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Kino // PG // September 8, 2015
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted August 12, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

John Flynn's 1980 film Defiance stars Jan Michael Vincent as a boat worker named Tommy Gamble who finds himself out of a job when his ship docks in New York City. While waiting for new work he decides to live temporarily in an apartment that a friend of a coworker is able to get for him. It's not fancy, and it's in a tough neighborhood, but the rent is cheap and it'll only be until a new job comes along. He moves in and quickly finds that the area is a bit louder than he'd like but soon makes friends with the cute Jewish lady who lives upstairs from him, Marsha (Theresa Saldana). While they hit it off and pal around with a little Puerto Rican orphan kid, a gang called The Souls, led by a guy who looks like a cross between Prince and Zorro named Angel (Rudy Ramos), are tearing up the neighborhood and making things difficult for local business owners like Abe (Art Carney).

While Tommy tries to more or less keep to himself and not get involved in the neighborhood's problem. After all, he's only passing through, or so he keeps telling everyone, But before you know it some local do-gooders lead by Carmine (Danny Aiello) are up in arms and ready to do what the cops will not: clean up the streets and get those punks out of their neighborhood so that good people can live there free of harm!

While John Flynn will always be remembered for Rolling Thunder, a film far superior to this one on pretty much every level, Defiance is a fun escapist bit of skuzzy action moviemaking. Shot primarily on the Lower East Side of Manhattan before it was full of yuppies and condos, the movie has a nice time capsule quality to it and all the legitimate inner city atmosphere you could hope for. It doesn't have the ambience of something like Taxi Driver, it definitely gives you a feel for the grit and the grime that once was.

As far as the performances go, Jan Michael Vincent is fine here. He's never been the most charismatic guy and that's true of his work here but in this case, since his character is trying to stay detached from what's happening in the neighborhood, it actually works in the movie's favor. His chemistry with Theresa Saldana is basically non-existent but outside of that romantic subplot, he's not a bad leading man this time around. Danny Aiello is fun in his supporting role, while Art Carney, who is billed near the top of the credits, is really only in the movie for a couple of minutes. Rudy Ramos makes for a great bad guy, he and his gang members decked out in wardrobe that would make The Warriors blush and roaming the streets causing whatever trouble they can. He might be a bit too goofy looking to be intimidating by modern standards but Ramos plays the part completely straight without taking it over the top and does succeed in generation a few moments of genuine menace.

If the film is predictable and almost completely by the numbers, well, that's part of its charm, right? And you get to see Danny Aiello chase a kid down an inner city block to get his fish back. That right there should be worth the price of admission.

The Blu-ray:


Defiance is presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.85.1 widescreen which is the film's original aspect ratio. The previous MOD/DVD-R release from the MGM Limited Edition Collection was taken from a tape source, so it left a whole lot of room for improvement and we definitely do get much better picture quality here. Having said that, this isn't an amazing transfer though it would seem that maybe some of the softness you might notice here is just part of the movie's look or due to the original elements. Detail isn't terrible, it's just not amazing. There's better depth than the past release had while color reproduction looks fine. Black levels are usually good but in a few spots are closer to a dark grey. The image is pretty clean, however, with only minor specks and the occasional small scratch popping up here and there. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement don't seem to factor into the equation at all while the image looks free of any noise reduction, so expect a fair bit of film grain (as you should).


The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track is fine. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow while the sound effects are properly balanced. There aren't any issues with hiss or distortion and there's a fair bit of range here too. It's not a fancy mix by any stretch but what's here seems an accurate reflection of how the movie should sound. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided.


Aside from static menus and chapter selection we get a trailer for the feature and a trailer for Vigilante Force (also starring Vincent and being released on Blu-ray by Kino on the same day as this release).

Final Thoughts:

Defiance may not be on par with films like Death Wish or Cobra, what with its play-it-safe PG rating, but the movie still holds up well as a skuzzy New York City based actioner. It's got a few fun performances in it, some great location footage and a serviceable, if predictable story to tell. Kino's Blu-ray won't blow your mind, but it is a definite improvement over the previous release in both the audio and the video department. Recommended for fans of Cannon Films and B-Grade action!

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.

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