A Second Ride With Ang Lee's 'Devil'

A director's cut of a film can be a tricky thing. Some people hold issue with the filmmaker going back under the hood and tinkering with a picture's wiring, such as with Amadeus. Others, like Ridley Scott's completely revamped cut of Kingdom of Heaven, reshape the narrative in a way that transforms the film into a true piece of work -- answering questions, developing characters, and giving it a more holistic feel. It's these cuts that are such a delight to watch, both for the opportunity to see a director's work breathe the way it's supposed to breathe and to see a pre-clipped version that major studios passed on.

For these reasons, it was a whole-hearted pleasure to hop back under the hood with Ang Lee and his preferred cut of Ride With the Devil. It's the story of the Civil War seen through the eyes of Missouri men, detached, squirrely fighters known as "Bushwhackers", that aren't as finely detailed in the history books as those who fought in the grand battles to the east. And, through Ang Lee's eyes for authenticity and methodical hand in pacing, it offers many a moment that circles around the themes of honor, loyalty, and a daring spin on hypocrisy. Here are a few words about the director's new cut:

His director's cut actually lasts roughly 10 minutes longer at a runtime of 148 minutes, but it shouldn't be assumed that a few chunks of footage are just dropped in here and there to fill in gaps. Ang Lee has also rearranged a few sequences to a minor degree, and snipped out a few elements -- though the eliminations are exceedingly minor. Since the film was aimed at being a spectacle summer picture, and since Lee and his editor needed to use every ounce of fast-paced activity in order to live up to this desire, most of the action-based sequences remain unchanged due to the fact that they likely crammed in all of his favored action footage into the theatrical cut. Instead, he's added flesh to malnourished characters and given the already-strong ones even more substance for his preferred cut, though the overall fabric of the picture hasn't changed.


General impression of the director's cut is positive, besting the original cut with more substantial and intriguing character moments, though it arrives at the same location by way of a slightly more complex path. Most sequences in Ride With the Devil are left completely alone. The entire space of time from when the boys begin hibernating and meet Sue Lee to when they leave seems to be status quo, while, as mentioned earlier, just about every action-based sequence remains in-tact as seen in theaters -- since it's assumed Universal wanted to cram in every ounce of vivaciousness it possesses through the horse-backed and pistol-wielding sequences. However, the additions incorporated with the characters are welcome, intriguing and -- in several cases, especially with Alf Bowman -- necessary. It's a better film because of it.

Check out my full review of Ang Lee's Cut of Ride With the Devil over at DVDTalk.


Post a Comment

Thoughts? Love to hear 'em -- if they're kept clean and civil.