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Lone Wolf McQuade Blu-ray Disc Review

Lone Wolf McQuade (1983) movie poster Lone Wolf McQuade

Theatrical Release: April 15, 1983 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Steve Carver / Writers: B.J. Nelson (story & screenplay), H. Kaye Dyal (story)

Cast: Chuck Norris (Ranger J.J. "Jim" McQuade), David Carradine (Rawley Wilkes), Barbara Carrera (Lola Richardson), Leon Isaac Kennedy (FBI Agent Marcus Jackson), Robert Beltran (Deputy Arcadio "Kayo" Ramos), L.Q. Jones (Ranger Dakota Brown), Dana Kimmell (Sally McQuade), R.G. Armstrong (Captain Tee Tyler), Jorge Cervera, Jr. (Jefe), Sharon Farrell (Molly), Daniel Frishman (Emilio Falcon), William Sanderson (Snow), John Anderson (ATF Special Agent Burnside), Robert Arenas (Gas Station Attendant), Tommy Ballard (Colonel Remsing), Robert Jordan (Bobby Drew)

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It is tough to remember a time when Chuck Norris was considered a serious action star. Long before the septuagenarian actor became the subject of a popular ironic Internet meme, Norris was a bona fide leading man in an altogether different era of cinema. Shortly after taking on Bruce Lee in The Way of the Dragon (1972), the penultimate film of Lee's too short career,
real life martial arts expert Norris began headlining his own movies: Good Guys Wear Black, A Force of One, Silent Rage, etc. They all cast Norris as hero, the tough guy who can fight his way to justice. They all also look and sound ludicrous today, reinforcing both Norris' badass reputation and the giggles that follow it.

In the 1980s, Norris proved his ability to draw audiences to his signature action vehicles again and again. While his autobiography's claims that his films ranked up with Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz as MGM's strongest home video sellers seem more than a little dubious, Norris' films did reliably gross $10-$25 million at the box office from around 1980 to 1986. These were the years that bred Norris' Missing in Action and Delta Force franchises, as well as the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon series "Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos."

Lone Wolf McQuade was also released during this era. This 1983 film ranks fourth among Norris' modest filmography by number of IMDb user votes. Its 5.99 weighted user rating ranks it third among Norris' acting credits, trailing only the not-yet-released (but evidently anticipated) The Expendables 2 and Way of the Dragon.

Little time is wasted before establishing J.J. McQuade (Chuck Norris) as an improbably heroic Texas Ranger. Rawley Wilkes (David Carradine) wears a nice sweater for the climax's maniacal machine gun firing and hand-to-hand combat.

In the title role, Norris plays Texas Ranger J.J. McQuade, a law enforcer who plays by his own rules. The character resembles a young Cordell Walker (of "Walker, Texas Ranger"), the part Norris played longer than any other, only without his edges softened to suit CBS' old viewership and Norris' evolving Christian values. The film's opening sequence finely establishes this bold character, whom the editor likens to a wolf, in numerous close-ups of his beardy face. McQuade calmly watches police officers bungle a job before he steps in to save the day. McQuade beats up or kills every bad guy in sight, also blowing up a car in the process.

The story here is pretty standard stuff. What makes it stand out is the hero and his contributions to Norris' mythic persona. J.J. McQuade wears a belt of bullets. He drives a once white, now dirty Dodge SUV with a supercharger. He only drinks locally-brewed Pearl Beer. A typical day finds McQuade shirtlessly taking some target practice on the sand-filled scarecrows outside his remote, ramshackle bungalow.

As the title implies, McQuade works alone, a belief he reiterates after the Captain (R.G. Armstrong) picks young Deputy Arcadio "Kayo" Ramos (Robert Beltran) to be his partner, an assignment McQuade shrugs off for as long as he can.

McQuade's work becomes personal when his possibly teenaged daughter Sally (Dana Kimmell) sees her boyfriend gunned down and herself pushed over a cliff in her car as part of an army convoy heist. The deadly job is part of an international gun smuggling operation, which puts the case in the jurisdiction of federal agents, or, as McQuade calls them, "candy-ass Feds." The crime ring is believed to involve bearded, electric wheelchair-riding, secret doorway-using, gamer/kingpin dwarf Emilio Falcon (Daniel Frishman). But we know from casting, billing, and what we are shown that the real criminal mastermind is Rawley Wilkes ("Kung Fu" star David Carradine).

J.J. McQuade (Chuck Norris) gets down, dirty, wet, and wild with his widowed love interest (Barbara Carrera). J.J. McQuade (Chuck Norris) does not take kindly to unannounced guests, shirtlessly greeting them with a revolver in their face.

Rawley's level-headed partner is the young widow Lola Richardson (Barbara Carrera), who emerges as a thinly-dressed love interest to McQuade. McQuade's marital status is kept vague.
He appears to be at least separated from his wife Molly (Sharon Farrell). While they are affectionate and on great terms, she does sport a traditional lesbian haircut and is planning a move with Sally. The real sparks are between McQuade and Lola and they manifest in a romantic garden hose fight, but experience a setback when Lola voluntarily cleans up the Lone Wolf's shack and has the nerve to throw out his supply of Pearl Beer.

The plot leads us to Mexico, where Lola and Sally are being held against their will by Rawley's forces. McQuade, young Kayo, and a reasonable Jheri-curled FBI agent (Leon Isaac Kennedy) team up for a rescue mission, which climaxes with a Caterpillar vs. military tank standoff that gives way to an organ-backed mano-a-mano fight between good (McQuade) and evil (Rawley).

Watching Lone Wolf McQuade, I was troubled by the fact that I couldn't remember whether I'd seen this before or another Chuck Norris movie just like it. About six years ago, I took in all the Norris films that were available on DVD at my local library system, which, unsurprisingly, was not very many. They are already a complete blur, which I'm convinced is more of a reflection of Norris' movies than of personal memory deficiencies. This did seem familiar, but not familiar enough to recognize any specific bit. The abundant tropes remind the viewer of those featured in vehicles favored by the likes of Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Coburn, men's men who made movies for men that weren't even likely to interest boys with a taste for action, as the work of the next generation of action stars (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Norris' other slightly younger Expendables cast mates) would.

The passing of nearly thirty years has undoubtedly bid farewell to some of the film's original audience and those taking their place are just as likely to watch a dated movie like this for the unintentional laughs as for the old-fashioned action sensibilities. Nonetheless, there must still be some people who can enjoy vintage Chuck because MGM saw fit to release five of his 1980s movies on Blu-ray Disc this summer. In early June, well in time for Father's Day, Delta Force and the first two Missing in Action installments became Walmart exclusives. Then, last month brought Lone Wolf McQuade and 1985's Code of Silence to stores everywhere. Compelled to revisit Chuck's greatest hits, I chose this one (and only this one) for review.

Lone Wolf McQuade Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

1.85:1 Widescreen
1.0 DTS-HD MA (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
Release Date: July 17, 2012
Single-sided, single-layered disc (BD-25)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Still available on DVD ($14.98 SRP; November 20, 2001) and Amazon Instant Video
Previously released as 3 Pack Action DVD, 2 Pack Action DVD, and VHS

VIDEO and AUDIO

Lone Wolf McQuade's Blu-ray boasts strong picture quality, a lot better than you might expect to find. The 1.85:1 transfer stays fairly clean, reasonably sharp, and well-defined throughout while maintaining a fitting amount of fine grain.
No one ever mistook Chuck Norris movies for the height of filmic technique and a number of them have looked terrible on DVD. So, the age-defying clarity here is a pleasant surprise that should satisfy most.

The 1.0 DTS-HD master audio is inevitably thin and a little dated, but always clearly heard. Francesco De Masi's score does nothing to hide his Italian background and occasionally gives the film a spaghetti western feel (some have noticed a striking similarity between De Masi's work here and Ennio Morricone's Once Upon a Time in the West music). The Blu-ray offers a slew of subtitle options, far more than the case indicates with 13 tracks overall, though some appear to be duplicates or minor variations. That makes it a little bit of a chore should you want to clarify a line in English, but it is far preferable to the possible alternative of no subtitles whatsoever. Four foreign language dubs are also provided likewise in single-channel monaural DTS-HD master audio.

The not so sightly original theatrical trailer lines up no longer a so-called wolfpack (Leon Isaac Kennedy, left, and Robert Beltran, right) around no longer Lone Wolf McQuade (Chuck Norris).

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's only extra is an unadvertised original theatrical trailer (2:20), which appears in standard definition in a worn, faded state that only adds to your appreciation of the feature presentation. The same preview is all that joined the film on its 2001 MGM DVD.

Like certain other MGM catalog Blu-rays, the disc doesn't even supply a standard menu screen, just listing bars that can pop up over the movie while it plays. Unfortunately, bookmarks are not supported and there is no resuming playback.

The simplicity of this release extends to the packaging, which fits the eco-friendly keepcase with no insert, slipcover, or reverse side artwork. Perhaps the explosive disc art might pacify some of those who find the oddly patriotic new cover art a downgrade from the more iconic and artistic poster paintings used on its initial videocassettes.

It will take much more than a gun-toting dwarf crime boss in a wheelchair (Daniel Frishman) to rattle Lone Wolf McQuade (Chuck Norris). In Mexico, McQuade's lover (Barbara Carrera) and daughter (Dana Kimmell) look on, as he and Rawley settle their score as men do.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

That Lone Wolf McQuade is considered possibly Chuck Norris' greatest movie star project
does not speak too highly of the cultural icon's cinematic output. This standard vehicle fascinates less as a piece of storytelling and more as a reflection of early '80s action movies and of the amusing, enduring legend that is Chuck Norris. MGM's basic but serviceable Blu-ray is the type of disc you'd feel good buying for about $3, which you probably won't be able to do that for at least a few years. If, however, The Expendables 2 has you itching to revisit vintage Chuck in high definition, this release could very well be your best, and likely most accessible, bet.

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Reviewed August 12, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1983 Orion Pictures, 1818 Productions, Top Kick Productions, 2012 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.