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Feature


Action legend Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a soldier drawn into the world of modern-day gladiators, fighting for the amusement of the rich in this fast-moving action thriller. Upon receiving news that his brother in Los Angeles is seriously injured, Lyon Gaultier (Van Damme – Kickboxer) deserts the French Foreign Legion from a remote outpost in North Africa.

Fleeing from two of the Legion's security force who have orders to bring him back at any cost, Lyon reluctantly turns to the illegal, bare-knuckles underground fighting circuit to raise the money he needs to help his brother's family.

This riveting action-adventure combines the raw power and charisma of Van Damme with the exciting world of no-holds-barred street fighting.
(Taken from the official synopsis.)

*Note: The version of the film presented on this Blu-ray appears to be the R-rated cut of the film as found on the US Blu-ray, rather than the extended International cut found elsewhere in the world.

Video


101 Films presents A.W.O.L. in the 1.78:1 ratio, which is ever-so-slightly opened up from the American Universal Blu-ray. For what is a comparatively low-budget feature the image is surprisingly good, all things considered. There's a little bit of telecine wobble during the opening credits, and although film artefacts are present during numerous scenes they are generally unobtrusive. The original cinematography would appear to be the limiting factor where detail is concerned, but things are still considerably better in this regard than one might expect. The colour palette is very much of its time, delivering reasonably natural hues across the board. Shadow delineation isn't particularly great thanks to some weak, muddy blacks, but again this is more than likely owing to the original photography. The image doesn't appear to have been subject to any undue filtering or excessive sharpening, but the comparatively low bitrate encode is a disappointment. Given the age and budget of the material this is a reasonable presentation, but it's not a particularly strong effort when compared to the best catalogue releases.

Audio


The LPCM 2.0 soundtrack sounds every bit it of its twenty-five years, exhibiting the sort of tinny, low fidelity characteristics often associated with features of this vintage and budget. Dialogue is always intelligible, but the action sequences lack any weight due the absence of any discernible low frequency effects. The forgettable score and cheesy songs don't particularly distinguish themselves either. In all honestly I expected better than this, given that I've heard more impressive tracks from the same era.

Exras


Nothing. Not even the theatrical trailer included on the US release.

Overall


Although clearly in the lower echelons of late eighties/early nineties action features, A.W.O.L. (or Lionheart if you prefer) is still one of Van Damme's more memorable and, dare I say it, better movies. Sure the story is pure hokum, but it has its moments and is sure to bring forth a flood of nostalgia in viewers of a certain age. If nothing else you can marvel at the Muscles from Brussels' hideous jeans and reminisce about you own nineties fashion disasters... Technically 101 Films' Blu-ray is better than you might expect considering the source material, particularly in the visual department, but is below average when compared to the high-definition releases of similar titles. Even so, if you're a fan of the film or Van Damme in general this disc is probably worthy of your time and money.

* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.

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