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Hard to Kill(1990)
Detective Mason Storm, falls into a coma after being shot during a fire-fight that killed his wife Felicia and son Sonny. He reawakens seven years later to find his son alive and seeks vengeance with the coma-ward nurse and his old partner.
For more about Hard to Kill and the Hard to Kill Blu-ray release, see Hard to Kill Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on July 26, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Steven Seagal, William Sadler, Frederick Coffin, Kelly LeBrock, Branscombe Richmond, Robert LaSardo
Director: Bruce Malmuth
» See full cast & crew
Hard to Kill Blu-ray Review
Nobody messes with Oscar night.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, July 26, 2012
In 1988, Steven Seagal, with his trim frame and greasy hair, brooded his way into multiplexes with "Above the Law," a novelty action picture that shocked the industry when it actually found an audience, turning a hulking, squinty Akido instructor into a B-movie superhero. Growing a ponytail and stiffening his screen presence, Seagal returned to screens two years later with "Hard to Kill," welcomed with growing box office success and a behind-the-scenes relationship with co-star Kelly LeBrock (the two were married at the time). Suddenly, Seagal went from a lark to a semi-bankable star, and with good reason. Despite prominent stupidity throughout the effort, "Hard to Kill" is an economic, fabulously entertaining action extravaganza, making ideal use of the icon's abrupt movement and challenges with dialogue, surrounding him with a straightforward plot fueled by dreams of revenge. These days, it's difficult to imagine Seagal as a lean, mean fighting machine, making "Hard to Kill" an exercise in nostalgia, displaying a man who was once completely invested in his screen adventures, hungry to provide audiences with a fierce escapist thrill. It's a highly amusing motion picture with a distinct '80's action feel, matched perfectly to Seagal's limitations as an actor and his endearing way with limb-snappings.
A detective on the hunt for evidence that could crack a crime ring, Mason Storm (Steven Seagal) stumbles upon a provocative meeting involving politician Vernon Trent (William Sadler). Returning home to his wife and child with critical evidence, Storm is targeted for assassination, shot repeatedly and left for dead. When cop pal O'Malley (Frederick Coffin) discovers Storm is still clinging to life in the hospital, he hides the wounded hero in a remote coma ward, hoping he'll regain consciousness again one day. Waking up seven years later, Storm struggles to deal with the memory of his lost family and the difficulty of eating rice with a beard, depending on nurse Andy (Kelly LeBrock) to assist in his rehabilitation, who works the man through horrible trauma by sleeping with her patient. Rebuilding his strength through ancient Asian arts of spiritual healing and physical training, Storm returns to his former glory, discovering O'Malley has preserved two important parts of his previous life. With Andy in tow, Storm sets out to nail Trent for his crimes, learning the lowlife has worked his way into the senate, commanding a group of thugs with a singular mission to end Storm's brutal game of revenge for good.
"Hard to Kill" represents Seagal at his most malleable. His only major production without a producing credit, the feature brings forth a star ready to explore his newfound fame and screen presence, moving away from the newcomer fluidity of "Above the Law" to inhabit a more intimidating stance in the Eastwood tradition. The debut of the wet ponytail merely reinforces the birth of a screen legend, finding a sleek look that would go on to define Seagal's popularity, making impersonation all the easier. However, we're not discussing Olivier here. Seagal is an extraordinarily bad actor, often showing little interest in displays of emotion and basic feats of enunciation, preferring to stumble through his lines instead of meticulously processing the moment. And this is why we once loved the man so dearly, at least those addicted to the cheap thrills of actioners from the 1980s, where the likes of Norris, Schwarzenegger, and Stallone made a fortune with violent entertainment, passing the baton to Seagal and Van Damme as they look the lead for the great genre flame-out of the 1990s. "Hard to Kill" represents a transition period between the two eras, keeping the star lumpy enough for the story to take hold, while employing his fresh martial art point of view to reduce the slaughter to mere bone cracks and throat punches.
Trent: You can take that to the bank!
Storm: I'm gonna take you to the bank, Senator Trent. To the blood bank.
Directed by Bruce Malmuth ("Nighthawks"), "Hard to Kill" has a surprisingly involved set-up, asking viewers to remain patient while the screenplay introduces Storm's investigation and idyllic family life, establishing the possession of evidence and the prowl of the assassins. Once Storm is left for dead, it's another chunk of time before the human weapon returns to full strength, with LeBrock keeping up her end of the bargain as eye candy with a bright personality, successfully balancing out the weight of Seagal's poker face (it's hard to believe this was her first role after breaking hearts and tightening jeans in 1985's "Weird Science"). Of course, Malmuth is no fool, ordering up a few introductory action beats, one staged inside of a liquor store on Oscar night, where Storm slaps around some crooks out to rob the joint. Later years would reveal Segal's martial arts skill to be powered primarily by careful editing, but here, in "Hard to Kill," he was still a physical man, thrilled to show off his gifts, tossing around stuntmen on visibly padded floors with steely passion, working to solidify his status as a screen champion. He's fun to watch, especially in scenes where Storm's confidence is sky high, swatting down baddies like bothersome picnic mosquitoes.
Once the revenge plot is set in motion, "Hard to Kill" slips into routine. Better are the rehabilitation sequences, displaying Storm's commitment to meditation and backyard martial arts training, using pained memories and press clippings of his family's slaughter to power his rage, cooled only by Andy's womanly touch, culminating in a ridiculous workout room sex scene where Seagal clearly takes advantage of the situation, pawing at LeBrock with all the seductive grace of a backseat prom night tryst. However, numerous chases and showdowns retain their intended rush, keeping Seagal busy bustin' heads, reducing the need to express himself verbally.
Hard to Kill Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.77:1 aspect ratio) presentation is acceptable for a catalog title such as this, but it seldom impresses. The bright, flat cinematography is served well here, creating a comfortable sense of color, with Storm and Andy's remote hideaway delivering blue skies and southwestern decoration, with ivory interiors and red fabrics. City escapades also retain compelling hues from signage and neon lighting. Grain is present and unobtrusive. Shadow detail isn't supportive, looking clotted for most of the feature, smothering background detail and some dense costuming. Facial textures are in good shape, though skintones are uneven. Set design particulars and weapon details keep crisp, with little softness breaking up the consistency of the viewing experience. The print is in fine shape, without any obvious imperfections.
Hard to Kill Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix finds surprising heft from scoring opportunities, with smooth directional movement and deep synth pronunciation, preserving a key element of suspense that doesn't steamroll the track. Dialogue exchanges are always crisp and clean, managing the various performance speeds and Seagal's mumbling well. Surrounds are limited to group dynamics and extensions of action, but hold no remarkable presence outside of providing a certain amount of depth. Low-end is satisfactory but infrequently explored. Sound effects are compelling, with breaking bones and the connection of stick weapons bringing snap to the track.
Hard to Kill Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hard to Kill Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Although Seagal would reach his finest hour with 1992's "Under Siege," "Hard to Kill" remains a pristine portrait of the star, who was still developing his power in the industry. The hesitation is interesting to watch, especially contrasted against the burn out he's become, shamelessly coasting on previous accomplishments. "Hard to Kill" is an enjoyable romp with plenty of cartoon violence, but there's a relaxed, small-scale quality about it that makes the movie irresistible at times, preserving Seagal's splendor in amber for generations to come. Generations that will ask, "Really? This was entertainment?" Yes, futureworld of wusses. Yes it was.
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This summer, Warner Home Entertainment will continue transferring its library catalog onto the HD format. The studio will release Blu-rays for sixteen popular thrillers, including The Butterfly Effect, Coma, Hard to Kill, Next of Kin, Outland, and the Blu-ray ...
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