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Last Action Hero (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Seeing what catalog films get the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray upgrade has been a bit of a wild card at times. Sometimes they are films obviously hitting some sort of milestone, but many times its like “Oh, okay”. Sony has been one of those studios turning out those “Oh, okay” titles on the regular. Their latest is the love it or hate it John McTiernan/Arnold Schwarzenegger team up for a satirical look at a the genre that both made them big names – Last Action Hero. In its original release, it’ll be in a collectible steelbook packaging, with the regular release slated for the street date of June 15th. The release finally comes with some bonus features, including deleted scenes presented in 4K, as well as a few archival features. You can order yourself a copy by using the paid Amazon Associates link that follows the review.

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Film

Following the death of his father, young Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien) takes comfort in watching action movies featuring the indestructible Los Angeles cop Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger). After being given a magic ticket by theater manager Nick (Robert Prosky), Danny is sucked into the screen and bonds with Slater. When evil fictional villain Benedict (Charles Dance) gets his hands on the ticket and enters the real world, Danny and Jack must follow and stop him.

Last Action Hero felt like a film tailor made for me back in 1993. My favorite thing was going to the movies, I followed with great interest the pure action reign of the time, and some of my favorite stars were the larger than life presences in that of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Jean Claude Van Damme. Hell, if Arnold had a new movie coming out, I was seeing it because his name was on the poster. Didn’t care what it was, I was giving it a chance. With Last Action Hero, it was a film that felt like it was calling out to kids like me and having fun and showing an appreciation in a genre of films that wasn’t really getting all that much appreciation from the noted voices reviewing mainstream cinema at the time.

Looking back, its interesting to note the film’s bouncing tonal shifts between light-hearted fun and absolutely disturbing darkness. I suppose as a kid of the 80s, we were sort of used to things taking these creepy, odd or adult turns in our movies that seldom happen now in a more monitored and calculated era. But as off balance as that seems, it also feels deliberate as the film wants to showcase how films of a type (and pop culture) can view big scale violence against the repercussions and ugliness it would be like in the real world. Even more to the point, noted baddies Charles Dance and Tom Noonan really help take that thing to an extra edge and give scare and worry instead of being cartoonish.

McTiernan is on the upper echelon of 1980s/1990s action directors and he goes pretty much all out here because the script allows him to be ridiculous. Combo’ing with Shane Black, these two are just thriving in action scenarios with action types. Some of it it incredibly thrilling and much of it intentionally over the top silly. It is interesting to see in the real world, the contrast winds up looks like an exact replica of Blade Runner. With this new disc, the chosen locations, lighting and camera work all look to mimic almost exactly that film. There are even big similarities to the big Roy Batty finale here too. I have to wonder if it was a happy accident or if this look was actually by design. You could seriously pause some moments, sans characters (or have them unclear) and someone would probably says said scene is from Blade Runner. Its not just in the 3rd act either, much of the early stuff resembles it to.

There’s so much in Last Action Hero one could take time to fully unpack and then again not. Some of the humor is right on the nose while other moments are actually pretty subtle and clever. There’s an idea here in which the pure action film got meta on itself a few years before horror would with Scream (Or just a year after this with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare). Its not perfect, but it gets enough right and is big enough, loud enough, and has a gigantic enough star to carry it to a core level of enjoyment.

Video

Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are taken from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-100

Clarity/Detail: Last Action Hero debuts on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with a fantastic transfer and restoration in native 4K resolution. The film plays even bigger and has a nice polish to it that adds to the sort of satirical look in the film. There is a perfectly displayed layer of grain that gives the image added clarity, detail and depth throughout. It is pulsating with wonderful contrast and colors with good black levels. Sony has presented quite a stunner here with this one.

Depth:  The film displays a quite enormous scale that is translated marvelously into this image. Interiors and exteriors both look huge and likewise can prove intimate when needed be. There is a great push back and free feeling in many of the spaces where characters and objects seamlessly wander throughout the frame. Motion is filmic and smooth with no issues regarding any motion jitter, blurring or any other distortion.

Black Levels:  Blacks are very natural and sink in wonderfully deep with many different shades and tints to house the frame. Great contrast for extra added color pop in many moments. Scenes like the rooftop one that almost bookends the film look even more impressive. No textures, patterns or details are hidden from darkened fabrics, surfaces or shadow. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Color has a nice wonderful blend of bold natural colors and a nice pop of some more extravagant faire. The movie world lends itself to both in great fashion. All honed in and no bleeding. Arnold’s outfit shines nicely with the red shirt contrasting to the brown leather jacket beautifully. HDR hits pretty good with lasers, neon lighting, car lights, explosions and more.

Flesh Tones:  Skin is natural and carries a consistent tone throughout the film, give or take some filtered lighting. Facial features and textures like stubble, make-up lines, lip texture, wrinkles, moles, freckles and more come through as clear as staring at the actor though a window.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.

Audio

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.0 DTS-HD MA, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, French (Parisian) 5.1 DTS-HD MA, French (Quebec) 5.1 Dolby Surround, German 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Hungarian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 VO Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish (Latin American) 5.1 Dolby Digital, Thai 2.0 Stereo Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish, Thai

Dynamics:  To compliment the stellar video transfer, Last Action Hero is locked and loaded with quite an incredible Dolby Atmos track. This pronounces itself from all aspects right away due to an opening scene that feels like some sort of sample mixtape for home theater demo’ing. Throughout the movie, you enjoy the crispness, layering, depth, rolling sound and detail that puts this film on another level. This track is a party right in your home viewing space.

Height: Right from the jump you get helicopters flying ceiling speaker to ceiling speaker followed by raindrops pouring onto you. Everything comes at you from above, from debris, ricocheted gunshots, explosions, cars flying over and so much more. A lot of thought and fun was put into the above mix for this film.

Low Frequency Extension: Your subwoofer might need to sit, collect itself and have a Gatorade after the credits roll on Last Action Hero. It truly gets put to work with some kicking tunes in the soundtrack, loud engines, explosions, bullets firing galore, lots of glass shatter, punches, crashes, tar bubbling up and so much more.

Surround Sound Presentation:  As mentioned, this is a damn playful mix. Every environment has so much going on and gives unique sounds and spacing to the rear and side channels to be active start to finish. From the police headquarters, to parties, to being out on the road, there is a great 360 degree world of capturing a moment on display in the biggest and tiniest of ways.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Vocals are clear and crisp, capturing beautifully the actors’ diction as well as little mouth sounds. Dialogue is always pronounced no matter how loud the action, but also feeling every bit a part of the environment at the same time.

Extras

Last Action Hero comes in collectible steelbook packaging and comes with the standard bare bones Blu-ray edition and a redeemable digital code.

Audio Commentary

  • By director John McTiernan

Original Behind The Scenes Featurette (HD, 6:36) – This is an EPK for the film from back around when it came out. Its SD, but has been encoded in HD.

Deleted & Alternate Scenes (4K, 9:08) – 6 scenes, including an alternate ending.

“Big Gun” by AC/DC (HD, 4:46) 

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:27)

Summary

I don’t know what to tell ya, but Last Action Hero just works for me. I’ve returned to it many times over the years and still come away with full enjoyment as I did back in the theater in 1993. Sony gives it some boffo treatment here, with excellence in both picture and audio quality. And this Atmos track is fun as hell. Extras here really round out the release, and the steelbook is a nice touch. Those looking to pump their home theater system or fans of the film are going to be pretty darn satisfied with this release.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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