After going blind at the age of seven, Ray Robinson was taught
by his mother to take care of himself. Learning the piano and becoming an
accomplished singer and pianist in the early 1950s, he overcome prejudice
and his blindness by sheer determination and talent. The record deals came
but it wasn't until his contract was acquired by Ahmet Ertegun (Armstrong)
Atlantic Records that his musical genius was allowed to flourish and the
world would start to know the name of Ray Charles (Foxx).
Once in a while you see a performance by an actor or actress
that can be classed as truly great and when you watch 'Ray' you will witness
one of those performances.
Autobiographical films can be very hit or miss. The casting
can be off, the facts might not be as truthful as you would want or you
might only see a snippet of the person's life but once in a while Hollywood
can get it right. Based on the early career of Ray Charles, from his first
job as a pianist in a Seattle club to a pivotal point in his life that would
change the rest of his life, this is a no holds barred look at the career
of one of music's true talents. Unlike many biopics this shows all sides
of Ray's persona, not just the one we witness on stage or in the recording
studio. We witness his home live, his infidelities, his struggles with racism
and his addiction to heroin. We also discover the childhood event that would
shape the rest of life and explain why he was so driven. For music fans,
the material is completely riveting, highlighting the fact that an excessive,
self-destructive lifestyle wasn't just the realm of Rock and Roll.
At the core of the movie is the performance of Jamie Foxx
as Ray Charles. The word extraordinary is used far too often when it comes
to describing the acting of some individuals but this time there is no other
word to describe Foxx's portrayal of legendary entertainer. It has been
a very long time since an actor has captured the character he or she is
portraying so exactly. As Ray Charles was such a public and well-known figure
it is easy to see how good Foxx's performance actually is. It is like been
transported back in time to witness the actual events that shaped his life
by actually watching a young Ray Charles. He has captured everything exquisitely
with his voice, movements and mannerisms are all matched perfectly after
spending a lot of time with the performer before he sadly passed away in
2004. He has been an actor of promise for a long time and his performance
in 'Collateral' in 2004 really showcased his talents but this is something
There is also some excellent support for Foxx. Kerry Washington
and Regina King play the women in Ray's life Della Bea Robinson, his long
suffering wife and Margie Hendricks, Ray's lead backing singer and lover
while his was on the road. These are two very strong performances of two
very different women. Bea is the church-going homely type and mother to
Ray's two sons and Margie is Ray's lover and inspiration. Clifton Powell
is also good as Ray's right hand man Jeff Brown and there is also a powerful
performance from Sharon Warren as Ray's mother Aretha Robinson.
While Ray Charles might have been a very public figure, there
is a lot to his early life that you might not have known and this is what
makes 'Ray' a very interesting biopic. The film does seem to drag abit in
the second act but there are moments to treasure as well as shocks and laughs
as we see his early career unfold before our eyes. Co-writer/Director Taylor
Hackford has done an excellent job and by taking an honest and very frank
approach to the movie, highlighting Ray's flaws as well as his genius. It
is the performance of Jamie Foxx however that the film will be remembered
for as this is one of the great acting performances of all time.
PICTURE & SOUND
Presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround
soundtrack, this is an excellent transfer. Taylor Hackford's visual spectacle
is vividly transferred to DVD, capturing the Technicolor feel of 50s America.
The sound is also first class, especially during the fantastic musical
scenes, where the movie and sound really come into their own.
As well as the theatrical version of the movie, the DVD includes an extended
edition that includes about twenty-five extra minutes of footage. These
deleted or extended scenes can be viewed separately on disc 2 but her
they are branched back into the movie (sometimes with a slight pause),
with a musical note showing you when a new scene has been inserted. Some
of the scenes are a welcome addition to an already remarkable movie but
some should have stayed on the cutting room floor.
Commentary by director Taylor Hackford
This passionate and informative commentary track from the director summarises
the fifteen-year odyssey of bringing the remarkable life story of Ray
Charles to the silver screen. Covering all the major aspects of the film's
production, and mentioning nearly every department that worked on the
movie, it is very obvious that this is a labour of love for Taylor Hackford.
He explains the various story elements, which where completely true and
which where elaborated on for the movie, and how big a contribution Ray
Charles actually made to the film before his death. Even though this is
just the director talking (it is a shame that Jamie Foxx didn't join him),
this is extremely interesting throughout as you can help but be enthralled
by a man who feels so passionate about his film.
Cast and Filmmakers
Text biographies for actors Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Clifton Powell,
Harry Lennix, Terrence Dashon Howard, Richard Schiff, Aunjanue Ellis,
Bokeem Woodbine, Sharon Warren, Curtis Armstrong, Regina King and Larenz
Tate and also director Taylor Hackford, writer James L. White, and producers
Stuart Benjamin, Howard Baldwin and Karen Baldwin.
Deleted Scenes (27.43 mins)
Entitled 'Ray tames the Marines', 'Dancing Al warms 'em up', 'How 'bout
a little Charles Brown', 'Ray and Oberon share a joint', 'Ray takes control',
'Ray hold hand much more', 'Ray's gonna burn in hell', 'Ray stops the
show, fires the trumpeter and lies to Ahmet and Jerry', 'You're high ain't
you', 'Ray adlibs about Jack Laurderdal', 'Ray breaks a promise to Bea',
'Ray shines on Governor Jimmy Davis', 'Ruth bows out' and 'Ray has a vision',
these fourteen deleted scenes are accompanied by optional commentary by
director Taylor Hackford. Most of these scenes make into the extended
version on disc one.
Extended Music Scenes (4.28 mins)
You can now watch the full, unedited scenes for the songs 'What kind of
man are you?' and 'Hit the road Jack' and marvel at the remarkable performances
by this extremely talented cast.
Stepping into the Part (10.30 mins)
Director Taylor Hackford, co-producer Ray Charles Robinson Jr, Quincy
Jones, Larenz Tate and Jamie Foxx talk about bring the life of Ray Charles
to the silver screen. Accompanied by footage of the legendary musician
working with Jamie Foxx at RPM Studios in July 2002, the featurette reveals
how much preparation and dedication the actor made to the role and how
Ray Charles himself influenced his performance.
Ray Remembered (4.03 mins)
Director Taylor Hackford, Jamie Foxx, Quincy Jones, Al Green, Sharon Warren
and Reba McEntire talk about Ray Charles's influence on the world of music
and what he meant to them personally.
A look inside Ray (3.20 mins)
Director Taylor Hackford and star Jamie Foxx talk about the movie's fifteen-year
journey to the silver screen. The director talks passionately about the
film and the performance of Jamie Foxx and the star reveals how he approached
the role and what it was like working with the musical genius himself,
before he sadly passed away.
Theatrical Trailer (2.49 mins)
Your chance to watch the promotional trailer of 'Ray'
Trailers for 'Cinderella Man', 'Friday Night Lights', 'The Motorcycle
Diaries' and 'Vanity Fair'
Universal have done an excellent job in transferring 'Ray' to DVD. The
featurettes maybe slightly short but the inclusion of an extended version
of the film and an excellent commentary track by the director, more than
make up for their shortcomings. For fans of the film this is a must purchase
and for those of you who missed the theatrical release it is your chance
to watch one of the great actor performances of our time.