Runtime: 530 Mins
Rated: PG-13, R
What To Expect: A set only for fans who have yet to buy most of these give movies
So Universal have come out with a little tribute pack to Jean Claude Van Damme on Blu-Ray, the Van Damme Five Movie Action Pack. It’s nice to see Jean Claude back on the cover of a Universal home release, even if it is a montage or, if you like, greatest hits (from Universal). The five movies are Hard Target, Lionheart, The Quest, Street Fighter and Sudden Death. These are all good movies, with the exception of Street Fighter if you’re one of those people who don’t tolerate bad movies acting as inadvertent comedies. However, it’s kind of a lazy release and not recommended as necessary. Let’s look at each movie here.
Hard Target is the first movie in the stack of discs inside the case. We don’t really need to go through the movie itself and why it’s so manly, but I will say that I’ve been stubbornly holding out for this movie being given it’s director’s cut on Blu-Ray. I’ve come to accept that this isn’t going to happen, so this is my first encounter with the movie in ‘high definition’. Well, I’m not impressed. This is the best movie in the action pack, but the worst quality transfer. Show it to an unsuspecting friend and they’d call it a DVD. Very flat, muggy and aged. It’s obviously not a remaster at all. I mean, yes, it’s superior to DVD if you want to get pedantic, but a high end Blu-Ray player will upscale the original DVD just as good, possibly even better with some tinkering. And for Christ’s sake, there are no extras but a trailer. Why do they treat this movie so bad?
Well, Lionheart is the second disc in here. It’s a great movie, in my opinion. So easy to return to and if you ask me, another example of Van Damme’s early movies being superior to his then-rival Steven Seagal’s efforts. What stands out for me in Lionheart is its old school fighting. Some may call it slow and cartoonish, but give me Van Damme’s old time beat downs, filmed by a lucid director over today’s overplayed MMA hold shit filmed with shaking cameras. Now, the transfer isn’t as bad as Hard Target, but it isn’t much better either. Lionheart is an older movie filmed on a limited budget, so the best was not expected. Personally, I needed it in my HD library and I will take what I can get. It’s better than DVD. But it has no extras, save for the obligatory trailer.
I will save regular readers another review of the movie. The full review is here. I like the movie a lot, highly underrated. It’s simplistic but is nicely filmed and looks beautiful mostly. But again, I didn’t get around to owning this on Blu-Ray, others might be in the same boat. So checking out this movie, as we move through each disc there seems to be marginal improvements each time, and The Quest looks better than the previous two. However I did get the feeling that some form of synthetic enhancement was going on there. I know all Blu-Ray’s have this, but there is something not quite right, something I can’t put my finger on. Certainly not to the detriment of the movie. It isn’t a great transfer though, I would’ve wanted better. Extras? Well there is something interesting here. The Quest on Blu-Ray supports D-Box functionality. For those unaware of what that is, it has been programmed to respond to chairs with ‘4D’ functions such as vibrations etc. I don’t have that equipment, so I can’t say how effective it is. But who knows, maybe that would really enhance the fight sequences.
This is the first and only dud in this fine selection by Universal. No-one can seriously recommend this as a movie but I can admit that I watched this, for the first time in at least ten years, and found a certain level of enjoyment in it, mostly nostalgia. I think it’s the best quality out of all the movies in this pack, for example the close up of Sagat’s tattoo is – I won’t say impressive as such – but could easily pass for 2010’s quality, it cuts the mustard in other words. It’s also obviously lifted from the previous release, it even has the old “because Blu-Ray is a new format” intro (is it??). Each disc in here has a plain disc art stamped onto it, all are the same, except for Street Fighter, which has the poster imposed on it. It also has a ton of mini extras, but they only accumulate to around 17 minutes. Trailers for Street Fighter IV (video game), story boards, two short deleted scenes and some other misc pieces.
Another good Van Damme movie and his first Die Hard clone. And yet again, very underrated to the point of frustration. Sudden Death is a great movie! Firmly in 80’s/90’s territory. Let us not forget, Powers Boothe is the villain and Jean Claude fights a giant penguin. Quality wise though, we go back down. This is not a bad transfer, but I wouldn’t go shouting about it either. The lighting, setting and tone is obviously a riff on Die Hard (not just the story), so when I look at it, Fox’s powerhouse release of Die Hard runs through my mind and I only pine for it to be just as good as that. Nevertheless, be gone, DVD, because I will take it over nothing. This movie does not get its just service, so I guess this is the best we can hope for. And the best we can hope for, unfortunately, means no extras. Yes, one shitty trailer.
This release is for people who are fans of Van Damme but have been a bit slow on Blu-Ray adoption. If you like most of these movies, and to me they are among his best, you should probably pick it up because I don’t think they’re going to return to them in any serious fashion. If you have a few already or only like one or two, pick them up separately. It’s not a box set either by the way. It’s one jewel case with five discs hinged inside. In short, the movies are the biggest selling point rather than any real treatment. I suppose hoping for remasters of B-movies with blow-out features might have been asking for too much.