Blu Ray Review: American Gigolo (Arrow Films US)

Aaron ConnMovies, ReviewsLeave a Comment

American Gigolo Arrow Blu Ray

American Gigolo Arrow Blu RayArrow Films US and MVD have recently released a limited edition Blu-ray and 4K disc of Paul Schrader’s 1980 neo-noir thriller American Gigolo. Starring Richard Gere in one of his first roles, the movie was controversial at the time of its release: the look in the life of male escort was deemed to be too raunchy for the big screen. As a result, American Gigolo was met with mixed reviews from most critics. Even today, it’s a very divisive movie. Despite this, some have recognized the movie’s excellence over the years and this new release does it justice.

Review
American Gigiolo tells the story of Julian Kay (Richard Gere), a high end male escort living in Los Angeles. While Kay is an expert at bringing pleasure to women, he’s not as good at receiving it. Though sooner or later, Kay meets a woman named Michelle Stratton (Lauren Hutton). While she’s married to a California state senator, things are looking up for Kay. There is, however, another obstacle Kay must overcome: a former client of his is murdered. During the police investigation, Kay finds himself a prime suspect, putting his career and future at risk.

At the time movie was released, Paul Schrader was perhaps best known for writing the screenplay and story for Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. In later years, Schrader has often stated that American Gigolo is a part of what he calls a series of “double bookends.” Taxi Driver preceded this and Light Sleeper and The Walker would follow it. Speaking of Taxi DriverAmerican Gigolo was written in the year of Taxi Driver‘s release. Prior to picking Richard Gere, the role of Julian Kay was offered to several actors: John Travolta, Christopher Reeve and even Chevy Chase. Gere, who was known already for Looking For Mr. Goodbar and Days of Heaven, was interested in the role and soon got the job. Gere’s status as a Hollywood sex symbol was cemented with this movie and even today, his performance as Julian Kay is strong. As Kay, Gere shows the character’s sides: showing charm when he brings pleasure to women and also loneliness as the plot moves along. Lauren Hutton gives a good performances as Michelle Stratton, showing how a married woman can become fixated on another man. All of the other actors give good performances here too, though its Gere and Hutton that give the strongest performances.

american gigolo richard gere lauren huttonAmerican Gigolo is also a movie that’s firmly set in the early 1980s. From the fashion of Julian Kay to the sunny and vibrant colors of downtown Los Angeles, the movie is visually intriguing. Giorgio Moroder’s disco ridden soundtrack fits perfectly in with the movie. As a neo-noir thriller, Moroder’s music help paint the picture of downtown Los Angeles. This is especially strong in the nightclub scenes, where Julian goes to meet with his pimp Leon, who works at a gay nightclub.

If the movie had any weaknesses, it would be some of the plot. At times, it feels like the movie is trying to tell one too many stories: along with the Julian-Michelle relationship and the murder investigation, the movie tackles some side stories. Some of them are enjoyable (the dynamic between Julian and Detective Sunday) while others drag the movie out (some of the scenes with Julian’s clients). Thematically, American Gigolo works as a character study of a man who seemingly has everything: money, women and good looks. Though for a man like Julian Kay, life isn’t that simple.

Bonus Features and The New 4K Transfer
American Gigolo Richard GereArrow US have given movie lovers deliver the goods in the bonus features. Along with the movie, you get:

–  interviews with Paul Schrader, Hector Elizondo (Detective Sunday) and Bill Duke (Leon)
–  interviews with editor Richard Halsey and camera operator King Baggot.
–  interviews  with Dan Wilcox and Professor Jennifer Clark, the former on the music and the latter on the fashion landscape
– audio commentary from film critic Adrian Martin
– original trailer
– image gallery

The bonus features total to a little under two hours in content, all of which is new and uses footage from the movie.

The disc package also comes with a double sided foldout poster and a booklet with essays, articles and original pressbook materials.

The movie has also received a new 4K Transfer. While this is a blu ray disc that’s being reviewed, the picture and sound are spectacular. Comparing this to whatever’s currently on Paramount Plus, the new transfer is easily the superior version of the movie. The movie looks very clean, which just a touch of grain in some scenes.

Conclusion
As a whole, this new release American Gigolo is perhaps the best release of the movie to date. While critics weren’t kind to this movie back in 1980, diehard movie buffs will appreciate this new release.

Movie Rating: 7/10
Release Rating: 8/10

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Aaron ConnBlu Ray Review: American Gigolo (Arrow Films US)