Sony // 1995 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // June 29th, 2009
Revenge is redemption.
Sony dredges up its mediocre action catalog, because some goofball out there might recognize Russell Crowe on the cover and buy this.
Gruff, grizzled FBI Agent Zack Grant (Crowe) thinks he has the perfect sting operation to bag a Mafia head honcho. Little does he know, the woman he chose to go undercover is nursing her own grudge against the gangsters and goes in guns blazing, knocking off the kingpin's crazy son (Ian Ziering?!). To retaliate, the Don kidnaps Grant's son and forces him to bring the perpetrators of the slaughter to him.
Straddling both lines of the law, Zack is going to have to overcome a number of immense obstacles and hardships to rescue his son, including, but not limited to, a) surviving a plane crash, b) shooting it out with the Yakuza, c) exchanging gunfire with both the Mafia and the FBI, and d) enduring nearly the entire runtime with possibly the most annoying leading lady ever cast in an action movie (Helen Slater).
I have to be honest, I'm not seeing the point of this release. First, it's not nearly popular enough to warrant a Blu-ray double-dip. Second, the upgrade is not even that great. Pretty shabby actually. Finally, the disc is a stripped-down, barely-there-in-the-tech offering.
I'm not saying there aren't die-hard No Way Back fans at large somewhere, foaming at the kisser to scope out their prized mid-'90s action saga in the glory of high-definition. What I am saying is, at most, there has to be like four of them, including the director's mom.
For a film that likes to talk tough, No Way Back has very little going for it in the action department. There's the opening shootout, where Ian Ziering takes a few rounds. Then Zack infiltrates the Yakuza and shoots some folks. But from there on out, the mayhem grows tepid. The centerpiece of the film is a mid-air meltdown, where Zack's prisoner hijacks a passenger plane with a flare gun, forces them to crash land in the forest, and then takes Zack on a stilted car chase. After that, there's 20 minutes or so of excruciating back and forth between Crowe and Slater, before it's on to the final showdown where a helicopter flies around and a small child nearly drowns. Overall, boring and cheesy.
As I said, the Blu-ray is lean. The 1.85:1 widescreen represents a slight bump in visual fidelity. It's certainly not the worst video presentation an obscure catalog release has received, but considering the low quality of the actual film, the mild high-def coat of paint is far from enough to mandate a viewing. Same goes for the TrueHD 5.1 surround, an audio mix that doesn't get nearly the workout needed to make it memorable. Worst of all, zero extras.
A sad example of next-gen optical media: a marginal bump in audio/visual quality, no bonus materials, and a blah movie.
Guilty. No way to get my money back?
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R