Ludacris: The Red Light District
Label: Def Jam
Author: Tom Doggett
Rap music's transition into the DVD world has come swiftly and without warning. Recently, a high percentage of major releases have been accompanied with a DVD, as a free bonus disc or a separate entity that is not included. The music's nature as a strictly audio format is being challenged by these releases, which include any combination of behind the scenes footage, videos, live performances, and many other varieties of content. Much of the time, more thought is put into the marketing campaign which promises a "free bonus DVD" than the actual material itself, which makes the addition a slight, tacked-on feature.
Ludacris' "Red Light District" DVD is the worst example of this phenomenon, because aside from its status as an uninspired addition to the genre, it arrives separately from the album, retailing in the film section of your favorite place. Clocking in at around forty minutes, and without any significant extra features, the disc exists solely to please Luda's core fans and to make some bank for the good people down at Def Jam.
The film begins in a concert venue in Amsterdam, where nearly all of the footage for the movie was filmed. The choice of location is an obvious one, and it becomes more obvious as the movie goes. There are two chapters devoted to two major vices that are not permitted in the United States, and Ludacris spends a significant portion of the DVD singing the praises of Amsterdam's legal prostitution and marijuana. We are taken on a tour of a weed growing facility and a house of prostitution to exhibit the wonders of foreign lands, and it all proves to be quite interesting. The problem with this display is that it accounts for a healthy portion of the forty-minute proceedings, so the actual performance-oriented Ludacris does not linger on-screen for long. In addition, the bizarre decision to include a laugh track during these scenes separates this section from the rest of the film.
Luda's performances come in the form of live snippets and three exclusive, un-cut music videos. As Luda inevitably is, every second he is on the screen is mesmerizing. The exclusive videos are a nice touch, but essentially are crafted as tighter, better-edited live performances with no special effects and few scenery changes. The live performance from Amsterdam is chosen because of the subject matter of the rest of the DVD, but the crowd is strangely unresponsive despite Ludacris' best efforts. I have never felt especially enticed by films of live performances because of my distance from the action, and when any part of the performance is lifeless, this distance is made more visible. Ludacris does his best to move the crowd, but for some reason, it just doesn't seem to be his night.
The structure of this film is enticing due to the quick pace, and casual viewers will not be turned off by any extensive concert footage or star glorification. For the fans, though, the film is far too brief to provide any insight beyond the simple pleasure of seeing Ludacris on-screen for forty minutes. The performance is very incomplete and the exclusive videos, though nice, should not be a selling point for most consumers. A couple of touches are added for effect, but they really do not make things better. A fancy border, for example, surrounds the entire film's edges, but instead of making the film look better, it feels unnecessary and obstructive. If the time spent on making the film look dolled-up had been redirected towards the bonus features or extending the documentary, the DVD would have been much more satisfying.
The two vignettes regarding sex and drugs are enticing because of their topics. The viewer will be as enthused as Ludacris appears when discussing these "forbidden" products which are ever-so-legal in Amsterdam, and he provides his own spin on the proceedings with amusing commentary. In the episode dealing with prostitution, certain readers will be pleased to know that the explicit content sticker on the front packaging is well-earned. There is skin aplenty, and Ludacris is in the middle of it all, grinning like he's on top of the world. Despite the interest these moments will provide, the replay value of the DVD as a whole is quite low. Nothing on the disc is really worth more than even a second viewing, so the dust will begin to collect shortly. The bonus features, consisting only of a photo gallery, does little to alleviate the problem of length.
The material on "The Red Light District" DVD is perfect for the visual side of a CD-DVD release, because it has some worthy moments without being significant enough for separate release. This is not a complete waste of time, especially since it is arranged in a documentary fashion, and the entire disc is united through the location of Amsterdam. Luda's ever-present charisma is on full display as well, but there is simply not enough quantity to merit a purchase. Unless you live and breathe Ludacris' rhymes, don't let this DVD's arrival take the focus off of the music. That's still the important part.
Content: 4 of 10
Layout: 7 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10
Originally posted: August 30, 2005