Hard Target (4K UHD review)


  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Revision date: February 17, 2022
  • Format: Blu-Ray disc

Hard Target (4K UHD review)

Director

John Woo

Release date)

1993 (originally released December 7, 2021, re-released February 22, 2022)

Studio(s)

Alphaville Films/Renaissance Pictures/Universal Pictures (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)

  • Film/program category: C+
  • Video Note: A
  • Audio quality: B
  • Additional Rank: B

Hard Target (4K Ultra HD)

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Review

[Editor’s Note: The comments in this review refer to KLSC’s corrected 4K disc.]

Chance Bordeaux (Jean-Claude Van Damme, aka the Muscles of Brussels) is a former Marine Corps reconnaissance officer turned merchant sailor and drifter, hired by Natasha Binder (Yancy Butler) to find her missing father in New Orleans. It seems that Natasha’s father fell victim to a pair of sinister businessmen (Lance Henriksen and Arnold Vosloo), who organize opportunities for wealthy sportsmen to hunt homeless veterans. The police are initially reluctant to investigate the matter, until Chance discovers that the man’s charred body has been pierced by bolts from a crossbow. With the heat rising, it’s not long before Chance and Natasha are targeted by various henchmen, as the hunt organizers try to work things out to avoid getting caught. But Chance isn’t about to back down until they receive his furious justice. Wilford Brimley, Kasi Lemmons and Willie C. Carpenter also appear in Hong Kong action filmmaker John Woo’s American debut, produced by Sam Raimi – essentially a B-grade “gun-fu” remake from Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s 1932 Pre-Coded Film The most dangerous game.

hard target was originally released on 4K Ultra HD by Kino Lorber Studio Classics on December 7, 2021, but that disc quickly turned out to have a problem with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix – the left and right surround channels were essentially reversed. When early reviewers pointed out this error, the company decided to recall the stores title. They have since corrected the error and the release has now been postponed to the street on February 22, 2022 (the fixed package has the new UPC code of 738329257903). If you were one of those who bought the defective original disc, Kino Lorber Studio Classics has set up a replacement program to obtain the corrected version (you will find instructions on how to take advantage of this at the end of this review). Note that some viewers are reporting a flickering issue with the fixed disc’s Dolby Vision HDR, but it appears the issue is limited to Panasonic’s UB820 and UB9000 4K UHD player models (presumably Panasonic will release a firmware update to resolve this problem).

hard target was shot on 35mm photochemical film by cinematographer Russell Carpenter (Titanic, real lies, The ant Man) using Panavision cameras and spherical lenses, and was finished on 1.85:1 aspect ratio film for theaters. For its Ultra HD debut, Kino Lorber Studio Classics enjoyed a brand new 4K scan and restoration of the original camera negative (for the 100 minutes Unranked International Cup of the film), which features high dynamic range grading supervised by Carpenter (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). The result is quite formidable, an image of exceptional clarity, un-edgy sharpness and an abundance of fine detail that benefits skin, tissue and stone. Grain is medium yet uniform and organic at all times, while the film’s color palette is accurate and well saturated, with deeply dark shadows and bold yet naturally bright highlights. There is sometimes a small nick or dust in the image after restoration, but it would be hard to say that this is anything but a spectacular 4K image, especially for a catalog movie of this vintage.

The audio on the disc is available in English 5.1 and 2.0 in DTS-HD Master Audio format. The 5.1 soundstage is surprisingly wide, with smooth panning and plenty of ambient activity in the surroundings. Dialogue is clean and clear, while gunfire and explosions have plenty of meaty low-end weight, and Graeme Revell’s score is presented with excellent fidelity. Track 2.0 is of similar sound quality. Whichever track you prefer, hard target Still sounds out of date, but it’s hard to imagine the movie sounding any better short of a new Atmos mix. Optional SDH English subtitles are available.

The Kino Lorber Studio Classics 4K Ultra HD disc includes only one special feature:

  • Audio Commentary with Brandon Bentley and Mike Leeder

But the package also includes the movie in 1080p HD on Blu-ray, also mastered from the new 4K restoration. This disc also includes the commentary and adds the following extras:

  • From Hard Boiled to Hard Target: Interview with Director John Woo (HD – 12:52)
  • Henriksen versus Van Damme: interview with actor Lance Henriksen (HD – 8:46)
  • Hard times in The Big Easy: Interview with actress Yancy Butler (HD – 14:36)
  • Gun Fu and Van Dammage: Interview with stunt coordinator Billy Burton (HD – 9:05)
  • Hard Target Trailer (HD – 2:05)
  • Trailer No Retreat, No Surrender (HD – 3:21)
  • Heroes and the Terror Trailer (HD – 1:26)
  • Wanted: Dead or Alive Trailer (HD – 1:20)
  • Frightened trailer running (HD – 1h30)
  • Black Moon Rising Trailer (HD – 1h30)
  • Vengeful Force Trailer (HD – 1:19)
  • Revenge of the Ninja Trailer (HD – 1:42)

All of these features (except trailers) are newly created for this release. The commentary is a highly entertaining assortment of trivia, background information, background, and production anecdotes delivered by a pair of renowned action movie experts. Each of the four key participants interviewed for the featurettes offer interesting insights into the production and their involvement in it. Woo, for example, reveals that hard target was not his first choice of Hollywood film (but the other film – an Oliver Stone project – offered him insulting money). Lance Henriksen notes that his use of the term “buffalo” in the film was ad-libbed. Butler admits she didn’t know who Van Damme was before auditioning. And Burton describes how he got his start in Hollywood as an extra in a western, before training as a stuntman under the great Hal Needham. The film’s trailer was also recently restored to HD for this release, and the disc includes additional trailers for a host of other action titles (although most are lower quality). It’s a nice package only really missing input from Van Damme himself (no doubt KLSC tried to get him, but the Muscles are a notoriously slippery dude).

hard target is far from a great film, as it’s full of cheesy, slow-motion stunts and tasteless dialogue, but it remains one of Van Damme’s best early works thanks to Woo’s involvement. There’s definitely a bit of cult/action movie fun to be had here. And it’s probably more of a special edition than the movie really deserves. hard targetThe road to 4K Ultra HD hasn’t been easy, but once they get their hands on the patched disc, fans should ultimately be pleased with the outcome.

-Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

Additional notes

TARGET 4K HARD REPLACEMENT PROGRAM

Kino Lorber Studio Classics offers a replacement 4K disc that fixes the original UHD’s 5.1 sound mix error. To get a copy, just visit their website here and fill out the provided form with your name and address:

https://www.kinolorber.com/hard-target-4k-disc-replacement

Keywords

1993, 2160p, 4K Disc Replacement Program, 4K UHD, 4K Ultra HD, Action Movie, Alphaville Films, Arnold Vosloo, Bill Hunt, Blu-ray, Blu-ray Disc, Brandon Bentley, Chuck Pfarrer, Cult Movie, Dolby Vision HDR, DTS-HD Master Audio, Graeme Revell, Gun Fu, Hard Boiled, Hard Target, HDR, HDR10, High Dynamic Range, Hong Kong Action Style, Human Hunt, Jean Claude Van Damme, Jean-Claude Van Damme, John Woo, Kasi Lemmons, Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Lance Henriksen, Marine Corps Veteran, Mike Leeder, Native 4K Digital Intermediate, Native 4K Scanning and Restoration, New Orleans, Renaissance Pictures, Russell Carpenter, Sam Raimi, shot on 35mm film, The Digital Bits, The Most Dangerous Game, Universal Pictures, unrated international cut, Wilford Brimley, Willie C Carpenter, Yancy Butler

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