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Anchor Bay presents
Wanted: Dead Or Alive (1986)

"This is going to make Bhopal, India look like a picnic."
- Malak Al Rahim (Gene Simmons)

Review By: Dan Lopez   
Published: May 30, 2001

Stars: Rutger Hauer, Gene Simmons, Robert Guillaume
Other Stars: Jerry Hardin, William Russ, Mel Harris
Director: Gary Sherman

Manufacturer: Grace & Wilde Interactive Development
MPAA Rating: R for (violence, language)
Run Time: 01h:40m:44s
Release Date: May 29, 2001
UPC: 013131140996
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B CA-B+ D+

DVD Review

Remember when Rutger Hauer was everywhere? He was in lots of great (and not-so-great) films, and you could be assured of at least one film hitting the screens with him in it every year. One of those "era of Hauer" films was Wanted: Dead Or Alive, the action/thriller that, at the time, was practically an overnight classic. It had some great dialogue, pretty good direction, and, of course, Rutger Hauer as another gritty hero. I suppose having KISS bandmember, Gene Simmons as an Arab terrorist helped, too. Unfortunately, Wanted is one of those movies that was just bound to age, and not too well. You can watch it and still see the little flickers of what made it fun back in 1987, but the nostalgia factor isn't really enough to keep it afloat.

Hauer is Nick Randall, a bounty hunter with a mysterious past. While he's making a living by working for the police, he used to be an elite, anti-terrorism specialist, and a pretty tough customer. As soon as we're introduced to him, we're also introduced to Malak Al Rahim (Gene Simmons), a terrorist bent on killing as many Americans as possible, without any real motive. Rahim begins a vicious campaign of bombings (including one inside a movie theater showing Rambo), and FBI agent Philmore Walker (Robert Guillaume) figures that Randall is the best guy to handle Rahim. Unfortunately, Randall doesn't know that internal politics at the FBI and CIA are conspiring to use him for bait. They figure if Randall starts investigating the whereabouts of Rahim, they'll be able to use whatever he discovers first.

The more corrupt elements of the government also leak the information that Randall is seeking Rahim, which they hope will lure out the terrorist, who has a personal grudge against Nick Randall. It's a little confusing, but basically, Randall is forced to hunt down the terrorist group because they're planning a huge bombing - something that will practically wipe out the U.S. So, he does what he does best and kicks some butt, slowly making his way to the man himself, Malak Al Rahim.

The first thing that really sticks out about this film is the dated story. Anonymous terrorists from the Middle East committing unspeakable acts of violence is just very '1980s,' and really doesn't fly anymore (not to mention being rather politically-incorrect, and possibly offensive). It's very much an idea rooted in the time and fear of terrorist elements. The plausibility of the film is really pushing the envelope, and is much less credible—even in our current political climate. Pushing aside those flaws, though, the film also has been eclipsed many times over by action films, so it doesn't retain much punch.

I remember that it was cool to see Rutger Hauer beat up some bad guys and throw them down stairs in cabinets, but it really doesn't seem so intense anymore. In fact, Wanted compares a lot to old Chuck Norris movies. Back then, Norris was fairly popular and something of an icon. Now, his movies just aren't considered very highly anymore. The same thing applies here. The action scenes, though well directed, are tepid by today's standards, and the film builds up to a pretty weak conclusion. This movie simply cannot overcome the ravages of age.

Good acting, though, never gets too old to enjoy and that's ultimately what carries Wanted from forgettable trash to something that people may still want to see... at least for a glimpse into the days when character roles were really respected. Hauer is great, as always; pretty much the tough guy's tough guy. The supporting cast is loaded with familar faces, all doing good work, and points go to Robert Guillaume who manages to make a credible 'nice-guy' friend to Hauer. I've always liked Gene Simmons as a villain (Runaway was great), but his screen time here is very limited. He manages a few good scenes, getting in some classic dialogue, but he isn't in very much of the film. Thankfully, however, he does NOT try to do any kind of Middle Eastern accent for the role.

Wanted: Dead Or Alive is a very good, very tightly woven thriller....for it's time. There's still a technical level of prowess to appreciate here, but the dimwitted story and incredibly slow pace (which was arguably fast back in 1987) drags the whole thing down. That said, though, it's undeniably a classic 1980s-era film, much like The Breakfast Club or Red Dawn. It's one of those experiences that embraces it's origins without apology, firmly dating itself and making it hard to accept by a modern audience.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I may sound like a broken record, but AB unleashes another astounding quality transfer of a film that in other hands would have probably wound up looking like garbage. This is a superb, very film-like looking piece of work, with incredible depth and color balance. It's very sharp, but yet soft enough to let the natural grain of the film create the mood of the cinematography. Although there is some apparent age, it's nothing like what you might expect, and this is a pretty impressive rendering of the original material. I also distinctly remember the original VHS being very "orange," and not having a very accurate color pallette; that isn't present here.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The film is presented in stereo with a Pro-Logic center track for dialogue. Sound effects are very wide and expansive, as is the musical score. There's some healthy directionality and the front soundstage is used about as well as it can be for the type of movie it represents.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only feature is the original teaser and full trailer for the film. They're in good condition (though full screen), and allow some insight into the original marketing. I have to give points for the menus which are surprisingly stylish and well done. The keepcase insert is a cardstock replica of the original poster. There is no material on the reverse side of the cover art. I do take minor issue, though, with the back cover artwork which is, basically, a huge spoiler...so don't flip the box over!

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

The mantra here seems to be "If you're a fan, you'll want this disc." I was suitably impressed with the video and audio quality for such a 'forgotten' film. I think Wanted: Dead Or Alive, although a mediocre movie, makes me appreciate how great it is that New World's catalog wound up in Anchor Bay's lap.


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