Wanted: Dead or Alive

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Nick Randall (Rutger Hauer) works in a most dangerous business, but he is the best and manages to deliver, no matter what the odds. Randall is a bounty hunter and of course, that means he tracks down people and then captures them or in some cases, outright kills them. His resume is loaded with impressive missions and if you need a target taken care of, Randall is the man to contact for the best chance at success. But he now faces his most demanding challenge to date, as ruthless terrorist Malak Al Rahim (Gene Simmons) has arrived on American shores and of course, he is up to no good. Randall needs to hunt down Rahim and end his reign of terror before it starts, as many lives could be lost otherwise. But Randall’s presence is different than in his usual cases, as the C.I.A. decides to use him as bait, in an effort to stop Rahim themselves. Now Randall is in the middle of a massive operation and in order to remain alive, he will have to overcome both sides of the law, which if anyone can manage, it’s Nick Randall.

This cookie cutter action flick from the ’80s is no blockbuster, but it does star Gene Simmons as a terrorist, which is reason enough to give it a look, if you ask me. I mean, this is Gene Simmons, the lead singer of KISS as a terrorist in a low rent movie, how cool is that? Simmons is lined up against Rutger Hauer with a mullet and while neither is that impressive here, they do have some moments and the climax more than delivers. I’ve seen a lot of pedestrian action films and good endings are hard to come by, which makes this one even more worthwhile, since it has a great one. This movie was based on the old television show of the same name, but don’t expect much in common, aside from the last name and profession of the lead character. The writing and acting in Wanted: Dead or Alive are weak to be sure, but there’s some nice action scenes and of course, some ’80s nostalgia to warm your heart a little. I think this movie is more than worth a rental, though only action nuts and fans of ’80s cinema should risk a purchase.

The man with top billing here is Rutger Hauer, who enjoyed a brief window of fame, but soon slipped to the level of B movies. I don’t know why he lost so much ground in the star system, but it could be his poor choice in roles, to be sure. This movie was released toward the waning days of his peak status, but what a way to head downhill, right? I realize this might not have been a dream role, but Hauer does well with what he is given, though that doesn’t amount to much. He handles the action driven sequences well and in the other scenes, the material just doesn’t allow for much in terms of acting, so Hauer is locked into a mediocre performance. Even so, his work is more than adequate for the material, so no real complaints. You can also see Hauer in such films as The Hitcher, Turkish Delight, Ladyhawke, Soldier of Orange, Nighthawks, Bleeders, New World Disorder, and Blade Runner. The cast also includes Gene Simmons (Runaway, Red Surf), Mel Harris (Raising Cane, Suture), and Robert Guillaume (Lean on Me, Tv’s Benson).

Video: How does it look?

Wanted: Dead or Alive is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I never expect much from midlevel releases from the 1980s, but I was very pleased with this presentation, to be sure. The print used looks very clean and I saw minimal grain, which allows the other elements to be as sharp as possible, good news indeed. The image is terrific in all respects, from proper color hues to natural flesh tones to accurate contrast balance, this is one heck of a transfer, that much is certain. A few small problems do surface, but when compared to other releases from this time period, this looks like a brand new flick. Once again, Anchor Bay has taken a film no one else would touch and given it a superb visual treatment, kudos to them.

Audio: How does it sound?

The included Ultra-Stereo option is much like a normal 2.0 surround track, but lacks the refinement and power I would have liked. I heard some surround presence here, but this is a pretty basic effort, though this is due to the materials and not this mix. The action scenes spark a little, but still don’t have the punch they need, though again, this is due to the source material and as such, I am unsure if much could have been done. The experience is a solid one however, as sound effects are decent enough and the dialogue is clean at all times. This disc includes no subtitles or additional audio options, but you will find English captions, should you need them.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes the film’s theatrical and teaser trailers.

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