It's been a few years since I've been to New York City (the hotel I stayed at on the West side near the river was $99 a night in 2003; it is now often as much as $280 a night), but certainly have very fond memories of the trip. I actually spent very little time in Times Square (which I found most beautiful in the morning when the sun was coming up and few were around) and would just walk around the city for 9-10 hours a day. The city, as a whole, was wonderful and certainly had changed a lot since I had visited as a little kid.
Many credit Mayor Rudolph Guiliani for the clean-up and some ("Family Guy", etc.) have used joked about the tactics that the former Mayor used to turn the city into what it is today. Director Kevin Keating (a former cinematographer for such acclaimed documentaries as "When We Were Kings" and "Harlan County, USA")'s documentary attempts to get underneath Guliani's work and show (this is a one-sided film) a darker side of the former Mayor.
Keating's film opens with a look at the mob ties that Guliani's father had. While I suppose this does provide a picture of Guliani's childhood, it doesn't really add to the overall look at Guliani as much as the discussion of his schooling and general upbringing later in childhood does. From there, we see Guliani's rapid rise, including a position in 1981 as the Associate Attorney General (at 36, the youngest AAG in history) in the Regan administration, where he supported the decision to turn away boatloads of Haitain immigrants who were escaping Baby Doc Duvalier's oppressive regime.
Guided at many points by Village Voice" editor Wayne Barrett, Keating's documentary then goes through the Mayor's "zero tolerance" policies and an oppressive police force, which included arresting artists who were trying to sell their artwork. The city's "broken windows" policy was a zero tolerance effort aimed at cleaning up the city and when the city's crime rates did drop (although the documentary questions that
VIDEO: "16 Blocks" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation seemed quite nice throughout the show, with only a couple of slight issues spotted. Sharpness and detail were certainly not a problem, as the picture appeared crisp, detailed and clean throughout the show.
Very slight edge enhancement in a couple of scenes and a few minor instances of artifacting were the only concerns encountered, but they remained brief and didn't distract. The film's subdued color palette seemed accurately presented, with no smearing or other concerns. While not flawless, this was still a very fine effort.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was also quite good, as while it wasn't consistently aggressive, it certainly provided a nice amount of ambience during the scenes on the streets and quite a few fine uses of the surrounds for sound effects during the more intense action scenes. Audio quality was terrific, with crisp dialogue, effects and score.
EXTRAS: A darker (although similar) alternate ending with an intro from director Richard Donner and writer Richard Wenk is included. The alternate ending (which I didn't think worked as well as the one in the picture) can also be played with the film via seamless branching. Unfortunately, the only other supplements are deleted scenes (with intros from Donner and Wenk) and the trailer.
Final Thoughts: "16 Blocks" has a handful of minor issues, but at its core it's an enjoyable, straightforward suspense flick with a series of fine performances. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, but disappointingly few supplements. A recommended rental.
The Film B