Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Blu-ray Review: McBAIN

 by Anthony King

Glickenhaus and Walken declare war on drugs.

McBain (1991) may be multi-hyphenate James Glickenhaus' last great film, but that doesn't mean any of the man's eight directorial features are uninteresting, or boring at worst. When a Glickenhaus-directed picture was advertised, the public generally knew what they'd be getting: men – always men – who had a score to settle. McBain is nothing short of a Glickenhaus masterpiece.

Glickenhaus' directorial debut, The Astrologer (1975), is not a great film. It's not even a good film, but it shows how insanely ambitious he was. What followed was a five-film run that will challenge any consecutive run of five genre films. Friedkin, De Palma, Scorsese, Carpenter, the greats. Glickenhaus deserves to be in the conversation. From 1980 to 1991 James Glickenhaus delivered gem after gem. The Exterminator (1980), The Soldier (1982), The Protector (1985), Shakedown (1988), McBain (1991). These aren't the greatest films in the world, but these are five entertaining-as-hell flicks that never disappoint.
McBain opens with a Predator- or Uncommon Valor-style mission to rescue POWs during the Vietnam war. Santos (Chick Vennera) leads the mission with a crew consisting of Steve James, Michael Ironside, Jay Patterson, and Thomas G. Waites. The Americans blow into the prison camp killing every VC in sight, and rescue their comrades, one of which is Robert McBain (Christopher Walken). Years later, Santos is in his homeland of Columbia where he attempts to lead a peoples' revolution that results in his murder on live television. Remembering the friendship between her brother and McBain, Santos' sister, Christina (Maria Conchita Alonso), goes to New York and begs McBain for help. McBain agrees, gets the gang back together, and goes after NYC drug lords in order to raise enough capital to fund their endeavors. The third act of the film is the mission to Bogota where the McBain-led team of mercenaries help stage a coup in order to take down the evil Colombian dictator, El Presidente (Victor Argo).

McBain has been added to my shortlist of films in consideration for my final discoveries of 2023 list. Unlike many films of this era, there isn't a single performance in McBain that took me out of the movie. While the trope of the white savior in movies past and present is overused and uninteresting and should be taken out back and euthanized, not once did I feel the white savior aspect being exploited in McBain. There's a moment at the end of the film (that I won't spoil) that resembles the mercenaries giving back to innocent Columbians what they deserved all along. More than anything, this is a war picture about soldiers helping out their fallen comrade. The toppling of a tyrannical regime is just the icing.
While I haven't seen The Dogs of War (1980), I could never picture Christopher Walken as an action star. McBain is exactly what I pictured Walken as an action star to be like. He never raises his voice or over-excitedly leads the charge. McBain is calm and collected at all times, the coolest damn mercenary I've ever seen on film. When he shoots his machine gun he's usually doing it with one hand. When he's speaking with a mob boss hanging from a crane over the side of a skyscraper, he's using a strange accent that he and his crew are laughing about while threatening this man's life. When he crashes through the ceiling while spraying the room with bullets, he does so without screaming or so much as a scrunched brow. This all plays into the fact that Bobby McBain is very likely suffering from PTSD and now takes a sort-of apathetic look at life. The casualness with which he doles out orders about killing comes off on one hand as chilling and cold, yet on the other is just plain cool. While busting up drug dens in the second act, the team comes across Luis Guzman as a pusher who pleads with his intended killers by explaining he's not selling drugs to kids; he's actually giving people well-paying jobs who would otherwise be stuck on the streets. McBain takes this into consideration and leaves Guzman alive and well, getting the viewer to agree with his thinking of, “Huh. This drug dealer has a good point. What he's doing is commendable, I guess.”
For the first time on Blu-ray in the U.S., Synapse Films has delivered a stunning transfer. With the option of a standard 2.0 HD audio mix or a brand new 5.1 HD surround audio mix, the Glickenhaus action will rattle your bones and send the neighbors running for shelter. The disc also includes a new audio commentary with Glickenhaus and author and historian Chris Poggiali. The conversation spans Glickenhaus' career, his influences, and every little detail about McBain one could ever hope for. From shooting on location in New York City and the Philippines, to working with big personalities like Walken, Ironside, James, and Argo, this is one of the best commentaries of the year so far. McBain has been floating around the land of streamers for a while, but it has never looked, or more importantly, sounded this good. Once again, Synapse delivers an incredibly entertaining movie in a stellar package that you'll want to revisit time and time again.

Bonus features

New 5.1 surround soundtrack created specifically for this release (original theatrical stereo mix also included)
Audio commentary with director James Glickenhaus and film historian Chris Poggiali
Original theatrical trailer
Newly translated removable English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

Blu-ray release date: July 11, 2023
103 minutes / 1991
1.78:1 (1080p)
DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English (SDH)
Region: All Region

1 comment:

  1. Watched this last night - thanks for the tip. Glickenhaus rules!