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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Meltdown (1995)

"They're color-coded. What is it with these bomb nuts and their color-coded wires?"
- Kit Li (Jet Li)

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer   
Published: June 19, 2001

Stars: Jet Li
Other Stars: Jackie Chueng
Director: Wong Jing

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and some language
Run Time: 01h:40m:55s
Release Date: June 19, 2001
UPC: 043396065949
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I always hate it when Hollywood remakes a foreign film (latest example: Wes Craven announces plans to remake With A Friend Like Harry while the movie is still running theatrically in America). The foreign film is almost always better, but some people just won't see a movie if it's subtitled and doesn't have any known American actors. Well, it turns out the opposite can also be true. Take, for example, Meltdown. This film is an obvious remake of Die Hard, with some other elements stolen from Hard Boiled. Suffice it to say that both of the original movies are better.

Meltdown opens with terrorists, led by the evil Doctor, kidnapping several rich children and placing them on a bus with a bomb. In comes Kit Li (Jet Li) to disarm the bomb. He fails. Incidentally, his wife happened to be on the bus. Interesting how that works out, isn't it? Cut ahead two years, and Kit is working as a bodyguard for Frankie Lane, a big action hero who used to be a martial arts master but is now a sell out. Frankie decides to go see an exhibition of Russian jewels at a hotel. Unfortunately, that dastardly Doctor plans on stealing those very same jewels. Kit gets wind of this, and now he has a chance for revenge, accompanied by a cop whose girlfriend works at that very hotel. But the clock is running out, and the Doctor has a penchant for throwing hostages out of windows. Can Kit save the hostages in time? Will Frankie return to his martial arts roots? Will Chow Yun-Fat save babies by putting up a makeshift rig that can get them out of the hospital safely...oh, sorry, wrong movie.

Like most action movies, Meltdown isn't interested in creating three-dimensional characters. I always found John Woo's Hong Kong films to be a cut above because they do create interesting characters, but I do realize that such things aren't really staples of the genre. The characters are really caricatures; Kit is the straight-edged bodyguard who can kick ass and Frankie Lane seems like a parody of Jackie Chan—he even looks like him. The Doctor is evil through and through. There are no real relationships in the film, either. The cop has a "rocky" relationship with his girlfriend; she doesn't want to see him hurt, but his job as a cop demands action. This is never really resolved, the characters just drop it with the cop saying, "Oh, you're right! This job is too dangerous!"

So it's obvious that if the characters and relationships aren't important, the action must be. And if that's the case, then the action better be damn good. I'll admit, there were a few scenes that got my blood racing. But overall, I've seen better action sequences in Woo films, in Kurosawa films, even in Richard Donner films. Hell, the knife throwing scene in Big Trouble In Little China is more exciting than the knife throwing scene in Meltdown. Some of the action works; it's just that the best scenes are too few and far between. Also, a terrible hip-hop score that gets on your nerves faster than a Supertramp song mars some of the best action sequences. If the action is what's important in this movie, it's a big letdown.

Another problem is the fact that it's dubbed into English. I've always had problems with dubbed films, but in recent years, dubbing has progressed a great deal, to the point where if you squint your eyes while watching a movie you might think the actors are speaking Latin. Meltdown was obviously dubbed before such advances. But I could deal with the dubbing if the actors whose voices are dubbed in weren't such horrible over-actors. The actor who dubs in the Doctor's voice sounds like Tim Curry after he drank a bottle of "Melodramatic Potion #9." Jet Li's character is the only person who has a trace of an Asian accent (I'm assuming Jet Li dubbed in his own voice), the rest are a mix of dopey American and British accents. Every voice sounds like a stereotype of some kind. Frankie Lane's director, who I assume was meant to look artistic, is dubbed in with a voice that makes him come off as gay, for no apparent reason. While I have seen worse dubbing, I've also seen dubbing that's less offensive.

In the end I think my problem with this film is that I don't like most Hong Kong action movies. Yes, I do enjoy the acknowledged masterpieces of the genre, but that's about as far as my appreciation goes. I think that people more used to the Hong Kong action genre will get more out of this film than I did.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Meltdown sports a very poor video transfer. Littered with specks and dust, colors looked washed out and faded. In dark scenes, it's almost impossible to make out details, and what can be made out looks blurry and unfocused. I couldn't find any artifacts or edge enhancement, however. For an action film, where visuals are highly important, this transfer almost ruins the movie.

Image Transfer Grade: D


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Meltdown's 5.1 mix is of varying quality. Most of the sound is upfront. While the upfront action sounds very good, the rears are confined to sound effects (such as a cop car that pans from the front to the rear), and the music. This is really the biggest problem of the mix. The music uses all the surrounds and a lot of bass, while the action uses the front three speakers and almost no bass. Since the music is terrible, I really didn't need to hear it enveloping me. The action, however, doesn't work unless it makes use of the entire sound field. What good is a huge explosion without some powerful bass to really hit it home? This sound mix really disappoints. Stereo mixes in English and French are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Once Upon A Time In China I, II, III, Red Dragon, Gorgeous, The Prisoner
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo gallery with Jet Li trivia
Extras Review: Meltdown is pretty slim on extras. We get a fullscreen trailer, cast and crew bios with selected filmographies, and a photo gallery with Jet Li facts. We also get a trailer for the Once Upon A Time In China trilogy, still Jet Li's most acclaimed films. Other trailers are for Red Dragon (not related to the Thomas Harris book), and two Jackie Chain movies: Gorgeous and .

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Meltdown is a movie for Hong Kong action fanatics only. More casual viewers would do better to check out
The Killer or A Better Tomorrow.


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