New to Blu-ray/DVD: My Beautiful Laundrette & Killing Jimmy Hoffa


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Editor’s Notes: My Beautiful Laundrette & Killing Jimmy Hoffa are out on their respective formats July 21th.

My Beautiful Laundrette

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 1.25.57 PMMy Beautiful Laundrette (The Criterion Collection) stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Johnny, a homeless South London cockney street punk. Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a Pakistani student, convinces his wealthy uncle into letting him take over and manage one of his money-losing enterprises, a laundry in a rough neighborhood. Omar elicits the help of former school pal Johnny, and as plans take shape for the business, they fall in love.

Director Stephen Frears doesn’t treat this same-sex relationship as a big deal. Instead, he sets this surge of human emotion against a background of racial divisiveness and economic desolation. Frears takes a close, disturbing look at the lives of Pakistanis living in Great Britain in the 1980s. There are racial tensions between the Pakistanis themselves, such as those that divide Omar and his relatives, as well as tensions between the lower-class natives and the Pakistani immigrants.
Though the tone of My Beautiful Laundrette is serious, director Frears incorporates humor from time to time. One of the picture’s most amusing characters is Uncle Nasser (Saeed Jeffrey), a successful businessman and small-time racketeer who’s a collection of inconsistencies. Though he prides himself as the patriarch of a large clan, he nonetheless has an English mistress. Even as he flaunts his heritage, he finds no trouble evicting a fellow immigrant from an apartment if the rent is late. Mr. Jeffrey knows when the script offers opportunities for some fun, and takes full advantage without undermining the film’s themes.
Day-Lewis (Lincoln, Gangs of New York) is an amazing actor who slips chameleon-like into his roles, with little resemblance between roles or performances. He’s outstanding here as the alienated product of poverty, joblessness, and racial animosity.
Bonus features on the newly restored digital Blu-ray release include a new conversation between director Stephen Frears and producer Colin MacCabe; new interviews with writer Hanif Kureishi and the producers; theatrical trailer; and a critical essay.

Killing Jimmy Hoffa

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 1.33.18 PMKilling Jimmy Hoffa (MVD Visual) is a documentary based on the mysterious disappearance of the labor organizer. Despite a four-decade Federal investigation and hundreds of suspects, little more is known about the crime today than it was back in 1975, the last time Hoffa was seen alive. The view of Hoffa differs, depending on the source. A self-made man who ran the nation’s largest union and was beloved by the rank and file teamsters he represented, Hoffa was also associated with corruption. Hoffa’s rise to power coincided with the glory years of the union movement and a steadily growing American economy. Naturally, this multifaceted legacy has made Hoffa an intriguing, often enigmatic personality.

This documentary nicely chronicles the rise of Hoffa, emphasizing the extent of his corrupt dealings and connections with the Mob. The film veers of course, however, with its preponderance of speculation on many issues, specifically Hoffa’s alleged ties to the JFK assassination and his role in the planned assassination of Fidel Castro. Interesting is the background behind Richard Nixon’s pardon of Hoffa (inspired by large cash donations to Nixon’s campaign fund).

For those who know only the sketchy details of the Hoffa mystery, the film is a fairly accurate primer on basic facts. Specific details about Hoffa’s early life abound. When it espouses theories about Hoffa’s disappearance, however, it becomes more tabloid in flavor. The theories are fascinating and may, in fact, be true, but they are based on speculation and questionable testimony so the claim “for the first time, the true story of when, where and why James Hoffa was murdered and why his body will never be found” should be taken as hype more than an accurate description of content.

The test of any documentary is making it interesting and avoiding dry regurgitation of facts. Killing Jimmy Hoffa succeeds in making this a fascinating trip down crime history’s Memory Lane and acquainting younger audiences with the background to what continues to be America’s most famous ongoing missing person case. There are no bonus features on the DVD release.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.