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Death Before Dishonor
Directed by Terry Leonard in 1987, Death Before Dishonor stars Fred Dryer (who was riding high on the success of his TV series Hunter at the time this movie was made) as a tough Marine Sergeant named Gunnery Burns, stationed in the Middle Eastern country of Jemal. Shortly after he and his crew indoctrinate a few new recruits, they're asked to escort a load of weapons that the United States is giving to the local army to use in their war against terrorism. The convoy is attacked by those very same terrorists, and Burns takes it upon himself to give chase.
Later that day, Burns is chastised by the American Ambassador (Paul Winfield) for not letting the local forces handle it. He wants to do everything by the book, but Burns is a man of action, and when his instinct kicked in, he just went for it. Around the same time, the terrorists kidnap Burns' mentor, Colonel Halloran (Brian Keith) and one of the new recruits. He asks a photojournalist named Elli (Joanna Pacula) if she's got any helpful info, since she always seems to be in the right place at the right time, but she's not talking. When the terrorists eventually take down the American embassy itself, the kid gloves are off and Burns takes a small team of his best men into the city's core to save Halloran and see that the terrorists are brought to justice.
Very much a product of the eighties, where patriotism in American action cinema seemed to have been at an all-time high, Death Before Dishonor never feels particularly realistic or believable but it is pretty entertaining. The movie slows down a bit in the middle stretch but the beginning is pretty interesting and the last twenty-five-minutes or so dives headfirst into action movie territory, presenting us with a final showdown that, while completely predictable, still manages to satisfy in its own goofy way. There's some decent stunt work on display, the locations are used well and the editing during the film's finale is all more than solid.
The cast are pretty good here. Dryer is top-billed and is clearly the star of the show. He's got a believable tough guy vibe top him well that suits his character pretty nicely. It isn't hard to buy him as a Marine Sergeant, because he looks the part and acts the part. You wouldn't want to wind up on his bad side, but at the same time, he's also believable as the type of guy who would stick to his moral code and try to do the right thing. He's the right guy to play Burns, and while Burns is, in many ways, a stereotype, that's not Dryer's fault but the fault of the cliché-ridden script. Joanna Pacula has an interesting screen presence as the mysterious newspaper photojournalist, she works well here. An aged Brian Keith is pretty fun as the surely old Colonel, you can't help but like the guy in this movie. Recognizable supporting actor Rockne Tarkington is cast here as ‘Jihad,' one of the main terrorists in the film. He doesn't have a lot of dialogue but you know from the moment you see him on screen for the first time that he's a bad buy and that he'll throw down with Burns before all of this is over with. He's a good choice to play the heavy in the film, bringing his intimidating screen presence to the picture.
There's very little originality on display here, the movie never feels at all unique and doesn't do much to differentiate itself from the countless other eighties action films that deal with terrorists in the Middle East, but Death Before Dishonor gets enough right to entertain.
Death Before Dishonor arrives on a 50GB Blu-ray disc framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a new "brand new HD remaster" and it looks decent is a bit soft at times. The feature takes up just over 27.8GBs of space on the disc and while it never looks like reference quality high definition material, it shows solid detail and very good color reproduction. There isn't any noticeable edge enhancement or noise reduction and compression artifacts are never an issue. There's some natural grain here, but very little actual print damage to speak of. Skin tones look good, black levels are pretty solid as well.
The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo audio track sounds pretty solid. Dialogue is clean and clear and properly balanced and both the score and the effects work all sound just fine. Gun shots and explosions pack a bit of a punch. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and optional subtitles are provided in English.
Extras start off with an interview with producer Lawrence Kubik and director Terry Leonard. Here, over the span of sixteen-minute, they cover how they came to work together on the picture, shoot locations, casting the film and more. Additionally, the disc includes an interview with actress Kasey Walker. She speaks for sixteen-minute about getting the part, her character, getting along with her fellow cast members and her thoughts on the film all these years later. Both of these are well-done and pretty interesting.
The disc also includes a trailer for the feature and bonus trailers for Defcon-4, Delta Force, POW The Escape, Hell Camp, Body And Soul and The Dogs Of War.
Death Before Dishonor is more than a little generic, as far as eighties action movies go, but it manages to provide enough action and excitement to get a pass for that. Dryer is pretty solid in the lead and there are some fun supporting players here as well. This is very definitely a product of its time but fans of B-grade action films from the eighties will get a kick out of this, and Scorpion has done a nice job on the Blu-ray release. Recommended.
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.