PictureAs with many re-releases of aging movies the sleeve of Red Heat proudly proclaims that the film is “Digitally Remastered”. Unfortunately this does not always mean that the quality of the picture is good, as you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and the PQ is only ever going to be as good as the source material. This goes some way to explaining the poor pictures on offer with the disc. While the remastering has done a reasonable job of cleaning away print damage it has done nothing to get rid of the major problem of film grain. Watching is, at times, akin to viewing in a sand storm. The digital enhancement has ensured a nice colour balance with clear primaries and balanced skin tones, but it has not done anything to enhance the contrast, which is very narrow. Highlights soon blow out and shadows are grey not black. Detail levels are low due to these picture faults, and made worse by the introduction of edge enhancement. This is a poor picture by modern standards, but is also a distinctly average remastered disc. I have seen much better from this vintage.
SoundAs with the picture the sleeve claims a new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Alas a similar fate awaits the sound, as did the picture. Vocals are clear and nicely anchored to the centre channel, but James Horner's excellent driving score sounds thin and weedy in the surround channels. This is a terrible shame as Horner's work is a real highlight of the movie. Foley effects sound hollow and disjointed. Whether this is the fault of the original recording, or this encoding is impossible to say, but it is a little distracting at times to see a punch thrown, and hear it hit a half second later! Bass frequencies are rarely plumbed and surround channels are similarly redundant, it what is a wholly underwhelming soundtrack.
ExtrasThe disappointments just continue with an uninspired set of extras for this so called special edition. I realise Arnie is a busy man now but Jim Belushi doesn't seem to be up to much these days and despite Walter Hill directing the excellent TV drama “Deadwood” I am sure they could have found time to make a contribution to the extras. What we do get is three short uninformative and instantly forgettable featurettes. The East Meets West is by far the best, talking with Vajna and Kassar about the project, the fact they were refused permission to film in Red Square, but nipped in with a single camera, and Arnold dressed as a Captain in the Russian police, and shot the title sequence before the real police turned up to arrest them. A Stunt Man For All Seasons, is a touching recollection by his colleagues, of the work of Bernie Dobbins, Arnold's stunt double, who sadly died of a heart attack during the filming of the movie. The sharp eyed among you will note the film is dedicated to his memory. The final short is I Am Not A Russian, and is an interview with Ed O'Ross, who played Viktor Rosta. His career clearly peaked with Red Heat and he is very proud of it, but he reminded me of the character in Little Britain who was “Mollie Sugden's Bridesmaid”. You just want him to shut up about it already.
VerdictDespite it's Special Edition tag there is nothing very special about the disc on offer. Picture and sound quality fail to live up to the expectations, and the extras are limited, and of the watch once variety, but I can't help loving the film. This was in the days before political correctness, and watching Arnie kick butt, whether alien or Russian, was just plain fun.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.