Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Hard to Kill on Blogcritics.
Steven Seagal was years away from becoming a pop culture joke when Hard to Kill hit theaters in 1990. In fact, it was only his second movie and audiences had yet to discover his significant limitations as an actor. Seagal was a legitimate box office star for a few years, long before being confined to the direct-to-video realm. Hard to Kill remains a fun, funny (mostly unintentionally), and fast-paced old school action flick. It may very well only appeal to those old enough to remember it the first time around, but now that it’s on Blu-ray even the uninitiated can see what all the fuss was about.
Seagal plays Mason Storm, a Chuck Mangione-loving police detective. The year is 1983, and Storm is staking out a waterfront mafia meeting late one night, nefariously recording the shady goings on. Rather stupidly, he stands up and starts inadvertently clanging his recording gear against some metal poles, attracting the attention of the mobsters. He kicks a little ass and manages to make a clean getaway, but runs into more trouble at a convenience store where he stops to pick up a stuffed animal for his young son. The place is robbed, and we get to see Storm in his element, taking down multiple attackers with ease. He’s having way too much fun to even think about the gunshot victim behind the store’s counter.
Returning back home, he puts his kid to bed and settles in for a romp in the sack with his beautiful wife, Felicia (Bonnie Burroughs). But any nookie between Mr. and Mrs. Storm is permanently put on hold by a group of dirty cops who invade their home, killing Felicia and seriously wounding Storm. The little kid jumps out a window to avoid the bad guys (where he lands is anyone’s guess, considering his bedroom is on the second floor). Initially presumed dead at the hospital, it turns out Storm is merely in a coma. Lieutenant O’Malley (Frederick Coffin) decides it’s best to let the public think Storm really did die. These bad cops were after Storm because he was onto something big. Those mobs guys he was spying on were involved with a high profile politician.
The story jumps ahead seven years, as Storm finally emerges from his coma. As soon as word leaks, the dirty cops are out to get him again. This leads to the height of the film’s creativity, a hilarious hospital escape by Storm, aided by Andy (Kelly LeBrock), the nurse who has groomed Storm during his coma (and also ogled his apparently impressive manhood). Combating the atrophy brought on by years of inactivity, Storm begins training and preparing to finish the bust he began seven years before, all while dealing with having missed seven years of time. Turn off your brain and just soak up the silliness, and Hard to Kill is still a rowdily enjoyable action movie.
Hard to Kill debuts on Blu-ray with a 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer that isn’t particularly impressive in any way. That said, it looks better than it looked on Blu-ray, with sharpness being quite satisfactory. Those who don’t care for grainy images, take note—this transfer retains a fair amount of grain. It’s entirely normal and appropriate for a film of this age. Fine detail is a little lost in darker scenes, but never in a seriously distracting way. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack packs a surprising punch, with heavy LFE action during the shootouts and car chases. Dialogue is cleanly presented, but sometimes a little low in the mix (especially Seagal’s mumbling) when compared to the action.
No special features accompany Hard to Kill with the sole exception of the theatrical trailer. This movie is a good, cheesy throwback to a simpler era of action machismo. It’s the last of the early Seagal flicks to arrive on Blu-ray and its high definition presentation should please fans.