Al Pacino rocketed to stardom on the strength of his legendarily introspective performance as the tormented scion of a mob family in The Godfather. But these days, he's better known for flashy star turns that could be dubbed "Whoo-ah!" performances, in honor of the catchphrase he spouted in the grotesque exercise in self-parody known as Scent Of A Woman. The 1979 hit …And Justice For All, one of two '70s Pacino vehicles being rushed to DVD to promote his new film, 88 Minutes, boasts one of Pacino's best "Whoo-ah!" performances. For what are flamboyant trial lawyers like Pacino's charismatic anti-hero, if not ham actors at heart? Norman Jewison's freewheeling black comedy casts Pacino as a defense lawyer racing toward a nervous breakdown alongside partner Jeffrey Tambor and judge Jack Warden. Pacino just barely manages to keep his demons at bay when he's asked to represent John Forsythe, a hanging judge notorious for courtroom squabbles with Pacino. Illustrating the gift for snappy, brisk dialogue and vivid characterization that would pay huge dividends in Diner and Tin Men, co-screenwriter Barry Levinson provides a script that builds into a Network-style indictment of an entire social institution. Justice is seldom as deep or trenchant as it wants to be, but there's abundant pleasure to be gleaned from skating along its surfaces.
Where Justice smartly harnesses Pacino's showboating tendencies, the 1977 romantic melodrama Bobby Deerfield finds him in muted Godfather mode as a racecar driver for whom life is the annoying downtime between races. Pacino's orderly little world is turned upside down when he meets Marthe Keller, a terminally ill free spirit whose insatiable lust for life breaks through Pacino's formidable reserves. Don't be fooled by the action-packed DVD cover: Pacino spends roughly five minutes of Deerfield racing, and two hours learning, from a woman facing death, how to embrace life. Alas, Keller's doomed chatterbox isn't quirky and irresistible so much as shrill and obnoxious, all sass and crazily caffeinated talking jags. Deerfield is ruined by a grating "Whoo-ah!" performance, but not from the refreshingly reined-in Pacino.
Key features: A behind-the-scenes promo for 88 Minutes on both, the pilot for Damages, standard-issue interviews with Jewison and Levison, engaging deleted scenes, and a grandfatherly Jewison audio commentary on Justice.