Hard Target (1993) | 4K Blu-ray Review


Kino Lorber has been pushing the 4K format a lot lately, licensing a bunch of different properties from various studios. One to make the list and a welcome addition for a lot of fans was John Woo’s Hard Target starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. They definitely put some effort in on this remaster, but let’s see if it’s really that much better than the older Blu-ray.


If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Buy it here!


NOTE: The first pressing of the 4K disc had an error in the primary audio track (see Audio section). If you have that disc in hand, or receive it from someone reselling it, you can request your replacement copy here: https://www.kinolorber.com/hard-target-4k-disc-replacement

Hard Target 4K Blu-ray cover art

Tech Specs:

Format(s):UltraHD/4K Blu-ray (BD-100)
Blu-ray (BD-50)
Released By:Kino Lorber
Release Date:December 7th, 2021
(corrected version reissued on February 22nd, 2022)
Video Format / Codec:4K: H.265 (HEVC)
BR: MPEG-4 (AVC)
Resolution:4K: Native 4K, 2160/24p
BR: Full HD, 1080/24p
Digital Intermediate (DI):4K (from negatives)
High-Dynamic Range (HDR):Dolby Vision (FEL), HDR10
Aspect Ratio:1.85:1
Audio Format(s):English (4K/BR):
DTS-HD MA 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
DTS-HD MA 2.0 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Subtitles:English SDH
Packaging:Dual-disc snapcase with slipcover*

*Slipcover may be limited to initial pressings
Region Coding:4K: Region-free
BR: Region A (locked)

Video Review:

Hard Target makes its way onto the premium format with a full 4K remaster from the original camera negatives. This is the 100-minute international cut of the film, and all 100 minutes of it looks very good. The remaster work here is not perfect as there were some signs of specks and marks from a little damage, the vast majority of the runtime looks fantastic. Detail is noticeably improved over past Blu-ray releases with skin textures, that glorious hair and practical effects and props all looking very detailed and refined. Close-ups reveal more fine wrinkles and blemishes, environments reveal a lot more to take in with the eyes and overall it was definitely a top quality job in extracting as much as they could out of those aging stocks. There were a few moments of softness, but it does appear to be in the old release as well so I’m likely to believe it is from capture. 

Film grain is present in the presentation and it mostly looks really good, natural and organic. During some of the many slow-motion sequences it does get raised just a bit, but this is more a function of the process and less of the transfer.

On the color front, the film is noticeably warmer and richer than past releases as well. All of the primaries get a pop with skin tones looking healthier, although sometimes pushing towards the end of too pink, greens and blues each get elevated and the overall tone of the grade has a much livelier appearance without looking oversaturated. Fire appears more orange than white, and reveals a myriad of hot tones throughout, while the green of foliage looks more alive. On the dynamic range side of things, the Dolby Vision handles the whites and blacks with aplomb. The overall movie is brighter, but more so of how I would expect as that original Universal release was fairly dark and dynamically compressed at times resulting in a loss of detail. This release balances it all very well with shadows remaining detailed but dark, and highlights getting nice and bright without (much) blowout. The specular highlights definitely are brighter and much more realistic than the ones in the past release which always seemed a bit muted to me.

The included Blu-ray comes from the same remaster and also looks very good. It cannot compete with its higher resolution brother, but it absolutely bests the older 2015 release from Universal.

Video Score (4K): 4.5 / 5 (Excellent)

Video Score (BR): 4.2 / 5 (Very Good)



Comparisons:

Audio Review:

The original pressing of this release that came out at the end of 2021 did have a flaw in the 5.1 surround mix where the left and right channels effects were reversed. The mix is still fairly front heavy so it was not immediately obvious, but there were definitely some scenes where it would jump out. Thankfully Kino Lorber issued a replacement program and new replacement discs are hitting mailboxes (including mine), and the release will be back on the shelves soon.

But now that I have that disc I can give it a more proper review. The 5.1 mix is dynamic, clear and relatively free of any pops and crackles. As noted, it is more front forward than I would have hoped, but we do still get some good life out of the surrounds that help keep you more immersed in the action. The bass levels are strong and authoritative when they need to be, but it’s not quite at sub-busting levels. This release also includes a 2.0 mix, and I have to say, it’s fairly weak. It sounds a bit compressed, and overall fairly flat, so I’ll likely be keeping the 5.1 on as my default track.

I do wish they considered giving this an upgraded audio mix in either Atmos, or DTS:X, but am satisfied with the existing 5.1 mix that we have on board.

Audio Score (4K/BR): 4.0 / 5 (Good)

Special Features and Packaging:

Unlike past Blu-ray releases, we actually received some extras on this disc and they are pretty solid. We have an audio commentary track from two film historians which is interesting and engaging, as well as a series of interviews and trailers. It definitely was a welcome addition to this release and I’m glad Kino was able to toss fans some added love by including them.

For packaging, this is very standard issue Kino Lorber. We have some bright movie art on the slipcover and case and two “KL” discs on the inside. We knew what to expect from Kino on this front. It’s not great, but not bad either and they are definitely consistent.

Features Score: 3.2 / 5 (Above Average)

Buy/Upgrade-worthiness:

If you are a fan of John Woo or JCVD, then you definitely want this version of Hard Target on your shelf. It’s not perfect, but it definitely elevates the enjoyment of this film. It does carry a bit of a higher price sitting around $28 right now on pre-order of the newly issued pressing, but I would expect it to come down, or you snag it on one of Kino Lorber’s sales.

Buy/Upgrade Recommendation: YES!

If after checking out the review, you decide to pick it up, you can find it here*: Buy it here!

Summary and Overall Scores:

I can only hope we get other 4K releases from John Woo, or even those of JCVD movies. These are fun movies to dive into and this release gave this film the added love it deserved. Overall I’m pleased to have this in my collection.

Experience Score**: 4.2 / 5  (Very Good)

** Experience score does not take into account the quality of the film itself, just the technical presentation, packaging and included features.

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