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    Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray HBO TV Reviews

    Aug 09 2014 11:00 AM | Cameron Yee in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    In Boardwalk Empire’s penultimate season, Nucky Thompson tries to keep peace in Atlantic City’s underworld, but gangsters and federal agents alike keep the business volatile and violent.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: HBO
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
    • Rating: TV-MA
    • Run Time: Approx. 12 hrs.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, Digital Copy
    • Case Type:
    • Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 08/19/2014
    • MSRP: $79.98

    The Production Rating: 4.5/5

    Bootlegging kingpin Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) has regained control of Atlantic City after a gang war with a bloodthirsty New York upstart, but maintaining that control and keeping the peace with his New York peers remains tenuous. Ever watchful, Nucky now resides – alone, except for his manservant Eddie (Anthony Laciura) and a couple bodyguards – away from the boardwalk at the old Albatross Hotel, opting to be less exposed after the surprise bombing of Babette’s Supper Club. His operations continue full bore, however, as he looks to expand his business by partnering with smugglers from Florida. While the venture has obvious benefits, it also makes Nucky vulnerable to an ongoing investigation by federal agents looking to prove a multi-state racketeering conspiracy. Lead Bureau of Investigation agent Jim Tolliver (Brian Geraghty), under direction by the newly appointed Bureau chief J. Edgar Hoover (Eric Ladin), ultimately pressures those closest to Nucky to get the information he needs, but he also underestimates the depth of their loyalty, not to mention Nucky’s knack for sniffing out the truth.

    On the boardwalk, Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) has taken over the remnants of Babette’s and turned it into the Onyx Club, where black musicians and dancers perform for an all-white clientele. As the club owner, the irony of the situation is not lost on Chalky, but mainstream presence in the heart of the city still represents a shift in standing that he’d be foolish to give up. However, when Chalky’s number two man Dunn Purnsley (Erik LaRay Harvey) makes a series of rash decisions, it sets off a conflict between Chalky and the grandiloquent Harlem thug Valentin Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), whose disdain for Chalky is only surpassed by lust for his territory. As the conflict between the two men steadily escalates, Nucky will have to step in to mediate, if not ultimately take a side.

    Over in Chicago, Nelson Van Alden (Michael Shannon) remains under the thumb of the ilk he once pursued as a Prohibition agent. Employed by Irish mobster Dean O’Banion, but coerced into feeding information to O’Banion’s nemesis Al Capone (Stephen Graham), Van Alden seems ready to split at the seams from the stress. His transformation from an upright, government law enforcer to a put upon mob lackey is not without its ironies, but Van Alden’s growing sense of liberation shows he’s more than acquiescing to the corruption around him, but embracing his true, long repressed nature.

    Meanwhile, gentle assassin Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) has returned from self-imposed exile to reclaim his life, reuniting with love Julia (Wrenn Schmidt) and pursuing legal custody of Jimmy Darmody’s orphan, Tommy. Tommy’s heroin-addicted grandmother Gillian (Gretchen Mol) is fighting for custody as well, but her demons, not to mention her diminishing financial options, are quickly getting the best of her. A handsome suitor enters her life with the promise of salvation, but the times have shown that it’s better to be suspicious of good fortune than believe in a thing as novel as serendipity.

    Though Nucky remains the solitary figure in the show’s opening credits, the fourth season of Boardwalk Empire ultimately focuses more on its supporting characters, moving Nucky into a sort of secondary role as other lives and histories are given more attention. Reflective of Nucky's weariness and reticence for the limelight, this storytelling shift doesn’t diminish him as a main character; if anything, he’s made more compelling as a self-confident (if highly reluctant) fixer of others’ problems than one waist-deep in conflict.

    Benefitting the most from this is Chalky White – one of the show’s most interesting anti-heroes, who's consistently stolen the show over the series' four years. His adversary Narcisse (played to unnerving perfection by Wright) is a worthy one, mainly because he’s such an antithesis to Chalky's no-nonsense, what-you-see-is-what-you-get personality. As Narcisse's past and present motivations come to light, centering around his ward, the chanteuse Daughter Maitland (Margot Bingham), we’ll see he’s more than just a self-absorbed opportunist, but hides a monstrous megalomania behind a facade of enlightenment. The slow boiling feud between Chalky and Narcisse, who seem born to despise each another, makes for one of the season’s most involving story arcs, leading to an especially gut wrenching finale.

    Gillian’s thread seems the most confounding at first because it’s almost completely isolated from the rest of what’s unfolding (even compared to Van Alden’s misadventures in Chicago). But the reveal pays off in a startling and satisfying way, connecting not just with Richard Harrow’s redemptive storyline and callbacks to previous seasons, but the events leading up to Chalky and Narcisse’s stunning face off.

    The humbling of Van Alden continues to be played primarily for dark, comic relief, though the narrative indulgence isn’t necessarily unwelcome. Shannon plays the part with just the right mix of exasperation and simmering rage, making the audience both pity and identify with a man who just can’t catch a break regardless of his vocation. Heading into the show’s fifth and final season, it seems Van Alden will be reunited with Nucky and his gang in a radically different role, though what part he’ll play in the series’ concluding narratives (if any, considering only eight episodes are on tap) remains to be seen.

    Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Fourth Season includes the 12 episodes that originally aired on HBO in late 2013.
    • New York Sour
    • Resignation
    • Acres of Diamonds
    • All In
    • Erlkönig
    • The North Star
    • William Wilson
    • The Old Ship of Zion
    • Marriage and Hunting
    • White Horse Pike
    • Havre de Grace
    • Farewell Daddy Blues
    The fifth and final season premieres September 7, 2014.

    Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

    The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer, framed at 1.78:1, features strong contrast and deep color, with a palette that tends toward the earthy and desaturated, with some spots of rich, nicely saturated color. Black levels are likewise uniformly inky. Detail and sharpness are also excellent, looking especially impressive in close-ups. Ringing along high contrast edges shows up more than I’d like, but for some it may be brief and infrequent enough to not distract.

    Audio Rating: 4/5

    Dialogue in the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is consistently clear, detailed and intelligible. Surround activity tends to be on the more subtle side, providing nicely balanced environmental effects for scenes on the boardwalk and other public areas, as well as support for the score and music cues. LFE is infrequent given the nature of the show, but the consistent use of period music and spots of intense action exhibit great depth and fullness.

    Special Features: 4.5/5

    The extras include a strong collection of behind-the-scene resources and historical information providing context to the the fiction.

    Audio Commentaries:
    • Episode 1: New York Sour with Executive Producer/Writer Howard Korder, Executive Producer/Director Tim Van Patten, and Steve Buscemi (Nucky Thompson)
    • Episode 4: All In with Creator/Executive Producer/Writer Terence Winter, Writer David Matthews, Director Ed Bianchi, and Michael Stuhlberg (Arnold Rothstein)
    • Episode 5: Erlkönig with Executive Producer/Writer Howard Korder, Executive Producer/Director Tim Van Patten, Anthony Laciura (Eddie Kessler), Brian Geraghty (Agent Knox), and Gretchen Mol (Gillian Darmody)
    • Episode 8: The Old Ship of Zion with Executive Producer/Writer Howard Korder, Erik LaRay Harvey (Dunn Purnsley), Michael Kenneth Williams (Chalky White), and Margot Bingham (Daughter Maitland)
    • Episode 11: Havre de Grace with Executive Producer/Writer Howard Korder, Director Allen Coulter, Michael Kenneth Williams (Chalky White), and Margot Bingham (Daughter Maitland)
    • Episode 12: Farewell Daddy Blues with Creator/Writer/Executive Producer Terence Winter, Executive Producer/Director Tim Van Patten, and Steve Buscemi (Nucky Thompson)
    Boardwalk Chronicle: Interactive, picture-in-picture feature provides contextual history and information about characters and locations relative to the events in each episode.

    Season 3 Revisited (13:28): Recaps the events and character turns from the previous season.

    PaleyFest: Made In NY Boardwalk Empire Panel (26:08, HD): The October 6, 2013 panel discussion includes Jeffrey Wright, Gretchen Mol, Michael Kenneth Williams, Howard Korder, and Terence Winter. The event coincided with the broadcast of “Erlkönig,” so some talk concerned the surprise capper to the episode.
    The Onyx Club: A Step Back In Time (9:12, HD): A look at the production design, set construction, wardrobe, and historical context of the new boardwalk hot spot.

    Becoming Harrow (7:40, HD): Jack Huston and Tim Van Patten discuss the portrayal and character arc of war veteran / assassin Richard Harrow.

    New Characters (5:55, HD): Introductions to Valentin Narcisse, Roy Phillips, Agent Knox, Sally Wheet, Frank Capone, Ralph Capone, and Daughter Maitland by the actors who play them and Executive Producer Terence Winter.

    Scouting the Boardwalk (23:10, HD): Location manager Audra Gorman comments on key buildings and sites from each episode.
    • Tippecanoe Diner
    • Cicero Political Rally
    • Tampa Bay Hotel
    • Chicago Street
    • Western Electric Plant
    • Savarin Restaurant
    • Conors and Gould Brokerage Office
    • Heroin House
    • Schofield’s Flower Shop: Front and Back Rooms
    • Tampa Warehouse
    • Oscar Boneau’s House
    • Torrio’s House
    Digital Copy: Options available for Mac, Windows, and portable devices. Redeem by August 31, 2017.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5

    HBO Home Entertainment turns in another satisfying presentation for the fourth season of its 1920s gangster drama. The special features are on par with past releases, making it a worthy addition for fans’ growing series collection.

    Reviewed by: Cameron Yee
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    6 Comments

    Since they clearly cut the budget for this season (not counting the final episode) they should charge less for this set

    Do you mean for the upcoming final season? I thought that was handled by doing 4 fewer episodes. That said, you'd think the price point could be lower for an 8 episode season versus a 12 episode season.
    Not impressed with the balcony shots of the Albatross?

    Other than True Detective, this is the best show currently on HBO and it sounds like this will be a great set.

     

    Thanks for the review, I totally missed it when it was first posted!

    It actually just posted today, but the date stamp reflects when it was first put in the system.

    Too bad this fine series is coming to an end in a couple of months.  But I am so very much looking forward to adding this one to my TV BD collection this coming holiday season--along with so many other prized TV titles I am looking to bring in on both BD and DVD.  May this also lead to more acting opportunities for Margot Bingham.  She was truly great as Daughter.  I really like her a lot!!  :wub:

     

    Thanks for the review, Cameron.