An Eye for an EyeOverview -
International superstar Chuck Norris (Hero and the Terror) stars in this pulse-pounding revenge thriller that pulls out all the stops for explosive edge-of-your-seat excitement. Crackling with unbridled energy and suspense, it's an electrifying adventure that's as fast and hard-hitting as its unstoppable hero. Police detective Sean Kane (Norris) is any criminal's worst nightmare: a cop who's just as lethal with his lightning-quick martial arts moves as he is a with his service revolver. But when his partner is brutally murdered, Kane quits the force and goes beyond the law to seek vengeance against the ruthless Morgan Canfield (Christopher Lee, The Crimson Cult), a powerful and well-connected drug lord who destroys any man who stands in his way. But Kane has never been more ready for a fight. He's bold, ferocious and has an ace up his sleeve: his mentor, Chan (Mako, Conan the Barbarian), a martial arts wizard who will join him in a thrilling no-holds-barred final assault against Canfield and his criminal empire. Action veteran Steve Carver (River of Death) directs a top-notch supporting cast that includes Richard Roundtree, Matt Clark, Stuart Pankin, Rosalind Chao, Terry Kiser and Professor Toru Tanaka.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Ever since his first big fight against Bruce Lee in 1972's 'The Way of the Dragon' Chuck Norris has been a martial arts screen legend. With such titles as 'Silent Rage,' 'The Octagon' and even later entries like the goofy 'Hellbound' - Norris has proven himself to be a commanding screen presence, even if the movies themselves weren't that great. Movies like 'Missing in Action' or 'Invasion U.S.A.' were at least entertaining in their badness. Then you have a movie like 'An Eye For An Eye' and the plot seems to only serve the need to have Chuck do some wicked cool roundhouse kicks against numerous opponents. The story doesn't matter - punching guys out of 10 story windows is the best thing about this movie!
Sean Kane (Chuck Norris) is an undercover narcotics cop about to fling his two fists of justice at one of the biggest drug rings in San Fransisco. Everything is going according to plan until the bust goes wrong - the bad guys were waiting for him. With his parter shot, hit by a car and incinerated. Seeing his best friend killed so horribly - Sean goes absolutely berserk killing the remaining low level street thugs with his fists of justice. After a scandal breaks out, Sean is forced to quit being a cop if he wants to have any chance of taking down the drug ring and avenging his friend.
Meanwhile big time local city beat news reporter Linda Chan (Rosalind Chao) seems to have stumbled onto some key pieces of evidence that Sean needs. Since Sean was trained by her father James Chan (Mako), Linda knows she can trust him although she dies trying to get the information in his hands. Drawn into the investigation, Sean and James must put the scant information Linda had together and find the men at the top of the drug ring - even if that means going up against Sean's former Captain (Richard Roundtree). Confusing matters further is Linda's boss (Christopher Lee) who seems all too willing to help - only the information he has to offer puts Sean and James into greater danger.
As you can probably guess plot isn't the big working point of this movie. For starters - there is just too much motivation motivating this movie. Is Sean avenging his dead partner or the dead daughter of his best friend? That doesn't really seem to matter much because everywhere these two go they end up getting into a fight where they're vastly outnumbered, yet somehow come out on top. Mako clearly has some skills to offer up with the fisticuffs, but this is 100% Norris' show. One could almost make a drinking game out of the number of flying kicks Chuck swings out at a poor hapless stuntman.
Another oddity about his movie is that is basically a remake of Sidney Poitier's 'The Organization' - with karate fights. The idea of an international drug importing conglomerate lead by a seemingly benevolent white business man isn't exactly new territory for this movie to tread. I can't quite figure if Christopher Lee was in this thing for the pay check or not, but he does at least play menacing well enough - even with his gigantic mustache and pipe. I think the greatest missed opportunity is that this should have been "Chuck Norris VS. Dracula." Since Lee is only in a couple of daylight scenes anyway it wouldn't have been too much of an adjustment! Talk about a missed opportunity.
If there is a gripe to have with this one is that it does look and feel awful cheap in places. Where it does make solid use of some San Fransisco locations, most of the movie appears to have been shot on hastily built sets in a warehouse offering only three walls and some clumsy action photography. When the set is pre-existing, things look pretty good and the action plays well, when it's the fabricated set, it's difficult not to notice that Norris's punch or kick is about three feet away from the flailing stunt performer. However, if cheap sets are the only gripe one can have about a Chuck Norris movie - that can't be all that bad then! Director Steve Carver would improve his knack for schlocky action films with 'River of Death.' Here it feels like the man was just getting his action footing under him. He does well enough with the script by William Clay and James Bruner to keep things moving and exciting even if by the end the show starts to get a bit silly.
What I love about this movie is that it plays like a fading piece of late 70s exploitation filmmaking. Norris wasn't the commanding screen presence that he would become in later years so it's easy to spot a lot of his on screen insecurities. Heck, he doesn't even have his signature mustache in this film let alone the source of his incredible super powers - his legendary beard. But that's okay. 'An Eye For An Eye' almost plays like a proof of concept movie, as if some studio producers were wondering if Bruce Lee's old friend could actually act and hold a movie on his own. Evidently they were impressed because Norris' career took off with such hits as 'Lone Wolf McQuade,' 'Code of Silence,' 'Firewalker' and several other films releasing soon after. I did't know what to expect with 'An Eye For An Eye' as it had been most of 20 years since I last saw this movie in full, but I'm glad to report that its still a fun time and worth the hour and forty minutes I spent watching it!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'An Eye For An Eye' makes it's blu-ray debut thanks to Kino Lorber's Studio Classics line. The disc is pressed on a BD25 disc and housed in a standard case. Free of any opening trailers, the disc opens directly to the main menu.
I feel like I need to put this video score in some personal perspective. 'An Eye For An Eye' in my eyes (see what I did there?) has never looked good on home video. My first experience with the movie was as a double feature with 'Firewalker' that my Dad bought decades ago and both copies were low resolution EP tapes. When the DVD came out things hadn't improved much and I don't recall getting far into that disc before becoming frustrated and shutting it off as it was marred by an extremely muddy transfer. For this Blu-ray release - it looks like a great effort was made to make this upgrade worth the while. It's still problematic, but the 1.85:1 1080p picture is a pleasing improvement. Right out of the gate, clarity and image detail should put smiles on fans' faces. Film grain has been retained allowing for the film to look better than ever. Grain can be very heavy at time - bordering on noisy - but those are only in dim lighting scenes and the worst is during the opening credits. Daylight scenes and well lit interiors look fantastic. Colors replicate that late 70s early 80s drab feel that a lot of crime thrillers of that era had while allowing plenty of primary presence. Reds look fantastic and flesh tones appear accurate. Black levels can be either a bit crushed or a tad too contrasty depending on the scene - but not so terrible that you lose image depth. From what I can see here it looks like some effort went into mitigating the weaker presentation elements. All around I was greatly impressed with this transfer since the last time I saw the movie nearly 15 years ago on DVD it looked like the movie had been run through a used coffee filter. It's not perfect - but it is a vast improvement.
'An Eye For An Eye' gets a healthy kick (sorry, no more puns) out of its DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track. Levels are spot on allowing for easy hearing of dialogue while letting the audience appreciate the howitzer cannon gunshots and super sonic karate slaps. Seriously the sound design on this movie is glorious, the sounds of people smacking each other sounds more like someone ripping rice paper off screen. Even for a mono track imaging is pretty lively offering enough sound element separation to provide the illusion of channel movement. Working well for this track is its free of any hiss, pop, or drop offs making for a nice auditory debut on Blu-ray.
Audio Commentary: Director Steve Carver and Bill Olson banter about the film talking the small details of the production and what it was like working with a then up and coming Chuck Norris.
Trailer: (HD 1:33) This trailer makes no elusions about what it is as it opens with Chuck doing a high flying kick right at the screen.
For an early Chuck Norris outing 'An Eye For An Eye' turned out to be a great little piece of exploitation cinema. From this movie, it's easy to see how Norris' popularity took off. While not the greatest or most original plot - it is a darn good time.With an appreciable uptick in picture quality over previous home video editions, a solid DTS audio track and an informative commentary makes this Blu-ray disc a worthwhile edition for any Chuck Norris completionist out there. Easily recommended.
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