The Hard Way (1991)

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Released 24-Dec-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 106:06 (Case: 110)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Badham
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Michael J. Fox
James Woods
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Arthur Rubinstein


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German
Dutch
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Michael J. Fox and James Woods??? I found this an unusual and highly effective pairing.

    The Hard Way is a very enjoyable action adventure comedy. A typical Michael J. Fox comedy, both the physical and the verbal comedy work extremely well against the straight man character played by James Woods.

    Michael J. Fox plays an actor within the film, one who plays roles in films similar to Indiana Jones. He has tired of these roles, even though they have made him rich and famous. His dream is to play a tough street cop in a hard-hitting police film. With very little idea of what it is truly like to be a police officer, or even what life is like outside of his pampered existence, he comes up with the idea of following a real police officer around for a while. His fame as an actor means that the police department, and in particular the Captain, who is a great fan, agree to this plan.

    John Moss (James Woods) is a tough street cop currently hunting down a crazed serial killer, one that likes to taunt the police. This particular killer calls the police and tells them where his next murder will be, but up until now has always managed to avoid being captured. At the last murder, Moss is injured and thus becomes the perfect candidate to become Nick Lang's (Michael J. Fox) new buddy. Moss is less than impressed with being taken off the case and sidelined to babysitting Lang. Even more infuriating is Lang's naivety which drives Moss up the wall. Refusing to be left out, Moss continues to pursue the killer with Lang in tow. Alternating between action and comedy, the two fight their way through the rest of the film, eventually coming to understand a little about each other.

    I found both characters to be surprisingly engaging. They both succeed in drawing us into their lives and we also come to understand and care about the characters. On top of all this, the laughs do come thick and fast, although the action is a little dated when compared with contemporary action movies.

    This film is a notch above average for this genre and a great night's entertainment.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Overall, this is not a bad transfer. It is a 106 minute film that has been squeezed onto a single layer and it does suffer a little from this but not to the extent of ruining the film.

    What we have been presented with is a transfer in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 that is 16x9 enhanced. For this we can be thankful.

    Sharpness is a little variable. The foreground is generally good, the midrange is acceptable but the background is somewhat soft. Moving objects also suffer from a loss of resolution. At 21:37, Moss nods his head. If you look closely while his head moves up and down, his facial features, in particular his mouth, lose resolution and become blurred. Shadow detail is good throughout the film and there is no low level noise present.

    The colours are a little muted. This is possibly intentional or a result of the age of the film stock. The colour is free of noise or any bleeding.

    Some subtle MPEG artefacts can been found within this transfer. Some of the scene changes lose resolution, such as at 15:15, but it is not as bad as some discs I have seen. There is also an interesting artefact at 40:58 as Moss walks past an indoor plant. Immediately behind him, the plant is quite sharp but as he moves on the plant becomes blurred. I think this is where the MPEG encoder had a little trouble deciding what belonged in the foreground and what belonged in the background and could thus be encoded with less bits. Another interesting artefact is at 3:14 as a car moves from the left of screen to the right. There is a highlight reflecting on the hubcap and the fender that is meant to be white, but for some reason it has been obscured by small black squares.

    The film source is in very good condition with very little grain, and few marks, specks or spots.

    At 24:37 there is some camera shake. The camera appears to be mounted on the bonnet of a moving car and it seems that it was not tied down well enough.

    The English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles are excellent. They are accurate and include the name of the character if they are speaking off-screen as well as descriptions of doorbells ringing and such like.

    As mentioned previously, this is a single layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    While there is nothing really wrong with the soundtrack it is certainly not spectacular. There are two Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks on the disc, the first in English and the other in German. While neither had the surround bit set I found that the English track worked well with surround sound decoding turned on. It did not collapse into the centre and the surrounds did see some action through the film.

    There was no problem with the dialogue quality. Everything said was easy to understand and the sound was in sync with the on-screen action.

   There was music but I am afraid it was not particularly memorable. It supported the action and story to some extent but did little else.

    The surrounds were typical of a surround encoded film, with only some ambience and the occasional mono rear effect in evidence. Nonetheless, they would have been missed if they weren't there.

    There was some activity from the sub through redirected bass but nothing really loud or deep.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   

Menu

    The static menu is a simple picture without audio enhancement.

Theatrical Trailer

    This is presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 sound track. The quality is not very good, with a grainy, blurred image.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    The reports on the transfer seem similar to the one we have received, leaving us with a marginal Region 1 winner based on the special features.

Summary

    Both my wife and I enjoyed The Hard Way. The combination of action, comedy and a love interest subplot means there is a little something for everyone in this film.

    The video suffers slightly from the level of compression.

    The audio is functional.

    It is annoying to see the extras in Region 1 and not in Region 4, although to be fair we could not afford to have the extras on a single layered disc without further sacrificing picture quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Friday, January 18, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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