[box cover]

Black and White

Any movie that opens with a black man having sex with two white teenage girls in Central Park and follows that up by showing one of the girls coming home to a family dinner in an upscale Manhattan apartment isn't looking to appeal to middle America. It is aiming to shock, to make the viewer think about preconceived notions of race and identity. That's James Toback's Black and White in a nutshell. The largely improvised, star-studded drama explores today's hip-hop culture from both the perspective of the rap artists who created it and that of the spoiled white kids who find it irresistible because it's so different from what they're used to. The large cast of characters includes Charlie (Bijou Philips), the aforementioned white teenage girl; her boyfriend (Elijah Wood); Rich Bower, the rapper she fools around with in the park (Oli "Power" Grant); Rich's childhood friend Dean (the New York Knicks' Allan Houston); Dean's girlfriend Greta (Claudia Schiffer); documentary filmmakers Sam and Terry Donager (Brooke Shields and Robert Downey Jr.); mystery man Mark Clear (Ben Stiller); and even Mike Tyson (as himself). The plot centers on Dean, who is offered $50,000 by Clear to throw a Columbia basketball game — the consequences of his decision end up affecting most of the rest of the film's characters. But the plot is secondary to the characters' feelings about who they are and where they belong in the hip-hop world. It's all accompanied by a vibrant soundtrack that uses music to help define identity and distinguish between the vastly different segments of society featured in the movie. While Black and White is a little chaotic and overcrowded, it offers a relentless, honest look at race and power. Writer/director Toback's commentary track offers interesting insights into the film's message and goals, and the disc's other features — including deleted scenes/alternate takes, music videos, filmographies, an isolated soundtrack score, and an exclusive video diary — are equally valuable. The clean transfer is impressive in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1 or Dolby 2.0 Surround. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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