Steven Segal's second feature film, 1990's Hard To Kill directed by Bruce Malmuth, sees the ponytailed action hero played a cop named Mason Storm. When the film begins he's out on assignment with a film camera recording a conversation between a politician named Vernon Trent (William Sadler) and some mobsters. He's spotted but makes a break for it, stopping at the liquor store on the way home to fight some crime and buy some champagne. When he gets home he says goodnight prayers with his son, Sonny, and then sips some bubbly with his wife, Felicia (Bonnie Burroughs). They make love - he squeezes her ass and she strokes his greasy ponytail - and then shortly after some gun toting psychopaths break into his pad and shoot everyone up.
While Felicia doesn't survive the attack, Mason does. Though he's in a coma, fellow cop Kevin O'Malley (Frederick Coffin) sets it up to make it look like Storm is dead for his own safety. Seven years later, a bearded Storm wakes up in a hospital after a kindly nurse named Andy Stewart (Kelly Le Brock) puts a kitten on his shoulder and checks out his package. Amazingly enough, he wakes up just as a killer disguised as a doctor makes his way into the hospital and shoots the place up. Andy takes Mason back to a house full of Asian antiquities that she's watching over for a friend of her parents and helps to nurse him back to health, but the word is out - Storm is alive and while the press assume that the cocaine found in his pad after his death was his and not planted by the killers, he knows differently. He hooks up with O'Malley, who has been playing godparent to Storm's kid all these years, and Andy to get revenge on those who killed his wife.
While Segal and Le Brock may not be the nineties version of Bogart and Bacall, they do alright here all things considered. This isn't a movie that requires much emoting - Segal acts tough, goes into a coma, wakes up, acts marginally confused for five minutes and then goes back to acting tough while Le Brock provides some marginally ineffective comic relief and a bit of sex appeal as a woman who is essentially his sidekick. Never mind the fact she's checking out his junk while he's in a coma or that he never once sheds a tear for his dead wife and presumed to be dead son. This isn't about that - it's about Segal strutting around in Versace suits breaking arms, snapping wrists and kicking bad people in the nuts. On this level, on that popcorn movie/complete and utter superficial entertainment level, Hard To Kill is a blast.
William Sadler is fun as the bad guy here and Frederick Coffin likeable enough as the well meaning Irish cop who keeps Storm's best intentions in mind even all the while knowing that his buddy may never wake up. Fans of AMC's Breaking Bad will want to look out for a brief cameo appearance from Dean Norris who plays Hank on that series and a few other familiar faces pop up here and there in bit parts like Branscombe Richmond (Bobby Sixkiller from Renegade!) and Lou Beatty Jr. (from Dynasty). Nobody here is even going to come close to winning any sort of award for their work in the movie but you don't go into a movie like this giving a damn about stuff like that in the first place.
Of course, the more you think about the storyline and the fine details of said storyline the faster it all beings to fall apart but thankfully you don't have to do that. Every few minutes Segal is breaking someone's bones or tossing them through the windows of a fancy hotel or talking to some Latino gangbangers in awkward Spanish slang trying to talk them into swapping their Camaro for his bullet ridden Jeep. The film is shot with enough style that it looks good (not great, but good) and it makes decent use of its California locations. The hokey synth score hasn't aged well but it feels completely appropriate given the year the movie was made so we can't hold that against it.
Yeah, this one is still a lot of fun...
Hard To Kill is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and looking pretty good for the most part. The film is a little soft compared to some newer transfers but for a movie that is now well into its twenties it looks pretty good. You might spot a speck here and there but that's it for print damage and detail is strong, if not mind-blowing. This is a pretty colorful film, from the neon lights in some scenes to the sometimes garish fashions worn by background characters to the outdoor scenes where Storm pummels his training board surrounded by green foliage and the transfer handles all colors and shades of those colors quite well. Black levels are good even if there are a few spots where shadow detail is slightly murky and skin tones look lifelike and accurate. There are no problems with compression artifacts nor is there any serious edge enhancement. All in all, the film's fan base should be quite pleased with the look of the movie on Blu-ray.
The primary audio track on this disc is the English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track but there are alternate language options provided in Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, French Canadian Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Portuguese Dolby Digital Mono and Spanish Dolby Digital Mono with subtitles offered in English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish because, as we all know, Segal's fan base extends across international boundaries. But let's get back to that DTS-HD track, right? It sounds good. Some of Segal's dialogue is spoken in his trademark hushed style and that might take newcomers a little bit of getting used to but it's generally pretty easy to discern. Though the mix is definitely front heavy the rears spring to life here and there and bass response is strong, especially during the shoot outs - the scene where Storm's wife is killed and the scene where Storm opens fire on the pots after he's handed the pistol both demonstrate a strong low end. The score sounds fine, the levels are well balanced and while this isn't demo material it sounds just fine.
Aside from some standard menus and chapter selection, the only extra feature on the disc is the film's theatrical trailer - you can take that to the bank! The video for the trailer is in HD but the audio is lossy. It's a fun trailer, but Segal fans would surely have loved to see more included.
Hard To Kill may not be considered a classic by many but it is by the Segal faithful and for good reason - yeah, the film is corny and yeah, the film has some fairly massive plot holes and logic gaps but damn if it isn't an entertaining way to kill ninety minutes in front of the TV. Segal has fallen and pretty hard at that but this one serves as a reminder of why, for a few years, he was a legitimate box office action star. Warner's Blu-ray delivers nothing new in terms of extras, and that's a shame, but it does offer a nice improvement in the audio and video department and comes recommended for fans.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.