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A Marine Corp lifer, starting his last tour of duty before retirement, sees the bumpy road his life has taken become more complicated, due to feisty recruits, by-the-book officers and a salty ex-wife to whom he's still attracted.
For more about Heartbreak Ridge and the Heartbreak Ridge Blu-ray release, see Heartbreak Ridge Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 17, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Marsha Mason, Mario Van Peebles, Everett McGill, Moses Gunn, Eileen Heckart
Director: Clint Eastwood
» See full cast & crew
Heartbreak Ridge Blu-ray Review
Don't tell my ridge, my achy heartbreaky ridge, there ain't no supplements understand?
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 17, 2010
The Marines are looking for a few good men. Unfortunately you ain't it.
What is Heartbreak Ridge? Literally, the name of a battle during the Korean War. In fiction, a motion picture about a tough-as-nails and close-to-retirement Gunnery Sergeant named Tom Highway (Clint Eastwood, The Rookie) who has seen war take its toll on his life but who cannot bring himself to leave the Corps. Arguably Eastwood's finest picture in which he both starred and directed prior to his glory years following the major success of Unforgiven, Heartbreak Ridge follows convention and plays out with a trite and transparent plot in tow, but the picture nevertheless manages to draw in its viewers through strong character development and an honest look at both the positives and pitfalls of life as a career Marine. Though capped off by an extended action sequence, Heartbreak Ridge isn't a prototypical War film, but like the best War films, it proves itself to be far more thematically and emotionally relevant than its military fašade might otherwise suggest.
July 1983. Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway's (Eastwood) life is in shambles. This Marine Corps lifer has entered the twilight of his life and is approaching the mandatory end of his military career. His personal life has crumbled; he's fallen into drink and engages in barroom brawls with men half his age and twice his size, landing him in jail for drunken and disorderly conduct and leaving his future in jeopardy. He's divorced, the failed marriage a casualty of war not on the battlefield but from all that comes with the territory of being a dedicated Marine. Highway is given one last chance by his beloved Corps when he takes command of Recon platoon, a group comprised of various wash-outs and never-will-be's who are more of a burden than an asset to the Marines. They're undisciplined, untrainable, and disrespectful towards authority, but if anyone can turn them around, it's the grizzled veteran Highway, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner and a veteran of foreign wars. The biggest challenge of Highway's career awaits him; he must not only whip a group of nobodies into shape but he must also try and rekindle an old romance while dealing with fellow officers who disrespect him and his methods despite his past service to his country and dedication to the Marine Corps.
"War is hell." Think about that adage for a moment. What comes to mind? Is it bullets and bombs, battlefields, destruction, death, and despair? Probably. War is indeed all of those things, but it's something more, something worse, something that remains long after the guns are silenced. War isn't fleeting, it doesn't end when truces are signed, a leader is killed, or an enemy is defeated. War is something that tears at a man's soul, reshapes his existence, and lingers forevermore. "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers," JosÚ Narosky once said, and that's the overlying theme of Heartbreak Ridge, a story that focuses on a career Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant who finds his personal life in tatters but his dedication to duty as strong as it was when he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroics on Heartbreak Ridge. Eastwood's film compares and contrasts the "Gunny" character with a platoon of young, inexperienced, and undisciplined Marines who, unlike their Sergeant, have their lives ahead of them and not behind them, who see in the Corps not serious life-and-death business but instead something more akin to summer camp, whose lives have not yet been torn asunder by the ravages of war both on and, arguably more damaging, off the field of battle. Reinforcing that latter plot point is the picture's depiction of Highway's broken relationship ex-wife Aggie (Marsha Mason) who not so much despises him but instead what the world around him -- the Marine Corps and his combat duty overseas -- has done to him and, by extension, their relationship. It's one of several elements that make Heartbreak Ridge more than its fašade, a fašade that's not unlike that found in other films of its kind but one that still finds its own identity through several elements that give it a personal weight that's sometimes absent in similarly-themed pictures.
From a more generalized perspective, Heartbreak Ridge isn't all that different from most other "drill sergeant"-themed pictures. The characters are little more than stock cutouts, but there's a depth to them nonetheless -- found in Highway's character in particular -- that allows the movie to work despite something of a retread plot, blatant transparency, and no real surprises up its sleeve. The tough-as-nails Marine versus the fresh, inexperienced, and intolerant-of-structure-and-discipline recruits is a plot point that's found in films like Full Metal Jacket and Major Payne. Heartbreak Ridge lacks both Stanley Kubrick's smoothness and R. Lee Ermey's edge on one end of the spectrum and is absent Damon Wayans' comedic timing and Payne's lighthearted nature on the other; Eastwood's film, instead, finds a middle ground that nicely balances the two without ever venturing into the extremes demonstrated by those other pictures. Despite an absence of action in its first two acts, Heartbreak Ridge rarely slows down, even when it's exploring its more emotionally-challenging issues; the engaging characters keep the film flowing, and the extended action sequence that dominates the final act serves as a fine payoff that nicely rounds out its core characters as an extension to what they've experienced and learned over the course of the film.
Heartbreak Ridge Blu-ray, Video Quality
Heartbreak Ridge enlists on Blu-ray with a 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer that's at its best a modest presentation. Colors appear harsh and unnaturally boosted through much of the film, with brighter shades in particular appearing less-than-refined, but the palette seems to even out as the picture moves along. Detail is unusually flat and uninspiring; uniforms, natural environments, man-made structures, and weapons all appear devoid of anything beyond a cursory level of definition and texture. Faces fare the worst, often looking virtually free of anything beyond the most basic reproduction of lines, even on Clint Eastwood's furrowed brow and the rough scarring visible around his neck and forehead. Black levels are often overpowering, and flesh tones capture an unnatural reddish tint. A moderately heavy layer of grain covers the image, but so too do intermittent speckles. The image is almost completely absent any sense of depth or spacing, and some shots take on an almost artificial, digital sheen. Some minor blocking is visible in a few backgrounds, and there are some terribly soft shots intermixed throughout the transfer. Heartbreak Ridge's Blu-ray presentation is certainly a step-up from previous releases, but it pales next to many of the Blu-ray catalogue titles on the market.
Heartbreak Ridge Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Heartbreak Ridge invades Blu-ray with a solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack that does the film's Oscar-nominated sound proud. The picture's opening percussion-heavy beats may not be as convincing or potent as one might expect, but they're suitably clear and distinct, setting a good tone for the picture both thematically and aurally. The track delivers some enticing atmospherics along the way, boasting solid environmental support during both outdoor scenes and in several interior locales as well, notably a bar scene in chapter eight that features the sounds of cracking billiard balls, light chatter, and breezy music floating about the back speakers. Guitar riffs nicely slice through the listening area in chapter nine; they're not as convincing as those heard in better, more potent concert soundtracks, but as with most material heard throughout the rest of the track, they're handled with an ease that should make listeners satisfied with the experience. Gunfire is sharp and distinct; the action scenes that end the film come alive with weapons fire crackling out of every speaker and several rockets zooming through the listening area and ending with hefty and hard-hitting explosions. Dialogue can sometimes come across as a bit squishy and unrefined, but there are generally no major problems in that area. Overall, Heartbreak Ridge delivers a good, though not completely polished, soundtrack; fans will enjoy the upgrade over the DVD's lossy encode, but there's nothing here that could be described as a sonic revelation.
Heartbreak Ridge Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Heartbreak Ridge contains only the film's theatrical trailer (1080p, 2:43).
Heartbreak Ridge Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Heartbreak Ridge marks one of the better performances of Clint Eastwood's career, and arguably his finest of the 1980s. Though his character isn't an original, Eastwood develops Tom Highway into a relatable and even sympathetic hero through both his attempts to rekindle his personal life while also molding his successors into men worthy of the title "Marine." Not a conventional War picture, Heartbreak Ridge foregoes heavy action in favor of stronger character development and thematic relevancy, both of which only lend further weight to the action that marks the film's final act. Warner Brothers' Blu-ray release of Heartbreak Ridge is disappointingly absent a deeper supplemental package. While the soundtrack is good, the video quality is wishy-washy at best. Fans of the film will still want to upgrade for the lossless soundtrack and a picture quality that beats the DVD, but newcomers may want to rent before committing to the purchase of a disc lacking in both supplements and a stronger video presentation.
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