A notorious killer is back to terrorize Los Angeles, and only one man can stop him. Martial arts superstar Chuck Norris packs a powerful punch I this "exciting" (Variety) action-thriller about a tough L.A. cop's pursuit of a savage villain from his past. "Adroitly directed with startling images" (The Village Voice) and harrowing action scenes, Hero and the Terror is edge-of-your-seat suspense from beginning to end.
Homicide detective Danny O'Brien (Norris) is known simply as "Hero" for having brought down L.A.'s most vicious serial killer: Simon Moon (Jack O'Halloran) a.k.a. "The Terror." But for years, O'Brien has secretly been haunted by the fact that his capture of Moon was a fluke. When The Terror escapes from jail and returns to his old killing ways, O'Brien finally gets the chance to earn his glorified reputation... if his monstrous enemy doesn't destroy him first!
By the time 'Hero and the Terror' was filmed in the late 1980s, Chuck Norris was already well into his 40s, and it started to become obvious that if the martial arts star was going to have a future headlining movies, he was going to have to slow down with the crazy stunts and amp up on his acting abilities. 'Hero and the Terror' was an obvious attempt at doing that, and while it has never been considered by Norris fans to be one of his best movies (primarily because of the lack of action from the star), it holds a soft spot in my heart because it's really one of the few Norris pics where we see him trying to stretch his acting skills.
Norris stars as detective Danny O'Brien, who is haunted by his capture (three years before the main storyline) of serial killer Simon Moon (played by everyone's favorite Phantom Zone villain, Jack O'Halloran). The reason O'Brien can't resolve his arrest of Moon is because it only took place because Moon knocked himself out when a ladder he was on broke under his weight. Before then, Moon was getting the best of O'Brien and probably would have killed him if not for the convenient mishap. It doesn't help that all of O'Brien's colleagues call him "Hero" due to the arrest, even though Danny knows he just got lucky.
Even though Moon is responsible for the murders of 22 women, he's fortunate enough to have done his crimes in California, where he gets sent to a mental hospital and is given a nice cell with bars that offer a view of the outside (hey, logic isn't one of this story's strong suits, okay?). Using the only bit of savvy knowledge we see from the character during the entire film (he's primarily a mute and a brute for the rest of the movie), Moon figures out a method to cut through the bars and gain his freedom…and then promptly drives his escape van over the side of a cliff. News of the escape and assumed death of Moon reach O'Brien, who – of course – isn't buying for a second that "The Terror" is really dead.
As I noted at the outset of this review, 'Hero and the Terror' is actually pretty light on physical action from Chuck Norris. There's an early scene where he does a couple of leg kicks busting a few thugs, plus some action at the end of the movie when he finally faces off against Moon, but primarily this film serves as a chance for Chuck to drive the storyline via his acting rather than his physical prowess. Norris is decent here when it comes to conveying the fear in his eyes concerning Moon (perhaps because that doesn't require him to spout dialogue), but most of the other stuff is pretty clunky. Of course, it doesn't help that he doesn't have particularly great actors surrounding him.
Of course, no action movie of this sort is without a romantic interest, although I'll give the filmmakers credit for not putting O'Brien's girlfriend, Kay (played by former soap opera star Brynn Thayer), in danger at any point in the movie. Although maybe that wouldn't have been the worst of ideas, as she's pretty much a third-wheel here. There's a bizarre scene at about the midway point of the movie where O'Brien takes her out for her birthday, gives her champagne and a beautiful cake, and then Kay proceeds to complain about how miserable she is and how 'old' she's getting. When she confesses that she's only 36, you have my permission to throw something at your TV set.
But even with all the flaws and plot holes, there's something really entertaining about 'Hero and the Terror' and a lot of that probably has to do with the fact that it's slightly different than most of the other movies in Chuck Norris' library. He's vulnerable here, and this is one of the few movies where one gets the sense that Chuck's character may not be a match for the villain he's up against. So, despite all the 80s cheese and clichés that it contains, I remain a fan of 'Hero and the Terror', and certainly think it's worth at least one viewing for those new to the film.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Hero and the Terror' fights its way onto Blu-ray in a standard Elite keepcase, which houses the single-layer 25GB disc, with no inserts. There are no front-loaded trailers on the disc, whose main menu consists of a still image (the image of Norris pointing his gun on the back box cover, and the first image in this review seen below), with menu selections along the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
There are both good things and bad things about this Blu-ray transfer by Kino Lorber. The good news is that, aside from a few exceptions (including a quite noticeable flash of white debris during the climatic fight scene at the conclusion of the movie), the print has been pretty much cleaned up of any serious damage issues, although you'll still get the occasional hint of dirt here and there. The bad news is that this is a pretty flat-looking presentation overall. Grain is very heavy, particularly during all indoor and nighttime/dark sequences, and there's not a great deal of depth or detail to the picture overall. Skin tones and flesh colors lean towards the pale side of things, and there's this odd occurrence in some scenes when skin tones will seem to shift for a second or two before returning to normal. Because of the softness of many shots, black levels here are particularly problematic, which is a shame given that a lot of the action takes place in darkened settings.
If there's good news here, it's that the presentation still looks very much like film. However, it also looks very much like a non-high-def DVD, and I'm not sure viewers are getting a whole lot more here in terms of quality than they did over the prior DVD release.
The only available audio here is an English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track, which sounds pretty good in stereo despite its obvious limitations. Dialogue is crisp and clear, the mix between the spoken word, the action, and the movie's soundtrack (which is pretty decent in an 80's action flick kind of way and composed by David Michael Frank) is well done, and there's no obvious popping, hissing, or dropouts in the audio. In fact, overall, the audio quality might just be the best thing about this Blu-ray release.
There are no subtitle options on this Blu-ray release.
Chuck Norris' 'Hero and the Terror' was a slight departure for the then-aging action star – one that offered more psychological drama than punches and kicks. It doesn't get a spectacular Blu-ray release here, nor does the disc offer much in terms of bonus features. Still, I actually like the movie enough to say it's worth a look, particularly if you've never seen it or haven't seen it in a while.