Boogie Nights

Boogie Nights (1997)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Additional Scenes, Featurette, Music Video, Trailer

"Boogie Nights" was 1997's sleeper hit, a movie that caught the industry by surprise and earned one of its stars, Burt Reynolds, an Academy Award nomination. It was director Paul Thomas Anderson's second feature movie, and as such displays an impressive maturity. Anderson's talent has since also produced "Magnolia," "Punch Drunk Love" and, of course, the highly celebrated "There Will Be Blood." All of his movie shows that Anderson is taking a very radical approach to filmmaking, offering fresh visuals and highly artistic devices to create his films. Highly touted by critics and audiences alike, "Boogie Nights" swept theaters and caused a buzz in throughout the film industry, instantaneously making Anderson one of Hollywood's hottest new directors.

"Boogie Nights" tells the story of seventeen-year-old Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) whose dream it is to become a famous porn star. One night during his work shift as a dishwasher in a nightclub, he catches the eye of adult film director Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds). Jack, an icon in the adult movie industry, is on the lookout for fresh blood and Eddie is just the stud he needs. He makes the lad an offer that Eddie happily agrees. A few short days later already, they shoot their first film together during which Eddie displays an impressive stamina and professionalism on the job and even manages to give Amber Waves (Julianne Moore), the queen of porn, real carnal pleasures with his "gifted" body during the film's shoot. Eddie changes his name to "Dirk Diggler," and becomes the industry's shooting star, taking porn movies to new heights.

But where there is light, there are shadows, and as Dirk Diggler's star rises in the adult film industry, Eddie, the human being sinks lower and lower. Introduced to other people's vices like booze and cocaine, Dirk lives an excessive life and soon becomes completely addicted to drugs. He loses all self-control and eventually even has a fallout with his mentor Jack. They go their separate ways and Dirk's decline into the gutters of prostitution and crime is imminent.

The acting in the movie is superb and to the point. Burt Reynold's focused, yet laid-back portrayal of the "family father" Jack Horner is worth special mention, as it is one of the best performances of his career. The cast is shored up by many great actors, such as Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, John C. Reilly and William H. Macy, who all throw in excellent and inspiringly refreshing performances.

While it's a great movie overall, "Boogie Nights" does have its flaws. The most obvious one is its considerable length of 155 minutes. While it starts at a good pace, the movie loses focus somewhere down the line, and begins to drag quite noticeably in its last third. From a tight and racy story the movie entirely changes pace and takes on a more visual and extroverted form towards the end. Better editing would probably have helped tightening the story there, keeping the audience's attention all the way, creating a more cohesive film.

The second flaw for my taste – and I know many people will undoubtedly disagree with me on this – is Julianne Moore as porn queen Amber Waves. While there is nothing wrong with her acting, she simply does not have the physical attributes, beauty or charisma it takes to become the influential and adored porn actress she portrays in this film.

Apart from those weaknesses, however, "Boogie Nights" gives us an unabashed, rare glimpse into the world of the porn industry of the seventies. It perfectly displays the broken personalities of this industry, addicted to sex, drugs, and alcohol, completely absorbed in their own world. Every attempt to escape this "family" eventually results in disappointment, embarrassment, and the person's suicide or return to porn movies. It is a vicious circle that doesn't seem to have changed much even to this day.

"Boogie Nights" has been previously released on DVD and is now available for the first time in high definition. PResenting the film in a 1080p widescreen transfer in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer is quite a leap up from the DVD versions. It offers incredible detail and definition, but more importantly also renders colors much more vibrantly, thus helping to bring the swinging 70s to breathtaking life. The level of detail is making the most of the film, perfectly reproducing every seam in the clothing, every pore in the skin, and every texture in the set decoration. Without appearing overly emphasized, the transfer has harp edges and solid blacks, resulting in a truly enjoyable viewing experience.

A Dolby Digital TrueHD audio track is proved on this disc, featuring a dynamic and rich audio presentation that is pretty much flawless. The surround mix that is highly dynamic and rich with aggressive usage of the discrete surrounds that I found somewhat surprising. A deep bass extension ensures that the audio sounds as funky as you want it to be.

Michael Penn's contemporary music track conjures up the right seventies feel for the movie, partly consisting of original bits and pieces, as well as well-known disco, soul and funk tunes from the era to help stylize the images and settings.

You will find most of the bonus materials form the previous DVD versions on this release, including the two separate commentary tracks. The first track is an audio commentary by director Paul Thomas Anderson that is very energetic and provides plenty of insight and information into the making of the film.

The second commentary track features director Anderson together with many of his cast members, such as Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, William H. Macy, John C. Reilly and Mark Wahlberg. Although edited together from different recording sessions, the track has a very dynamic and fluent feel. Anderson serves as the MC, so to say, tying everything together very nicely. As expected, the track is rowdy, raunchy and off the wall. The first comments set the tone for the entire commentary when Anderson asks Julianne Moore, "Do you think Luis Guzman was stoned while we did this shot?" With such an introduction, you just know what you're getting for the next 150 minutes. A lot of laughs, a great number of potshots and people talking about all possible and impossible events they remember about making the film. Spiced up with some ambient recordings, about people talking in the kitchen while grabbing a beer, this commentary track feels as if you have a bunch of friends over at your place and they just keep talking about the film!

Also included are the deleted scenes from the DVD releases, complete with optional commentary by the director.

You can also find "The John C. Reilly Files" on the disc, a series of footage from the movie that shows alternate takes and behind the scenes footage featuring actor John C. Reilly. Running about 15-minutes, this is an interesting little addition to the disc with a few great moments.

The music video "Try" is also included on the disc as well as the movie's theatrical trailer.

"Boogie Nights" is a faithfully unfaithful look at the adult movie industry from two different viewpoints – one humorous and one pensive. It's a sizzling exploration of the people involved in this business and the people who like to rub shoulders with those who are, in hope of some onscreen appearance. It is an entertaining movie that is highly recommended for everyone interested in the genre and a look behind the scenes, through the eyes of some fictional characters loosely based on real porn industry icons. Now available in high definition, this might be a good time to check out this movie again.