'The Bronx is Burning'
(John Turturro, Oliver Platt, Max Casella, Loren Dean, Charles S. Dutton, Joe Grifasi, Dan Lauria, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2007 / ESPN)
Overview: In the summer of ‘77, New York was a city in crisis. Terrorized by the Son of Sam serial killer, divided by a bitter mayor’s race and devastated by rampant arson and looting following a paralyzing citywide blackout, the Big Apple found renewed hope and inspiration in the on-and-off field exploits of baseball’s most storied franchise, The New York Yankees.
DVD Verdict: It's going, it's going, it is OUTTA HERE! The Bronx Is Burning turns its attention on a very specific time in New York City history and the result is a major league hit. There are even moments of (Forrest Gump/Zelig)-esque wizardry where documentary footage is kluged with new footage - it's never convincing enough to pass for real, but it's fun. Even without this techno-trickery the series succeeds in transporting viewers to a turbulent time in NYC history when a lot of things were going wrong all at once. The long overdue resurgence of baseball's legendary franchise, The Yankees, was just what the doctor ordered to help an ailing city feel better about itself.
The only missteps arise from sections devoted to Son of Sam and the Mayoral race; we're never quite certain how relevant these dramas are, or their relationship to the central story. The actual interviews of participants, by contrast, work very well. Interviews with Yankee players - including Jackson, sports writers, and Steinbrenner himself, add authority to the story and give a visceral sense of the sustained dysfunction that characterized the team that year. Only Martin is missing from these interviews - even in history he is trivialized.
The drama here arises from a tough drive to the World Series, but the action, and the fun, come from an ongoing battle between three myopic egos that never manage to put their differences aside. It is a battle of titans and they share the blame equally - indeed - given the situation it's a miracle the team made the playoffs. Steinbrenner - the owner - is a grandiose, bombastic micro-manager. Martin - a brilliant player and manager - demonstrates levels of passive aggression and self-destruction so profound they could be record setting. Jackson embodies the sports super-star celebrity nincompoop - he seems to have been invented to illustrate the phrase - "a legend in his own mind."
Turturro is amazing as Martin - Martin is a complex man, part megalomaniac, part hapless victim, part creep - Turturro expresses this entire range effortlessly. Daniel Sanjata has his hands full as Jackson - in many ways Jackson is a larger than life figure - just ask him. But Sanjata not only looks like Jackson, he manages to express Jackson's clueless narcissism faultlessly. But the real star turn of this terrific series is Oliver Platt as George Steinbrenner. Platt's portrayal of Steinbrenner is more like Steinbrenner than Steinbrenner ever was on his best day. Every minute Platt is on screen is a pleasure to watch. The Bronx Is Burning is an absolutely splendid piece of entertainment. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Outtakes, Deleted & Extended Scenes
"Stories of '77" Featurette
The Bronx is Burning Webisodes
"On The Set" Featuette
4 Extended Interviews
Complete Stats for the 1977 Yankees