Tuesday, June 26, 2012

RED SCORPION (Blu-Ray Disc Review)

Directed By: Joseph Zito
Written By: Robert Abramoff, Jack Abramoff, Arne Olsen
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, M. Emmet Walsh, Al White, T. P. McKenna
Color/106 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
Director Joseph Zito may be best known to fans as the director of cult slasher favorites The Prowler (1981) and 1984's Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter. After those films Zito transitioned into action flicks starting with Missing In Action, starring Chuck Norris of course. Five years later, just as the Cold War was in it's waning years, RED SCORPION was made, directed by Zito, and serves as an appropriate end to the entertainment side of the decades long turmoil.

Dolph Lundgren stars as Spetsnaz agent Nikolai Rachenko, the "Killing Machine" who is sent on a mission to Africa to help quiet the anti-communist rebel movement by assassinating the movement's leader. After drunkenly shooting up the bar and fighting some of his comrades Rachenko is thrown in the jail for the night where he learns of the true Soviet intentions. While still carrying out his orders, Rachenko flees with an American reporter and a rebel fighter as they all search for their own individual freedom.

When the mission is failed, Rachenko is locked up in a soviet prison and tortured by Russians and Cubans alike until he proves that he "is still Spetsnaz" and breaks out. After spending days on the run in hot African desert he is brought in by a Bushman and his people. After learning their ways he is awarded a ceremonial scar tattoo and it becomes clear what Rachenko must do in order to right the wrongs his country forced him to do.

RED SCORPION, on the surface, is another loud, obnoxious, 80s popcorn action flick but Joseph Zito lends enough talent behind the lens to blend in some light humor, and heartfelt sense of humanity to really make this a picture that can stand apart from anything loud and obnoxious that say, Michael Bay has made. The time in which it was made could have easily set this into full propaganda mode, and while it is there, I found it to be more of a very entertaining way of saying "we're all people, let's get along". This was a wise choice by Zito to have a very Russian Lundgren to be first our anti-hero and then our actual hero, and to have him come back to help African rebels and not Americans.

The acting was solid, Lundgren did a nice job with his transitions through the film. His interactions with the Bushman were great and came off as very organic. M. Emmet Walsh was almost unbearable as the American journalist, but seeing as that is how his character was written, a pro-American loud mouth who makes us all look bad but with his heart in the right place, shows how good of an actor he is. If the name isn't familiar his face and voice certainly will be. The rest of the cast from Al White as Kintash and T. P. McKenna as the Russian general Voytek were all solid. Special effects make up legend Tom Savini lends his handiwork to the film to make the action all the more realistic. There isn't too much over the top gore but when the Savini magic was needed, he came through.

RED SCORPION will please any action fan and will have no trouble finding (and keeping) it's fanbase with this new release.

The Video
Synapse Films delivers a gorgeous brand new 2K HD transfer of the original uncensored version of the film. There is no doubt that this is the best the film has ever looked since it's theatrical run. The African landscape is awe inspiring from the deserts to the lusher, greener areas. Flesh tones are recreated nicely and black tones are deep and rendered well. There is no sign of blocking during the darker scenes. Simply put, the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is a thing of beauty.

Please note: Screen grabs taken from DVD version of the BD/DVD combo pack

The Audio
There is plenty withing RED SCORPION's DTS-HD 5.1 track to give you sound system a work out. The explosions and gun fire will make you hide under the couch for cover while Jay Chattaway's (Maniac) score is mixed well with dialogue.

The Extras 
-Audio Commentary with Director Joseph Zito and Mondo Digital's Nathaniel Thompson
-HATH NO FURY: Dolph Lundgren and the Road to Red Scorpion - A video interview featurette with Dolph as he talks about his break into film and how he rose to fame and became a leading man, along with his time spent on the set of RED SCORPION.
-ASSIGNMENT: AFRICA: Video interview with producer Jack Abramoff about the making of the film

-SCORPION TALES: Video Interview with Make Up Effects Artist Tom Savini - A 9 minute interview as Savini fondly remembers his time spent on set and in Africa for the film.
-Rare Original Behind-The-Scenes On Set Footage

-Theatrical Trailer
-TV Spots
-Reversible Cover Art
-Liner Notes on the production and release of RED SCORPION
-Animated Still Gallery

The Bottom Line
I have no doubt that Synapse Films release of RED SCORPION will be near the top of any action fans list of releases from 2012. The film was handled with care and skill and is accompanied with a slew of entertaining and insightful extras. Highly Recommended.


No comments: