Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lone Wolf McQuade Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson

Legendary renegade Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade (Norris) is fierce with his gun – but lethal with his roundhouse kick! When his teenage daughter’s life is threatened by hijackers attempting to steal a truck full of weapons and ammunition, the job becomes personal for McQuade. Uncovering a colossal arms-struggling outfit that is selling guns and ammo to terrorists all over the world, McQuade come face to face with its kingpin, Rawley Wilkes (Carradine) – a world-renowned martial arts expert who has never lost a battle!  Does the Ranger have what it takes to save his daughter and his honor – or has he finally met his match, and ultimately his demise?

Chuck Norris Fact: “Chuck Norris has a grizzly bear carpet in his room.  The bear isn’t dead…it’s just afraid to move.”

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

In what would serve as the prototype for his “Walker, Texas Ranger” role, Chuck Norris is J.J. McQuade, a Texas ranger that likes to work alone.  The movie starts with McQuade saving some fellow law enforcement agents when they are captured by a group of Mexican bandits.  After taking on all of the bad guys alone, McQuade returns to El Paso, Texas to attend a retirement ceremony for his friend Dakota (L.Q. Jones) who was one of the Rangers’ best lawmen. While at the ceremony, McQuade’s boss yells at him for not being a team player and later orders him to take a young rookie named Kayo Ramos (Robert Beltran) as a partner.  When Ramos goes to McQuade’s house to meet him, he discovers an ill-tempered McQuade residing in a filthy looking house.  Forced at gunpoint to leave, Ramos retreats to a safe distance away to watch McQuade exercise through his binoculars.  When McQuade leaves to visit his former wife’s home to pick up his daughter, Ramos tries to follow him but is unable to keep up with McQuade’s turbo-charged vehicle.
Despite being divorced, McQuade is still friendly with his ex-wife Molly (Sharon Farrell) and is on good terms with his teenage daughter Sally (Dana Kimmell) whom McQuade is there to take horse back riding.  While riding, Sally loses control of her horse and it takes off at high speed while she desperately tries to hold on.  Fortunately for Sally, another woman named Lola Richardson (Barbara Carrera) who was also riding, is able to catch the horse and stop it. After McQuade expresses his thanks for her help, Lola invites him and Ramos (who had finally caught up) to a party where her business partner Rawley Wilkes (David Carradine) is holding a martial arts match and he challenges McQuade to a match which he refuses until Wilkes orders his men to attack Ramos.  Of course McQuade has to save Ramos with some well placed roundhouse kicks and Wilkes gets a chance to size up his future opponent.  On the plus side, McQuade is able to seduce Wilkes’ partner Lola and she starts trying to improve his life starting with cleaning his house.
When McQuade’s daughter and her boyfriend accidentally witness a U.S. Army convoy being hijacked for the weapons.  Sally’s boyfriend is killed on the spot while Sally and the car are pushed over a cliff which puts her in the hospital once she’s discovered.  McQuade takes the attack personally and along with Ramos, they follow a trail that leads to a small time loser named Snow (William Sanderson) who has ties to Wilkes’ criminal empire.  It turns out that Wilkes has built up a profitable business selling illegal weapons, an operation that has attracted the attention of FBI Special Agent Jackson (Leon Isaac Kennedy) who teams up with McQuade and Ramos to bring Wilkes down.  They eventually find Wilkes’ base of operations in the desert where Wilkes does his deals.  Wilkes has his own personal well armed army so the odds aren’t that great for McQuade and company, but Wilkes isn’t ready for a pissed off McQuade who has a personal grudge to settle with him!
Lone Wolf McQuade is  better than I thought it would be, but I didn’t really have high expectations to begin with. Truth be told, I was more interested in seeing Norris’ other movie Code of Silence because it was directed by Andrew Davis of The Fugitive fame.  Imagine my surprise at liking this movie even more than Code of Silence, as it doesn’t try to be something it’s not.  This isn’t a weighty drama of one man against a corrupt system, it’s a tale of a man and his super truck that can’t be stopped.  Even when McQuade is buried alive while in his truck, the truck and him escape their grave with some super-charged acceleration!  That’s the kind of movie that this is and it isn’t ashamed of it at all.  In fact, it embraces it which makes the movie more fun that it should be.  It’s always fun to go back and watch these time capsule movies from the 80s where the hero can do whatever he wants with no consequences, including ignoring his boss and firing his weapon at his partner-to-be.
Norris isn’t known for his acting ability and I think what he considers to be his stoic face is actually no expression at all and he gives Buster Keaton a run for his money for the nickname ”The Great Stone Face.”  Norris can fight however and there’s a lot of good fights in this movie with the highlight being the one between him and David Carradine.  Carradine is always interesting to watch and this movie is no different as I wish Wilkes had a larger role. There’s a lot of good people in supporting roles that went on to bigger things after this movie.  Robert Beltran who looks incredibly young in this went on to star as Chakotay in “Star Trek: Voyager”, William Sanderson went on to star in Blade Runner and later “Deadwood”, and Barbara Carrera who does a fine job in this but would go on to a performance that I prefer even more as Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again.  This is one of Chuck Norris’ better films and director Steve Carver does his best to add a spaghetti western feel to the movie that blatantly rips off Sergio Leone with moderate success.

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (1.85:1) transfer looks pretty good for a catalog title that came out in 1985.  While there is still a lot of grain present in this presentation, the print itself looks very clean and without any scratches or blemishes that you would expect to see in one of these older films that aren’t fully restored.  Detail has been much improved over past releases, especially during close-ups where you can see the oil glistening off of Norris’ body and ever y bead of sweat.  After watching this, I’m starting to think that Norris is either part bear or at least a werewolf based on the amount of man fur on his body.  Colors are striking and well balanced and black levels aren’t as dark and solid as they should be but not completely washed out either. Flesh tones are natural looking and consistent throughout the movie.  Overall, this is a decent transfer that surpasses previous efforts.

Audio (3 out of 5 stars) 

It’s a shame that the audio for Lone Wolf McQuade doesn’t fare as well.  This DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track has not been given the sonic love it really could have used.  For an action movie like this, with a ton of gunfire, explosions, turbo-charged trucks, and lots of hand to hand combat, it really could have used at least a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  For a mono track this one is okay but the dialogue isn’t as always as strong as it should have been and the sound effects come across as weak too.  When there is a massive explosion that sends barrels into the air, I expect to feel it all around me.  The musical score by Francesco De Masi fares a little better than the rest of the elements, but it too could have benefited from an upgraded mix.

Extras (1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The only extra on this disc is the film’s theatrical trailer in HD which is going to bring the final score down.

Summary (2 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

If you are looking to watch a non-serious 80s action movie with some good fights, lots of explosions, and some laughable dialogue, then this movie is right up your alley.   This is one of Chuck Norris’ better films and it features a fairly strong supporting cast including the one and only David Carradine as the villain.  While this Blu-ray offers better video quality than earlier releases, the audio could have been improved along with the extras.  For the price though, this is a fun 80s film that can hit the right spot if you are nostalgic for the good ol’ days of action and one of its leading men.
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