New on DVD: The Book of Eli

Warner Home Video has Denzel Washington and the Hughes Brothers’ “The Book of Eli” scheduled to bust up the joint later this month. Washington stars in the post-apocalyptic actioner as Eli, a sword-slinging road warrior who crosses path with Gary Oldman’s evil warlord, with Jennifer Beals and Mila Kunis providing the eye candy on the road to salvation. “The Book of Eli” is available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for download on 6/15 from Warner Home Video.

Eli walks alone in post-apocalyptic America. He heads west along the Highway of Death on a mission he doesn’t fully understand but knows he must complete. In his backpack is the last copy of a book that could become the wellspring of a revived society. Or in the wrong hands, the hammer of a despot. Denzel Washington is Eli, who keeps his blade sharp and his survival instincts sharper as his quest thrusts him into a savage wasteland…and into explosive conflict with a resourceful warlord (Gary Oldman) set on possessing the book. “We walk by faith, not by sight,” quotes Eli. Under the taut direction of the Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society), those words hit home with unexpected meaning and power.

MOVIE:

The trailers would have you believe this is a pretty straight-up action movie. It’s that, but it also gets a lot more serious in the Third Act. Directing brothers Allen and Albert Hughes, from a script by Gary Whitta, throw in some surprising depth to the film, especially in regards to the true nature of his “book”. The big reveal at the end makes sense, though still leaves a lot of room for inconsistencies. That is, unless you just want to swallow the whole thing under “faith”.

As the bad guy, Gary Oldman kills as the resourceful warlord Carnegie, though the ladies, Beals and Kunis, don’t come across as well. Beals makes do with her bit part, but Kunis is wholly miscast as a survivor of the apocalypse. For one, she’s way too spotless. What, they couldn’t at least dirty her up a bit?

Action-wise, “Book of Eli” is excellent in the early goings. Once Carnegie pursues Eli into the desert, though, things get a bit clunky. Leading man Denzel Washington is in full command as the deadly Eli, and the film is worth watching just for the two or three times that his character delivers death to the bad guys. This is one seriously “Don’t Fuck with Him” type.

The crisp Blu-ray look adds to the film’s suffocating atmosphere. Nothing to complain about here in terms of visuals. The film is appropriately gloomy and dirty and decaying (well, except for Mila Kunis), and Blu-ray captures it all in vibrant detail.

Those interested can read my full review of “The Book of Eli” here.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Maximum Movie Mode: The major feature. It gives you a total of 40 minutes or so worth of picture-in-picture commentary on a particular scene or sequence. Unfortunately some of the 40 minutes are rehashed from other features on the disk, so you’re not exactly getting 40 minutes of additional features, just to be clear. I wouldn’t recommend activating this feature unless you’ve already seen the film through at least once, since PIP boxes that take up 25% of the screen popping up sporadically throughout the movie with talking heads in them can be a little distracting.

A Lost Tale: Billy. One of those moving comic books that gives us a glimpse into Carnegie’s childhood. I’m not entirely sure what it’s supposed to reveal, and I was never really a big fan of moving comic books. It’s very short, but probably not worth the time.

Starting Over: 13 Minutes. The cast and crew of the movie, along with expert types, discuss what a real post-apocalyptic world would look/be like. Definitely interesting if you’re like me and love watching all those “What if” shows on the History Channel.

Soundtrack: Co-director Allen Hughes and composer Atticus Ross on the movie’s soundtrack. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Eli’s Journey: 18 Minutes. Behind-the-scenes making of the film. Great look at the graphic artists working in the background. I could do without the long, drawn-out “Denzel is really great” middle section, though. I’m just saying.

Deleted Scenes/Alternate Takes: 4 scenes for a total of just under 2 Minutes. 1) A great tracking shot of Eli walking through a ghost town. 2) Ray Stevenson’s Redridge burning some books. 3) Another look at Eli taking on the thugs in the bar using a single “circling” camera shot. 4) Jennifer Beals’s Claudia “reading” Eli’s book as Carnegie lays dying next to her.

Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, On Demand and for Download 6/15.