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Final Justice (Special Edition)
Written and directed by storied B-movie maverick Graydon Clark (who cameos in the film as a guy named Bob!), 1984's Final Justice, famously skewered in the tenth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1999, follows the exploits of a ‘good ol' boy' type Sheriff from Texas named Thomas Jefferson Geronimo, III (Joe Don Baker). Two mafia hitmen, Joseph Palermo (Venantino Venantini) and his brother Anthony finish up their dirty business in his town and then decide to hightail it across the border into Mexico to avoid the American authorities that might want to bring them to justice. Geronimo gets wind of what's happening and gives chase, killing Anthony right off the bat and capturing Joseph before he can cross the border.
When Geronimo is tasked with escorting Joseph back to Italy, his cronies prepare for his arrival and before you know it, Geronimo is on the ground in Malta chasing a recently escaped Palermo all over town, trying to bring him in and see that he gets… final justice. Palermo and his pals, however, aren't going to make it easy. Lots of naked ladies, a few shoot outs and hokey dialogue ensues.
Made fast and cheap but with some exotic flair afforded by the Maltese shooting locations, Final Justice is as goofy as it is an enjoyable trash film. Made with exploitation in mind, Clark offers up pretty solid doses of sex and violence throughout the film's running time, the film owes a lot to Baker's pudgy, likable presence. He's a relic from a bygone era in this film, strutting about Malta looking patently ludicrous in a western suit, boots and a cowboy hat dishing out justice with a silver plated six-shooter. He's a shoot first, ask questions kind of guy, in real life he's be a horrible cop, but here, in the realm of make believe, he's entertaining to watch, even if sometimes that is for all the wrong reasons. Baker has been really solid in some genuinely good movies, it's unlikely anyone is going to confuse his work here with any of his greatest hits, but it's amusing to see him playing the fish out of water in this picture, one that we're clearly not meant to be taking all that seriously in the first place (if you watch the documentary included in the supplements, it's pretty obvious that Clark has a good sense of humor). The rest of the cast is amusing enough. Venantino Venantini chews a whole lot of scenery in this one, playing his role to the hilt and turning overacting into an art form. This is Baker's show, however, and he's the main reason to watch this turkey in the first place.
Production values are decent by B-movie standards. The cinematography is competent, sometimes quite polished, and the score and amazing theme song (You'd Better Run by Bill Scott… "He won't stop until he, gets his mannnnnnnnnnnnnn!") both stand out as memorable. The editing is fine and the action set pieces, well, most of them feature Joe Don Baker so you kind of know what you're getting before you get them. Still, he shuffles around in his fancy attire with wonky aplomb, if not impressing, at least amusing the audience.
Final Justice arrives on Blu-ray for the second time via the MVD Rewind Collection who offer up the film on a 25GB disc framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 22.8GBs of space. While it's obvious that this hasn't been given a fancy frame by frame 4k restoration, the presentation is decent enough. Detail is solid if not reference quality and while some minor compression artifacts pop up in a couple of spots, they aren't overwhelming. There's reasonable depth and texture here as well, and while some more clean-up work would have been welcome (there is mild print damage noticeable throughout, though the key word here is mild), overall this looks good, just not great.
The 24-bit LPCM 2.0 Stereo track, in the film's native English, sounds just fine. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion and while range is understandably limited by the original recording, dialogue is clean, clear and audible throughout. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.
Extra features start off with an audio commentary with Tony Piluso, Newt Wallen and Crystal Quin of ‘Hack the Movies.' They being by talking about their appreciation of Clark's films, thoughts on Baker's career, some of the use of violence in the movie, thoughts on some of the character quirks on display in the movie, how parts of the movie are hard to take seriously, Baker's wardrobe and more. This is obviously done with a sense of humor and is more of an observational track. The documentary covers the making of the movie in quite a bit of depth, this track plays more like a group of friends, if not specifically riffing on the movie, having a lot of fun watching it together.
The disc also includes a lengthy seventy-five minute featurette called The Making Of Final Justice which is made up primarily of all-new interviews with writer/director/producer Greydon Clark, editor Larry Bock and cinematographer Nicholas Josef von Sternberg. This featurette goes into background details on the participants with Clark telling an interesting story about how he got into directing movies in the first place through a series of lucky incidents, his relationship with Joe Don Baker and their friendship, what went into writing the screenplay for Final Justice and writing Baker's character specifically as 'the ugly American,' choosing the other cast and crew members for the production, other projects that the interviewees have been involved with, shooting in Malta and what that was like, what it was like on set working with a Maltese crew, working with the Italian cast members and the difficulties encountered there, shooting and staging some of the stunt scenes, how they feel about the film overall many years after making it and the autobiography that Clark recently finished.
Outside of that we get the film's theatrical trailer, a few bonus trailers for other MVD Rewind Collection releases, menus and chapter selection. As to the packaging, we get a nice slipcover with this release and folded up inside the Blu-ray case is a collectible mini-poster replicating the film's poster art.
Final Justice is a ridiculously enjoyable B-movie thanks to Clark's crazy direction and Baker's bullish performance. The MVD Rewind Collection's is a welcome one. It offers the film in a good, if not perfect, presentation and with a few extras as well. 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.