Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger (3-Disc Collector's Edition) – DVD Review

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Chris Rock is one of the funniest comedians to hit a stage in the last two decades. In fact, Comedy Central has called Rock the “Fifth Greatest Stand-up Comedian of all time”, and both Time and Entertainment Weekly have called Rock “the funniest man in America”. It has been roughly 12 years since he really became a breakout comedian with his 1996 “Bring the Pain” special. His two following specials, 1999’s “Bigger and Blacker” and 2004’s “Never Scared” were not as groundbreaking, but they were still great enough to solidify Rock’s status as one of the best comedians of all time. 2008 brought Rock’s 5th comedy special, “Kill the Messenger”, to first HBO, then to audiences around the world in a world comedy tour, and finally now a DVD of the tour. It’s hard for any comedian to get better as time goes by, but Chris Rock would be the one comedian who could accomplish such a feat.

Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger follows Chris Rock on his 2008 comedy tour as Rock performs in Johannesburg, South Africa; London, England; and New York City. Unlike every other comedy special you have probably seen on DVD, this one is presented a little differently. The main routine that aired on HBO was cut down to 80 minutes, and it’s a mixture of the three performances from three different cities. For example, Chris Rock will start a joke in New York and then deliver the punch-line in London before following up on that joke in Johannesburg. Now this does take some time to get use to, because it can be distracting to see different backgrounds and audiences from one minute to the next. But it also proves how consistent and great of a performer Rock is. Of course, presenting the special this way could really make it unnecessary to watch all three of the individual performances, all available on this collector’s edition DVD, entirely.

As far as the subjects that Rock jokes about in this special, well there are plenty about the timely 2008 US Presidential Election. Rock trashes George W. Bush plenty, which is all well and good, but doesn’t seem to have a bad word to say about Barrack Obama. Politics is always a tricky subject to joke about, but Rock has always been able to balance things out on both sides of the political fence. In addition, during the majority of this special, Rock seems to have drifted away from what made him so groundbreaking and popular to a wide audience. Rock became known for attacking racism head on from all sides. He called out all races for their narrow-mindedness. There are hypocrisies among each and every creed or culture, and Rock joked about them all. But during this special Rock is more one-sided and less equal on his joking attacks on race-related topics, mainly during his many jokes about the election. Fortunately the majority of this material is still quite funny, but it would have been nice if Rock would have spread things out more evenly like he has done in the past.

Other subjects that Rock targeted in this special included the Iraq War, interracial dating, prescription drugs, sports, social interactions, and the differences between having a “career” and a “job.” While most of these jokes are really funny, there are also some bits that aren’t that laugh-out-loud funny like the “who exactly can use certain slurs” bit. You would think that since most of the individual performances lasted longer than 80 minutes, they would be able to pick and choose the best material and you would get non-stop laughs. That is just not the case for the main feature. There are some jokes – the Hilary Clinton bit comes to mind immediately – that didn’t make the final cut for the HBO special that were definitely funnier than some of the bits that did make the final cut. Luckily you can find that jokes and more elsewhere on this DVD set.

Chris Rock’s fifth HBO comedy special, “Kill the Messenger,” comes nowhere close to topping his greatest work. That doesn’t mean that overall this special isn’t funny, because about 75% of this special is definitely funny. But Rock’s usual equal comedic attack on racism from all sides is not so equal this time around. Plus, Rock focusing on the 2008 Presidential election for much of this special is probably a good idea now, since there are plenty of timely jokes and laughs in that material, but years from now those same jokes will unlikely to be as funny. Even less than six months later, those same jokes don’t seem as fresh nor as funny as they once did. In the end, “Kill the Messenger” is not a hard- hitting, “classic” comedy special that you have come to expect from Rock, but it’s definitely funny and entertaining enough to satisfy Chris Rock fans and general comedy fans alike.

The video is given in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16:9 TV. The transfer is fantastic for a stand-up comedy special. Nothing too groundbreaking overall, but probably one of the best looking comedy specials to date. No problems at all.

The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound. There are subtitles available in English as well. The dialogue and music come out loud and clear. But surround sound could have made the audio quality a little better. No major problems here either, though.

This three-disc collector’s edition of Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger includes all three performances from Chris Rock that got put together for one HBO special. Here is the breakdown of the three discs:

Disc 1 contains the complete HBO special.

Disc 2 includes a Digital Copy of the HBO version (in both Mac and PC formats) and the complete New York Performance (94 minutes), from the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Bonus material included here are jokes about Britney Spears’ recent MTV Awards sweep and the Olympics, and alternate versions of some of the jokes in the final HBO special.

Disc 3 begins with the complete Johannesburg Performance (92 minutes), which includes more new material, including a different set of Spears jokes, these related to the courts awarding custody of her kids to their father. Then, we get the full London Performance (85 minutes), which includes some localized material about British drinking, sports, and currency exchange rates.

“Conversations With Chris Rock” Featurette
Also, found on the third disc is this five-minute compilation of sit-down interviews and on-the-fly tour home videos from Chris Rock. A good addition, but should have been a little longer since this is the only real “extra”, in addition to the new jokes not found in the original HBO special.

Chris Rock fans will want to purchase this collector’s edition of Kill the Messenger for sure. For that that have seen the HBO special, it’s not really worth a purchase but slightly worth a rental to see all three performances, which inlcude funny jokes that didn’t make the HBO special. However, this is not really groundbreaking material. It’s probably only must-view for Chris Rock fans. But as far as comedy special goes, an average Chris Rock special is funnier than 75% of the other specials out there. So it’s still worth at least one watch for anyone that enjoys a good laugh.

HBO Home Entertainment presents Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger. Directed by Marty Callner. Starring and Written by Chris Rock. Running time: 270 minutes. UNRATED. Released on DVD: January 20, 2009.
Available at Amazon.com

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