy option for disc one show, as well as the full New York set (01h:34m:23s), recorded at the Apollo Theater. On disc three there's the Johannesburg set (01h:32m:15s) and the London set (01h:25m:13s). This may at first sound like a lot of repetition, but it really reveals are a multitude of minor differences in the way Rock works an audience, and the way he presents material. Content-wise there are some regional changes, too, so it's not as if these are mirror copies of one another, and being given the opportunity to watch Rock adjust his pacing here is like taking a peek behind the curtain. Plus, I wasn't terribly enamored of how the main special jumped back and forth between locations, so the chance to see these on there own is a big bonus.

Disc three also includes the brief Conversations With Chris Rock (04m:55s), in which the comic tosses out a few insights as he is out and about in New York, London or Johannesburg.

Extras Grade: A-

Final Comments

This is a whopper of a release in the standup comedy genre, a 3-disc set showcasing Chris Rock at what seems like the top of his game. Crude, profane, insightful and very, very funny, Kill The Messenger delivers.


Rich Rosell 2009-02-13