Release Date(s)1982 (November 7, 2017)
Studio(s)Roadshow Film Distributors (Umbrella Entertainment/MVD Visual)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: C-
Setting out to make a compelling war film, director Tim Burstall (who had replaced Patriot Games and Dead Calm director Phillip Noyce at the last minute) put together his own version of what became Attack Force Z, originally titled The Z Men. A curiosity for film buffs, this Australian/Taiwanese production managed to do decent business at the Australian box office but was perceived as a dud by many film critics of the day. It went on to be a minor cult title on home video later in its life, mostly due to its cast which included roles inhabited by Mel Gibson and Sam Neill, both of whom had yet to achieve any mainstream success.
Loosely based on real events that took place during World War II, Attack Force Z tells of a band of Z Force soldiers (made up of Australian, British, and New Zealand troops) who are sent on a secret mission to infiltrate an area off the coast of Japan and rescue survivors from a plane crash. Once there, they find themselves in a land of turmoil where strict Japanese military forces are hounding their every move and in order to accomplish their mission, they’ll have to navigate their way through untrustworthy locals without being discovered and killed.
It’s fairly easy to judge Attack Force Z upon a single viewing. It’s not a very compelling film, but its noteworthy for its location work and its cast. Storylines are often disparate and seem to trail along rather than progress or converge with any sense of urgency, including a tacked-on, pointless love story that ultimately leads nowhere. The schmaltzy, dated nature of the film’s score also doesn’t do the film any favors either. Much of its run and gun mentality is labored by an unclear sense of what exactly is going on in the story and who we’re meant to be identifying with. That said, seeing Mel Gibson, Sam Neill, and John Phillip Law traipse through Taiwanese jungles with heavy fire power at their side is nothing to ignore. With a slight exploitative edge to it, Attack Force Z has some appealing qualities, but is fundamentally bankrupt in execution.
Umbrella Entertainment’s and MVD Visual’s Blu-ray of Attack Force Z presents the film with a new 4K scan of the film’s interpositive element, which is a major step up from the previous Cinevision Blu-ray release. The results are largely positive as the transfer has a film-like appearance with excellent detail and a grain overlay that is much more prevalent during darker scenes. The opening credits are incredibly grainy, but the picture clears up fine afterwards. Colors are fairly vibrant, including beautiful jungle foliage with potent greens and browns, while skin tones appear mostly natural. Black levels aren’t thoroughly deep in all shots but shadow detail is prevalent while contrast levels reveal minor density issues from time to time. It’s also a stable presentation with only occasional scratches and speckling. The audio for the film is presented on an English 2.0 mono LPCM track with optional English subtitles (although some of the Japanese and Mandarin language portions aren’t properly subtitled). Despite the newfound clarity thanks to a lossless audio track, the film’s audio is fairly flat and muddled, something inherent that even higher quality can’t fix. Dialogue is rendered well, but the film’s awful score overrides much of the track at inopportune times (which is most of the time). Otherwise, the audio is well represented. The only extras provided are those carried over from the film’s previous DVD and Blu-ray releases, which include The Z Men Debriefed, a 25-minute featurette in SD containing interviews with executive producer John McCallum and actors John Waters and Chris Haywood; the film’s original theatrical trailer in HD; and an image gallery with 52 images.
For fans of Attack Force Z who have expressed their displeasure for the film’s previous Blu-ray from nearly eight years ago, their patience is rewarded with this release. It looks and sounds better than it ever has before, despite its innately poorer qualities, and the extras offer some decent value. It would have been quite a feat to pull off acquiring interviews with the film’s two main stars, but both of them have pretty much written the film off, sad to say. Regardless, this a fine Blu-ray release from Umbrella Entertainment and MVD Visual and is worth your time.
- Tim Salmons