In the Line of Duty-Ambush in Waco (1993)

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Released 1-May-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 88:57
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Dick Lowry

MRA Entertainment
Starring Timothy Daly
Dan Lauria
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Mark Snow

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The In the Line of Duty series of made-for-TV docudramas has produced some excellent shows which are well worth watching. Unfortunately, this particular effort is one of the worst of the series. Ambush in Waco: In the Line of Duty was around the fifth in the series and although this is a very good movie visually, both the subject matter and the unsatisfactory ending don't lend this to being one of the better efforts.

    The background to the Branch Davidians is more the subject of speculation than fact. Since most of them died in the infamous siege that lasted over 50 days when they burned down their own compound, very little definitive information is available. Certain deductions can be made, but some of the material in this movie borders on the downright gratuitous and sensational. Timothy Daly does an outstanding job of portraying the self-righteous and obviously insane (or possibly manipulative) Vernon Howell, who proclaims himself the 2nd coming of Jesus and renames himself David Koresh. The movie would have you believe he's a paedophile who sired dozens of children by underage mothers (possibly he did, but without definitive proof this is merely sensationalism). Certain facts can be verified, though. The compound in which they lived had no heating. Masses of semi and fully automatic weapons, plus other munitions were found in abundance, showing they were preparing for a long time, and the fact that so many of his followers died with him shows that he was obviously a man who had long cemented their allegiance, however tragic that may have been.

    One the other side of the coin we have the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), a law enforcement agency that targeted the Davidians after tip-offs that they were in possession of fully automatic weapons, which are outlawed, even in the US. You see them successfully arresting suspects, how they banded together and how they were simply servants of the law who were ambushed in the execution of their duty at Waco. Nothing too sinister, just your usual cops and robbers stuff. What we are left wondering is just how they managed to stuff it up so totally and cause such a ruckus.

    One thing you can be sure of is that once the shooting started (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) and four officers were killed trying to serve the warrant, that nothing on heaven or earth could have stopped the law from besieging the compound. From this point on, the movie plays more like a propaganda film than anything else. It is probably correct that the Davidians were fruitcakes, and almost certainly they were a doomsday cult, much like those in the Jonestown massacre, but you have to wonder what would have happened if 1 officer, not 50 heavily armed ones, had driven up that day and delivered the warrant.

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Transfer Quality


    For a made-for-TV show, this is a remarkably clean and very visually pleasing presentation.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced, almost certainly the same as the TV show was originally presented.

    The sharpness of this transfer is quite exemplary, with no real signs of any edge enhancement to be seen. Grain is surprisingly light throughout the movie, although it is visible much of the time. Shadow detail was actually quite excellent with plenty of fine detail even in the darker scenes of the movie. Low level noise was not an issue.

    There is a decent palette of colours on offer with plenty of variety, although much of the film was shot in fairly drab surroundings, as were the clothes of many of the participants. The ATF were often in black, which certainly didn't add a lot of variety. No colour bleed or chroma noise was noticed and skin tones were spot on.

    No MPEG artefacts to speak of were noted, although there was some occasional moiré artefacting (13:00 on the bus grille for instance). There were a couple of instances of telecine wobble (11:26 and 14:55) but otherwise this was a decent enough transfer on this score. The usual film artefacts were present - fortunately very light for the most part. Sprays of film artefacts that were noticeable were at 4:41, 27:38 and there was a very interesting worm-shaped artefact at 47:15 across the Sheriff's face. The only other notable distraction was a water mark on Koresh's face at 57:27.

    There were no subtitles on this single-layered disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one soundtrack on this disc, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track at the very high bitrate of 448 kilobits per second. My decoder placed this squarely in the centre channel and made this essentially a monaural experience. Given that this was a made-for-TV movie, that is perhaps not surprising. There is a definite clarity to the sound though, even without any stereo element, which is no doubt due to the unusually high bitrate.

    The dialogue was clean and clear throughout with no problems and exceptional syncing. Even over the sounds of gunfire, crystal clear voices are able to be heard.

    The music was credited to Mark Snow who also did the music for many other of the shows in this series. Competent without being remarkable, and his work on other TV shows like Starsky and Hutch shows his credentials.

    There was no surround or subwoofer channel activity noted on this disc.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    A slide show with a running time of 1:20. These are pictures from the movie, some of which last less than a second before being replaced.

Theatrical Trailer

    1.33:1 and full frame. This is very much in a TV style as noted by the presentation, although at 2:04 in running time this doesn't seem like a TV ad.

R4 vs R1

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

    At this time I can find no reference to a Region 1 release of this disc. That said, we have the current definitive version.


    Competently made, although there is too much supposition and obvious reference to spurious elements to sensationalise a tragic event. This is not one of the better In the Line of Fire shows I've seen, probably because the subject matter really does require a much more solid and less conjectured treatment. The acting isn't especially good either, although Daly does a solid job portraying a fairly unsympathetic version of Koresh. This one is definitely a 'complete the series' buy, since most of the other movies in this series are far superior.

    The video transfer is good and very watchable, being extremely clean and clear.

    For a monaural experience, the audio was excellent with no dramas and real clarity.

    The extras are probably more than you'd expect to see, but are still hardly worth a mention.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Carl Berry (read my bio)
Saturday, June 01, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDRotel RDV995, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Xelos (81cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderRotel RSP-976. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationRotel RB 985 MkII
SpeakersJBL TLX16s Front Speakers, Polk Audio LS fx di/bipole Rear Speakers, Polk Audio CS350-LS Centre Speaker, M&KV-75 Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
great movie - matt