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NO WAY BACK (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

June 17, 2009 by  



“A production bringing together Australia’s Russell Crowe and Japan’s Etsushi Toyokawa for an American film.  Overall, an entertaining film!”

Images courtesy of © 1994 Overseas FilmGroup, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: NO WAY BACK

DURATION: 91 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (1:85:1),  English,  Dolby TrueHD 5.1Subtitles: English, English SDH

RATED: R (For Violence, Strong Language and a Scene of Sexuality)

COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2009

Directed by Frank A. Cappello

Screenplay by Frank A. Cappello

Executive Producer: W.K. Border, Takashige Ichise

Produced by Aki Komine, Joel Soisson

Associate Producer: Don Phillips

Music by David C. Williams

Director of Photography: Richard Clabaugh

Editing by Sonny Baskin

Casting by Lisa Bankert

Production Design by Clark Hunter

Set Decoration by Traci Kirshbaum

Costume Design by Cathryn Wagner

Starring:

Russell Crowe as  FBI Agent Zack Grant

Helen Slater as Mary

Etsushi Toyokawa as Yuji Kobayashi

Michael Lerner as Frank Serlano

Kyusaku Shimada as Tetsuro

Kristopher Logan as Mr. Contingency; Serlano Henchman

Kelly Hu as Seiko Kobayashi

Andrew J. Ferchland as Eric Grant

Ian Ziering as Victor Serlano

Monty Bane as Goatee

Christian Keiber as FBI Agent Carl Dundreff

Patti Davis Suarez as FBI Agent Numeyer

Francois Chau as FBI Agent Gim Takakura

Russell Crowe, Helen Slater and Michael Lerner star in this white-knuckle action thriller about oneman’s revenge and another man’s redemption. Special Agent Zack Grant’s career is on the line and he’s given one last chance to prove himself. When the sting operation he’s in charge of goes disastrously awry, Grant finds himself with a mob vendetta on his hands. Mafia kingpin Frank Serlano has brutal revenge in mind and his target is Yuji, the Japanese Yakuza he holds responsible for his son’s murder. Serlano kidnaps Grant’s young son in exchange for the delivery of Yuji. Agent Grant and Yuji’scross-country rendezvous with Serlano is further complicated when the duo are joined by a flighty flight attendant. With the mobster’s ferocious skinhead assassins, the Yakuza and the FBI all in hot pursuit, the trio must risk everything – and now, there’s NO WAY BACK.

In 1996, the film “NO WAY BACK” would bring together Australian Russell Crowe (“L.A. Confidential”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “Cinderella Man” and “Gladiator”), popular Japanese film and television star Etsushi Toyokawa (“Aishitteru to itte Kure”, “Love Letter”, “Aoi Tori”) and actress Helen Slater (“Supergirl”) together in a joint American and Japanese film production which was written and directed by Frank A. Capello (“Constantine”and “Suburban Commando”).

Although the film was before Russell Crowe’s blockbuster films, the film was heavily promoted in Japan due to the immense popularity of Etsushi Toyokawa  and his first foray outside of Japan as an actor.

The film revolves around FBI Agent Zack Grant (Russell Crowe) who has had his problems at work and thus is given a chance to command a sting operation on Victor Serlano (Ian Zeiring), the skinhead son of mob boss Frank Serlano (Michael Lerner).

When FBI Agent Seiko Kobayashi (Kelly Hu) is sent in disguised as a prostitute, all that was needed was for the agent to alert her comrades to come in and arrest Serlano.  But instead, Seiko ends up gunning down Serlano and his henchman.

Immediately, Zack runs to check on Seiko and realizes that she had went off and killed the people they had on surveillance and now wonder if she had snapped.  Before Zack can get to her, she kills herself by falling many stories high off the building and detonating a grenade on the FBI surveillance van.

Needless to say, due to the deaths from that mission, Zack is held responsible for the botched mission.  The FBI thinks that Seiko was under the employ of yakuza boss Yuji Kobayashi (Etsushi Toyokawa) and now wants Zack and FBI Agent Gim Takakura (Francois Chau) to retrieve him.

Due to the death of Serlano’s son, Frank Serlano also wants Yuji and blames him for the death of his son.    And in order to get his hand on him, he kidnaps Zack’s young son Eric and wants Zack to bring Yuji to him or else, his son will die.

The film revolves around Zack’s attempt to bring Yuji back to Serlano but along the way, Yuji becomes a thorn in his side (proclaiming his innocence) as he tries to escape many times.   And to make matters worse for Zack, the annoying, chirpy and talkative flight attendant Mary (Helen Slater) somehow gets herself dragged into the whole mess and essentially ends up having to accompany Jack and Yuji.

Will Zack find out why Seiko killed herself?  Will he be able to get his son back?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

I’ve owned “NO WAY BACK” since it’s Japanese and American VHS release and although not owning the original DVD release, the picture quality of “NO WAY BACK” with its 1080p High Definition transfer (and 1:85:1 aspect ratio) is much better than its previous release.

The 13-year-old film definitely has its moments of vibrancy during the daylight.  May it be in the desert and the earth hues and blue skies are nice and vibrant.  Darker, low-light scenes showcases a bit of grain and the good news is that I didn’t notice any DNR (digital noise reduction) softening throughout the film and thus, you can see details with the dirt on the car and the rough skin pores of Russell Crowe’s face.

But for a film with its smaller budget, the amount of action and explosions were quite satisfactory.

The audio on the other hand is presented in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and there are scenes where sound is well-utilized such as the helicopter scene but for its action scenes, I was expecting a bit more punch and LFE usage.  But the film was more center and front channel driven.  I don’t think I recall hearing a lot of usage through my rear speakers or rear surrounds.

Subtitles are featured in English and English SDH.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are no special features but trailers for upcoming Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases.  The Blu-ray disc is BD-Live Enabled.

“NO WAY BACK” is probably not going to win a lot of viewers.  This film was released back in 1996 before Russell Crowe became a popular name worldwide especially here in the United States.

And as mentioned, my familiarity with the movie was through it’s massive hype in Japan and I was a big fan of Etsushi Toyokawa’s film and TV drama work.

Having Etsushi Toyokawa in the same film with Australia’s Russell Crowe, “Supergirl” actress Helen Slater, “Beverly Hills 90210” actor Ian Zeiring and the lovely Kelly Hu was a major collaboration in the eyes of Japan and for those of us who watched Japanese cinema and entertainment, that owning “NO WAY BACK” on VHS and seeing a major Japanese star in an American film was quite significant.

With that being said, the film served as a good popcorn action flick.  Russell Crowe showed a lot of promise, Helen Slater was fun to watch as her character bouned from annoying to charming.  And the banter between Zack and Mary in regards to which Captain of “Star Trek” is better, definitely was one of the film’s shining moment.

As for Etsushi Toyokawa, as much as I enjoy his work, his English was not exactly easy to comprehend and one thing I didn’t have at the time was options for English subtitles.  So, this time around, I was able to rewind the film and eventually find out what he was saying on certain scenes.  And for those who were wondering about Ian Zeiring and Kelly Hu’s performance, both only receive a few minutes in the film and that is all.

In a way, “NO WAY BACK” is one of those films that you probably have caught late at night as you were channel surfing on cable.  It’s one of those films that you enjoy for its humor and action despite knowing it’s not that great of a movie, you watch anyway.  And by no means is “NO WAY BACK” terrible, despite the darker undertones of this action/drama, there is also quite a bit of humor between the main three characters.

As for it’s Blu-ray release, it’s literally barebones with no special features whatsoever.  But for those who did enjoy this film and wondering if it is worth the double dip, this High Definition release is probably the best we will ever see of this movie.

Overall, “NO WAY BACK” is an entertaining popcorn flick!

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