New on Blu-ray: Fences

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Nominated for four Academy Awards, including Viola Davis’s win for Best Supporting Actress, Denzel Washington’s directorial effort Fence arrives on Blu-ray and Digital HD combo today courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution. Adapted from August Wilson’s renowned play of the same name, the film is an intimate look at a family unraveling at the hands of its demanding and self-centered patriarch.

Troy Maxson is the embodiment of both good and evil. A former Negro-league baseball player, Troy is a tyrant who views himself as a complex saint. By his own account he is doing everything that is expected of him. He goes to work every day as a garbage man in Pittsburgh, trying not to ruffle any feathers while questioning why none of the route drivers are Africa-American, in order to provide for his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and son Cory (Jovan Adepo). He is a man who believes in the value of hard work and knows firsthand that nothing in life comes easy.

Though Troy may preach to his family about the importance of respect, especially to Lyons (Russell Hornsby), his son from a previous marriage, he rarely puts this into practice himself. In fact, he is continually sabotaging those within his family. Plagued by a harsh childhood, and never being able to achieve his own dreams, Troy is unable to see past his hatred towards the cards life has dealt him.

It is this study of a man so selfishly consumed with his own past that fuels much of the drama in the film. Wilson’s lyrical and biting dialogue adds a beautiful texture to the tension and anguish on display. Conversations wander in various directions, sometimes seemingly unimportant on the surface, but reveal so much about each character.

Fences is an acting clinic from top to bottom. There is not a bad performance in the bunch as even supporting turns light up the screen. Denzel Washington’s gripping performance succeeds in bringing Troy’s dastardly complex nature to life. Having played the role in the stage production, there is a darkness that Washington effortlessly conveys. He revels in the villainous role and serves as the perfect counterpart to Viola Davis’ sensational work in the film. As Rose, Davis not only brings to life a woman who has given up everything to devote herself to her marriage and family, but also helps to show how complicated Troy’s relationship with the family is.

Playing much better on Blu-ray, as Washington’s subtle camera movements are more pronounced and the “stage play” feel is less jarring, the disc comes with a handful of special features. “Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen” finds Denzel Washington and the whole cast shedding light on the joys and challenges that came with adapting the play to the medium of film. In “August Wilson’s Hill District,” we are treated to an interesting look at the importance of Pittsburgh’s Hill District in both Wilson’s play and as the film’s location. While the bonus content adds extra context for the film, the main reason to pick up this disc is for the sensational performances that are on display.

Special Features:
Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen
The Company of Fences
Building Fences: Denzel Washington
Playing the Part: Rose Maxson
August Wilson’s Hill District