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‘London Boulevard’ a British gangster yarn



This week’s new DVD releases include a couple that are arriving with surprisingly low profiles, never mind those in-your-face images of high-caliber weaponry on the covers.

In “London Boulevard’’ (2011), Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (“The Departed’’) makes his directing debut with a British gangster yarn about a humbled ex-con (Colin Farrell) reinventing himself as a bodyguard for a fragile actress (Keira Knightley). A current trailer tries to sell the movie as a mix of Guy Ritchie and “Get Shorty,’’ but the affair is far more somber than that. (The cast, though, is similarly stocked, with David Thewlis, Ben Chaplin, and kingpin Ray Winstone among the familiar gritty faces.) Farrell gives a solid performance, but choppy editing and a lack of dramatic momentum explain the film’s perfunctory release. Monahan and the cast discuss his directorial transition in a featurette. There’s also a British accent to “Retreat’’ (2011), in which a borderline-estranged couple (Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton) rent a cottage on a craggy offshore island to try to reconnect, only to have things turn grim. When an injured soldier (Jamie Bell) turns up on the otherwise uninhabited rock, Murphy and Newton are understandably suspicious. But the real freakout starts when Bell warns them that an airborne pandemic has struck, and they’ve got to hunker down with him or die. It’s a great premise, but rookie filmmaker Carl Tibbetts’s undercooked storytelling leaves the actors overdoing some of the conflict and visceral twists. (Sony, $30.99 each; Blu-ray, “London,’’ $35.99)

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J. EDGAR (2011)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Clint Eastwood team to craft a portrait not just of J. Edgar Hoover, FBI heavyweight, but of the evolution of law enforcement, and of one man’s evolution from crusading to controlling, committed to corrupt. And then, of course, there’s the repression, personified here by Armie Hammer (“The Social Network’’) as Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s right hand. DiCaprio’s performance is impressively studied, pushing him past the baby-faced limitations that hampered his Howard Hughes portrayal in “The Aviator.’’ Eastwood again displays the sort of intelligent, evenhanded political commentary that we saw in his Iwo Jima films. Extras: Historical featurettes. (Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99)

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Watching “Shrek 4’’ co-opt “It’s a Wonderful Life’’ may have had you thinking the franchise was scraping for ideas, but DreamWorks reinvigorates things nicely by exploring the back story of Antonio Banderas’s feline swashbuckler. You know they’re doing something right when they deliver a kitty litter gag that doesn’t make grown-up viewers just groan. Extras: A new animated adventure; voice talent featurette spotlighting, yes, yet another glamorous Banderas-Salma Hayek pairing; and, in the spirit of Zach Galifianakis’s Humpty Dumpty riff, hidden DVD Easter eggs. (Paramount, $34.98; Blu-ray, $39.99; 3-D, $54.99; available Friday)



Brett Ratner (“Rush Hour’’) might not be overseeing the Oscars next weekend, but his career otherwise rolls along with another glossy comedy that aims for hilarity, and hits closer to mildly amusing. “Heist’’ is definitely an underachiever, considering its topical plot - Manhattan co-op staffers getting even with the Bernie Madoff type who shafted them - and a who’s-who cast led by Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy (Ratner’s would’ve-been Oscars host), and Alan Alda. Still, the movie underachieves agreeably, and with a bit of “Ocean’s Eleven’’ flair. Extras: Ratner commentary; alternate endings; gag reel. (Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98)

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