|Category||Action||Theatrical Trailer(s)||Yes, 1 - 1.85:1, Non-16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:53)|
|Year Released||1993||Commentary Tracks||None|
|Running Time||95:28 Minutes||Other Extras||Production Notes
Cast & Crew Biographies
Columbia Tristar Home Video
|Starring||Jean-Claude Van Damme
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||MPEG||None|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Dolby Digital||5.1|
||Soundtrack Languages||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Devil's Advocate saw the use of an interesting technique to hide the woeful acting ability of Keanu Reeves: simply put a much better actor such as Al Pacino in the film with him. Hard Target sees director John Woo attempting to use the same technique some years earlier with Jean-Claude Van Damme, and it is mostly successful. Although Van Damme is a far worse actor than Reeves, I vastly prefer Lance Henriksen to Al Pacino simply because I identify with him more. Anyway, as the rating might give away, us DVD enthusiasts have been blessed with the uncensored R-rated version of this film, which adds about five minutes of footage in which various men do lots of nasty things to each other. This is in contrast to the theatrical and VHS versions of this film, which are about ninety minutes in length and were deemed worthy of the slightly less restrictive MA-rating. Personally, I prefer seeing films as the director intended them to be cut, even if the excised scenes do not add anything to the film, as is the case here. While we're on the subject of extra details that do not add anything to the whole they are part of, it is time for me to bitch about something. I had just finished reviewing Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story when I began viewing this DVD, and I have to repeat my objection to the forty-dollar price point. While forty dollars is unreasonable for a film that is 16x9 Enhanced, it is utterly ridiculous for a film that is not 16x9 Enhanced and only has the trailer and some notes in the extras department.
The film begins with an unnamed homeless man being chased across town by men on motorbikes, as well as various hunters. He makes a valiant effort to get to a jetty sitting there on a beach, but is killed before he can make it. As it turns out, this man had a daughter (Yancy Butler), who is now curious to find out exactly what happened to her father since she hadn't heard from him in a distressingly long time. After trying to find someone who will help her discover the truth of the situation, she is accosted by some not-so-nice guys from the local bar (can you see where this is leading?). After being rescued from the attackers by Chance Boudreaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme) in one of the better sequences of this kind I have seen, she hires him to help her find out what happened to her father. As it turns out, there is a group of rather nasty people in the town, led by Emil Fouchon (Lance Henriksen), who pay homeless people to participate in a game where rich clients hunt them down and attempt to kill them. Needless to say, nobody has ever survived playing this game, and normally the prey is carefully checked out to make sure that there are no family members who might come knocking and asking questions. Okay, what did you honestly expect from a film that is a) directed by John Woo and b) a film that proudly proclaims Jean-Claude Van Damme as the primary acting talent?
To be fair, however, I have to tell you that this is honestly the best film Jean-Claude Van Damme has ever appeared in, although that is very faint praise. It was also nice to see Lance Henriksen play a character with a little bit more grunt in him, after having gotten used to seeing him in so many passive roles, as in Aliens and the like. This was an excellent casting choice, as there is a moderate amount of intelligent dialogue to be rendered in this film, and the rest of the cast except for Wilford Brimley is just not up to the task. If I had to be really picky, I'd say that this is one of the ten best action movies ever made, in spite of a typically pathetic display of acting from the man who received top billing.
The colours were consistently rendered, although they demonstrated a slight tendency to blend together during shots of explosions, and I am not just referring to explosions of the petrochemical variety (you know you're watching a hard-boiled action film when you get different types of explosion). Some shots tended to be slightly oversaturated with skin tones, but this was more of an artefact of the original photography rather than any fault of the mastering process. MPEG artefacts were absent from the presentation, although there were occasions when I thought that background objects had been pixellated by the compression (a look at the VHS version confirmed that this was not the case). Film-to-video artefacts were not noticed at all, which either means they were absent or in such small quantities as to make no odds. Film artefacts consisted of the very occasional black spot on the film, and this is where the transfer really defeated my expectations.
Again, I want to commend Universal for the fact that the subtitles on their DVDs actually match the spoken dialogue on a word-for-word basis ninety-nine percent of the time. It makes a wonderful contrast from the fact that every other studio in this market produces DVDs with subtitles that are wildly variant from the words being spoken by the actors.
This disc is presented in the RSDL format, which is where Universal deserve to be commended for giving the film a lot of space to breathe. During each and every shot in the feature presentation, you can tell that the compression was loosened up in order to preserve the quality of the feature. The layer change comes in at 51:26, just before the end of chapter six and after Randal is killed (a sequence which has been made more graphic in this version of the film). While this is a noticeable layer change, it does not cause any real interruption to the flow of the film. I've certainly seen far worse layer changes on discs made by studios that have far better reputations.
Dialogue was consistently clear and audible, although there was a limit set by Jean-Claude Van Damme's tendency to mumble. His dialogue was rendered at its usual standard, while everyone else's was clear and easy to understand. Well, everyone except Wilford Brimley, who for some inexplicable reason was made to speak with a heavy and obviously fake French accent. Still, his dialogue was perfectly reasonable as far as such complications allow. Audio sync was spot-on from start to finish, with no discernable problems occurring even in the moments when dialogue takes a back seat to the visuals. Still, it would have been nice to see a sequence in which Van Damme meows like a cat while nothing comes out. Maybe if someone gets off their butt and does some work to bring Bloodsport out on DVD, we'll be presented with this opportunity (an audio delay option would be a nice thing to implement in cases like this).
The musical score by Graeme Revell was interesting, but secondary to the action onscreen, rather than complimentary to it. Still, it's a passable effort given that the story and character development of this film are also secondary to the action. The credits refer to the score music as featuring Kodo, which, from what I have been told, is a traditional form of percussive Japanese music. These pieces of music accompany the many action sequences in the film, and are probably the best parts of the score. Overall, this is a good score, but not a great one.
The surround presence of this film is a very aggressive one, as you would expect from an action film directed by a man like John Woo. The sounds of arrows flying through the air are particularly well-supported by the surround mix, and the music gets a fair amount of support from the surround channels as well. While this film is mostly front-and-centre with its sound effects, the soundtrack is quite immersive. Unlike the vast majority of action films, the surround channels are used quite effectively throughout the entire film, even during the more tender moments of the film. The subwoofer was frequently called upon to support the action and bass-heavy surround effects, and it was well integrated into the overall mix.
The R4 version of Hard Target has been mastered from the print that was submitted in R2 for classification. While this normally would equal a bad thing where censorship is concerned, the truth is that the R2 and R4 versions of the disc both contain a total of four minutes more footage, which in turn means hundreds more gunshots and other such instances of violence, than the MPAA-approved R1 version of the disc.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The video quality is excellent in spite of the obvious limitations. Still, enhancement would have made the video quality reference material.
The audio quality is reference material.
The extras are limited, but well-presented.
I've said it before, and I will say it again: the lack of 16x9 Enhancement is now a complete insult because of the price point. I urge Columbia Tristar to put their foot down and insist that Universal 16x9 Enhance their titles or look elsewhere for distribution.
|DVD||Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 4:3 mode, using S-video input|
|Audio Decoder||Built In (Amplifier)|
|Speakers||Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Sharp CP-303A Back Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer|