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After scoring cocaine in Mexico, then re-selling it in California, two bikers set off on a cross- country trek to New Orleans.
For more about Easy Rider and the Easy Rider Blu-ray release, see Easy Rider Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 20, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Dennis Hopper
Writers: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Terry Southern
Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Luana Anders, Luke Askew
» See full cast & crew
Easy Rider Blu-ray Review
Don't bogart this Blu-ray release of 'Easy Rider.'
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 20, 2009
I never wanted to be anybody else.
No film says "the 1960s" quite like Easy Rider, the quintessential counterculture tale of two motorcyclists on a cross-country trip of discovery across America not of sites and sounds but of the mind, influenced, of course, by the influx of sex, drugs, and rock and roll along the way. Few movies are so ingrained into film culture and, by extension, American Culture, quite like this one. The mere image of the red, white and blue strewn across a motorcycle; Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild;" or Jack Nicholson's first breakthrough performance; all define not only a film but an era, a way of life, and a slice of Americana long gone to history but still alive and kicking with every screening of Actor/Director Dennis Hopper's film that's finely-tuned to be out of tune, the film lacking much in the way of basic structure, character development, or a clearly-identifiable purpose, except, of course, as something of a look at life in a time of upheaval, of uncertainty, of freedom, of persecution, as witnessed by two generational byproducts just looking for a little cash and plenty of open road.
A trek through the open roads of the American South and the human spirit, Easy Rider follows freewheeling motorcyclists Wyatt (Peter Fonda, 3:10 to Yuma) and Billy (Dennis Hopper, "Crash") as they purchase drugs south of the border and quickly turn it around for profit to finance a cross-country trip to attend the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans, Louisiana. Along the way, they encounter a hitchhiker who introduces them to life at a Hippie commune; a wino lawyer (Jack Nicholson, Wolf) that's a drug newbie but finds himself a part of the gang; and Southern locals that don't take a liking to the drug-influenced Hippies stopping in their town.
Try as they may, no film since has captured the freewheeling lifestyle quite like Easy Rider. Though the film lacks much in the way of structure or even a worthwhile plot, that seems to be the point. Easy Rider -- much like the decade it encapsulates -- is all about the flow, the freedom, the philosophies, the way of life, the highs, the lows, and whatever it is that's in between. It's a movie that is, and isn't. It tells not the beginning of a story but rather an end. A product of its era but not terribly dated, the film's lack of purpose seems like its very essence. Then, it was a symbol, a standard-bearer for all things revolutionary, and today, it remains as such, but instead as a rallying point it now serves as something of an historical curiosity of a bygone era that seems to perfectly capture the meandering, loosely-structured way of life that defined its time.
Easy Rider seems to go almost out of its way to incorporate everything that defined the era into its 96-minute runtime, and it brilliantly does so by simply moving from one topic to the next, allowing the characters and the audience to soak up whatever slice of counterculture may be front-and-center in each segment, and just like that, the film moves on. It does wonderfully to capture the ebb and flow, unstructured, loosely-goal-oriented theme of the time nicely, effectively placing the audience alongside Wyatt and Billy as they deal in drugs, explore the vastness of the American South, experience life at a Hippie commune, land themselves in jail, get high, deal with prejudice, visit a brothel, and experiment with hard drugs. For all the film has to offer in its snapshot of the 1960s -- the relaxed way of life, finding meaning where there is none to be found, discovering excitement and crafting drug-induced tall-tales to add some spice to the doldrums of the campsite -- it ends with an appropriate abruptness that punctuates every facet of the film's existence, the finale reinforcing themes of the lack of meaning, structure, and purpose not only in those engaged in the cultural revolution, but in those that held steadfastly to an older, more traditional way of life.
Through all its quirkiness insofar as its lack of traditional structure and focus on a more esoteric way of life that's long since departed, Easy Rider delivers something of a surreal and relaxing movie watching experience. That should come as no surprise when the first song in the film talks about smoking grass and popping pills, and though Easy Rider's visual structure does well to reflect the drug- and alcohol-induced haze that hangs over the characters, there's more to it that makes the movie a fine watch from a more technical perspective. The sense of being on the open road combined with the late László Kovács' (Ghostbusters) brilliant cinematography, the classic soundtrack, and the film's deliberate pace all make Easy Rider easily digestible despite issues that might otherwise spell trouble for lesser pictures without the clear focus of being unfocused that defines this picture. Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson -- the latter of whom received his first Oscar nomination for Easy Rider -- all deliver intoxicating, fully-immersed performances that have come to define the film.
Easy Rider Blu-ray, Video Quality
Easy Rider pulls onto Blu-ray with a spectacular 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. In true Sony fashion, this disc retains its natural grain structure -- which does appear rather heavily throughout -- that allows the film to retain an accurate and pleasing cinematic quality. Detail is generally exceptional throughout; whether the scuffs on Wyatt's red, white, and blue helmet or the textures seen on the desert rocks at the Hippie commune, the transfer showcases a solid, clear, sharp, and natural film-like image. There's also a good sense of depth; backgrounds are generally sharp and nicely rendered without much loss in detail. Colors, too, are beautifully reproduced. From the many earth tones seen in the film to the bolder and brighter hues seen on Wyatt's motorcycle, this Blu-ray never falters in translating the color palette to wonderful effect. Also featuring strong black levels and natural flesh tones, Easy Rider represents one of the finest catalogue transfers yet seen on Blu-ray. It's a pleasure to behold.
Easy Rider Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Easy Rider revs up on Blu-ray with a quality Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track enjoys but several moments of amped-up special effects. A few planes scream from front to back during a drug deal early in the film; the effect is accompanied by a fair level of bass, plenty of volume, and seamless flow from front to back. Though it's not the most lifelike or clear effect, it's nicely reproduced here and works to wonderful effect with the accompanying scene. Dialogue is generally reproduced without a hitch, though there are a few instances where it sounds unnaturally inserted into the film and is forced to compete with several background atmospherics, making for something of an unnatural sonic moment. Still, Easy Rider's soundtrack is all about the music, and its delivery here is exceptional. "Born to be Wild" features superb clarity through the entire range, including a solid low end. It sounds so good it's almost worth watching the opening title sequence twice just to revel in the exceptional delivery afforded by this Blu-ray disc. The other tracks -- "The Weight" and "I Wasn't Born to Follow," for instance -- are, likewise, wonderfully presented. All in all, Easy Rider sounds fantastic where it counts, and fans of both the film and its soundtrack should find this lossless offering reason enough to purchase the disc.
Easy Rider Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Easy Rider heads out onto Bu-ray with a few on-disc extras. First is a commentary track with Actor/Writer/Director Dennis Hopper. Hopper discusses the film's roots, writing the script with Peter Fonda, shooting locations, the film's budget, the film's Western undertones, the soundtrack serving as part of the narrative of the story, and much more. Despite some stretches of silence in the comments, fans will enjoy this track a great deal. Next is Easy Rider: Shaking the Cage (480p, 1:04:51), an in-depth documentary that recounts the history of the production from beginning to end. The cast and crew discuss writing the film, the difficulty of the shoot, the role of drugs in culture and in the film, shooting on a tight budget, casting the secondary parts and the authenticity of several of the actors, editing the film, adding the soundtrack, the film's reception and legacy, and more. Also included is standard BD-Live functionality; Sony's "MovieIQ" that offers live, up-to-date details about every scene, including cast and crew filmographies and biographies, soundtrack listings, and more; and 1080p previews for The Da Vinci Code, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Ghostbusters, A River Runs Through It, Damages: Season One, Blood: The Last Vampire, Moon, and Tyson. This package also houses a 35-page full-color booklet which contains the following: "Head Out on the Highway: The Songs of Easy Rider;" bios of stars Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson; a bio of Co-Writer Terry Southern; and the essay "Born to Be Wild: Freedom and Captivity in Hollywood Post-Easy Rider" by Travis Baker.
Easy Rider Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
One of the true classics of American cinema, Easy Rider encapsulates a genre, a decade, and a way of life. Influential then and remembered as a brilliant slice of cinema now, Easy Rider defined a generation and remains a time capsule to a long-lost era of upheaval. Also solidifying Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, and Dennis Hopper as stars to be reckoned with for decades to come, Easy Rider represents a true milestone in motion picture history. Sony's DigiBook Blu-ray release of this classic should immediately find a spot in every serious Blu-ray collection. Boasting a top-notch visual presentation, a solid lossless soundtrack, a supplemental package headlined by a fine documentary, and a handsome hardbound case, Easy Rider comes highly recommended.
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