DVD Review: Criterion Edition of David Mamet’s Great ‘Homicide’

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CHICAGO – I am an unabashed defender of nearly everything that David Mamet has ever made and the arrival of another one of his films under the Criterion banner makes for a special occasion in this critic’s household. The new release of Mamet’s “Homicide” (1991) is a must-own for fans of one of the most important playwrights of the last fifty years and an underrated filmmaker as well.

DVD Rating: 4.0/5.0

Mamet's films almost always deal with figures of authority and men who try to achieve excellence within classic roles like teacher, salesman, or, in the case of "Homicide," police officer. Of course, Mamet isn't interested in a traditional "man in blue" story of good guy fighting crime, even if the film starts by promising such a structure. Ultimately, the fight in "Homicide" is an internal one.

Homicide was released on DVD on September 8th, 2009.
Homicide was released on DVD on September 8th, 2009.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

The cop that leads Mamet’s third directorial effort is Bobby Gold (Joe Mantegna, giving one of the best performances of his career), an inner-city police detective who essentially begins an investigation into his own identity. Gold becomes involved in a mystery after the murder of an elderly Jewish candy-shop owner that distracts him to the point that he gets further and further away from the drug-dealer that he’s supposed to be chasing off the Ten Most Wanted List (Ving Rhames) and deeper into a conspiracy involving his own Jewish past. Mamet regulars William H. Macy, Rebecca Pidgeon and Ricky Jay co-star.

Homicide was released on DVD on September 8th, 2009.
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

Mamet is well-known for his rapid-fire dialogue and "Homicide" is no exception other than it practically makes words a part of the plot. Mamet's cops and criminals don't just discuss, they spit words at each other - some of them racially insensitive - like other director's characters fire bullets. And the words hit home for Bobby Gold, forcing him to investigate an important part of his own history to come to terms with his identity.

Con games, cops, and character - no one writes stories about the games that powerful men play quite like David Mamet, making him a perfect fit for the detail that Criterion provides through their film-enhancing special features. Criterion's bonuses are more than mere filler. They enhance the film experience instead of just adding to it.

The special features this time include a wonderful, new audio commentary featuring Mamet and star William H. Macy and a retrospective documentary where five Mamet regulars discuss their roles in "Homicide" and other Mamet films - Mantegna, Ricky Jay, J.J. Johnston, Jack Wallace, and Steven Goldstein. Other special features include a gag reel, TV spots, and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Stuart Klawans.

The new audio track is the highlight and a must-hear for Mamet fans. Mamet and Macy have worked together so many times and so successfully that have an amazing rapport, discussing both the making of "Homicide" and filmmaking in general. It's a great track.

Editor Barbara Tulliver oversaw the new, restored high-definition digital transfer (in 1.85:1) that should have been released on Blu-Ray as well, but that's the only conceivable complaint about another great Criterion/Mamet release. Hopefully, Criterion will soon start releasing all new inductees into the collection in HD as well as standard.

‘Homicide’ is released by The Criterion Collection and stars Joe Mantegna, William H. Macy, Ving Rhames, and Rebecca Pidgeon. It was written and directed by David Mamet. It was released on September 8th, 2009. It is rated R.

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