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A former race-car driver turned trucker is framed for a murder he didn't commit and escapes from custody to find the real killer.
For more about Joshua Tree and the Joshua Tree Blu-ray release, see Joshua Tree Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Dolph Lundgren, George Segal, Geoffrey Lewis (I), Michelle Phillips, Beau Starr, Ken Foree
Director: Vic Armstrong
» See full cast & crew
Joshua Tree Blu-ray Review
Guns, explosions, sex, and decent characters and story, too.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 9, 2013
Though it's the 1980s that are rightly defined by the larger-than-life Action movie -- movies like Cobra and Commando built a tradition of humongous heroes with ripped muscles shredding the screen with deadly weapons -- the early 1990s saw a few carryovers and a few hybrid films that would combine the muscle of the 1980s with a smoother, faster, more streamlined 1990s approach seen in films like Speed and Terminal Velocity. One of those "hybrid" pictures -- and one of the best of them -- is Joshua Tree, a hardcore Action flick that meshes hot cars and steamy sex with a musclebound hero ripping apart the set with all sorts of weapons, including a flamethrower and a shotgun that pulverizes half of the screen with every blast. Released to home video under the title Army of One and not available domestically until now with both the correct title and the original wide format aspect ratio intact, this is Joshua Tree finally available as it was meant to be seen, and fans of heavy, bloody action should take notice: this is one lean, mean cinematic killing machine.
Wellman Anthony Santee (Dolph Lundgren, The Package) and fellow trucker Eddie Turner (Ken Foree, Dawn of the Dead) are gunned down in a traffic stop gone horribly wrong. Eddie is killed, and so is a cop. Santee survives only to be sentenced to decades in prison for murdering the officer, a crime he didn't commit. After his release from the hospital, he manages to get the jump on a couple of prisoner transport cops who let their guard down while beating on the man they presume to be a cop killer. Santee escapes into the desert and stumbles upon an out-of-the-way diner/filling station where he kidnaps a beautiful young woman named Rita (Kristian Alfonso, TV's Falcon Crest) and commandeers her pickup. Little does Santee know she's actually an off-duty deputy sheriff. As Santee races to prove his innocence and kill the people who had him framed, he builds a relationship with his prisoner but must survive a steady stream of incoming gunfire if he's to have a future outside of prison walls.
If tons of gunfire, lots of exploding stuff, fast red cars, and oily sex all sound fun, they are in Joshua Tree. Director Vic Armstrong's Action crowd pleaser is a no-frills-added Action movie that aims only to entertain core genre viewers with one of the ultimate examples of the 1980s/early 1990s "guy movie" goodness. Dolph Lundgren has about thirty seconds of screen time when he's not bleeding from a gunshot wound somewhere on his body, and there's not a whole lot of time when he's not brandishing or firing a weapon, driving fast, or making love. Joshua Tree is pretty hardcore, a movie that knows its place and its audience and caters to its every core Action movie desire. It's not excessively gruesome in the same way something like RoboCop is, but it slings plenty of lead around the screen to fairly bloody and chaotic result. Yet there's still a bit of downtime, enough to mold the characters just enough to make audiences care, but not so much that the film loses track of what it does best, that it prevents Dolph from doing what Dolph does, that it allows the audience's adrenaline to fall off to an unrecoverable point. It's the pure Action movie done not quite perfectly, but Joshua Tree is a really strong entry and one of the better of its kind.
Along with just the right touch of character development, Joshua Tree also foregoes exclusively (for this sort of movie) deep, thoughtful themes. It plays out in a classic anti-hero frame, leaving audiences to root for the lesser of two evils who rights and redeems himself through the course of the movie in both the audience's eyes and those of its lead heroine. Otherwise, there's little in the way dramatic heft, and in this case that is all the movie needs. It's the films that hint at more than straightforward action and fail to deliver on the dramatic and thought-provoking front that really frustrate. Joshua Tree pretty much just goes full-steam ahead in its pursuit of maximum mayhem and only fulfills what it promises on the dramatic front, which is part of what makes the movie so good. The other end of the equation, and what elevates Joshua Tree above direct-to-video schlock, is its technical prowess and the skill behind the camera. While the acting is merely good enough to build the characters and plot to the point of action, the film's direction and choreography are largely faultless. Joshua Tree's crew hits all the right marks, making the movie feel dangerous and violent and perfectly executed without resorting to more operatic, unbelievable style to sell the action. The film delivers pure violence with some flair but not with any excess. It's all very well balanced, and the entire thing comes together beautifully under the mesmerizing notes of Joel Goldsmith's score and some remarkable practical visuals and stunt work that significantly help make this movie a keeper.
Joshua Tree Blu-ray, Video Quality
Joshua Tree arrives on Blu-ray with an imperfect but generally satisfying high definition transfer. Shout! Factory's image does often display a rather smooth, inorganic texture. Light grain remains in spots, but there's definitely a glossy, lightly waxy look to some elements. While details remain quite strong -- faces and clothes and the rocky, sandy desert terrains seen throughout all look rather good -- they lack the more pure, film-like texture some fans will demand. Colors, however, a fairly bright and accurate; there are plenty of exterior, sun-drenched scenes that display even the brightest reds on Dolph's shirt and car with natural precision. Black levels do look a hair washed out early on, but nighttime shots later in the film are stable and deep. Flesh tones are accurate throughout. In addition to a slightly processed, smoothed over look, Joshua Tree also shows slight banding and the occasional edge halo. Despite its flaws, this is still a positive viewing experience and certainly the best the film has ever looked on home video.
Joshua Tree Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Joshua Tree makes its Blu-ray debut with a proficient, oftentimes hearty DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 losses soundtrack. There's a big, natural presence to music and good clarity; Joel Goldsmith's score sounds fantastic throughout the film. It's supported by a positive low end foundation that sends just the right balance of bass into the stage for every scene. The track makes use of a rather wide, fairly natural stage throughout and beyond music; whether the rumbling of Santee's and Turner's big rig at the beginning of the film or a light din of insects in desert exterior scenes, most atmospheric elements are handled nicely. An exception is a police station interior that takes on a harsher, more garbled, almost canned sort of flavor. Otherwise, the track delivers its wares nicely. Gunfire sometimes sounds a bit crunchy, but when the action really opens up later in the film, shotgun blasts and full auto fire prove quite impressive as the gunplay sounds deep and heavy and Action movie proficient. Dialogue plays clearly and remains focused up the middle. This is a good all-around track, not perfect, but a solid performer that should please fans of the film; it really opens up the movie and supports it nicely.
Joshua Tree Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Joshua Tree contains a commentary track, a retrospective featurette, an alternate ending, and a trailer.
Joshua Tree Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Joshua Tree isn't really a benchmark film, but it is a rock-solid genre entry that does everything right within the confines of its focused style. The movie is built around violence and the depiction thereof; toss in hot cars and hotter women, and Joshua Tree boils down down to the basics and almost nothing but. It's the perfect mixture of 80s muscle and violent grit with the 1990's faster and sleeker Action stylings. The film wastes no time with needless exposition, excess character nuance, or dramatic heft; it's all there but in just the right quantities to maintain a steady pulse and a high yield of action. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release of Joshua Tree features good video and audio. A nice little assortment of extras are included. Recommended.
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Joshua Tree Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Joshua Tree Blu-ray (Updated) - November 9, 2012
Independent distributors Shout Factory have revealed that they are planning to release a combo pack edition of director Vic Armstrong's Joshua Tree a.k.a Army of One (1993), starring Dolph Lundgren, George Segal and Kristian Alfonso. The preliminary release date ...
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