Wednesday, September 2, 2020

SPLIT SECOND (1992) (MVD Rewind Collection Blu-ray Review)


Label: MVD Rewind Collection
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 91 Minutes
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 

Director: Tony Maylam 
Cast: Rutger Hauer, Alastair Duncan, Kim Cattrall, Neil Duncan, Michael J. Pollard

Synopsis: In the year 2008, the cops are better armed than before, but nothing has prepared them for this. Swift, sharp-clawed and deadly, something moves among them on the streets, in the alleyways, on the rooftops, tearing out human hearts and devouring them. Maverick cop "Harley" Stone (Rutger Hauer) lost his partner to the beast, and now it looks like his girlfriend Michelle (Kim Cattrall) is next on the killer's list. Even in the future, there aren't guns big enough to stop the creature's deadly force, but Stone has no choice. Teamed with rookie detective Durkin (Alastair Duncan), Stone must stalk the edge of his own sanity if he is to destroy the rampaging Evil on the outside and banish the very real demons within . . . It could all be over in a SPLIT SECOND.

Set in the then far-flung future world of 2008 the genre mash-up Split Second (1990) stars Rutger Hauer (Bleeders) as a hard-boiled, short-tempered, cigar-chomping, sunglasses wearing Detective Harley Stone who is based in London, England where the effects of global warming and torrential rain continually flood the lower laying areas of the city. Stone is a burn-out who has seen gritty action in the worst shit-holes around the world, and he's been fired from them all. When we catch up to him in London he's still mentally scarred by the violent death of his former partner three years earlier. Now it seems his partner's seemingly inhuman killer has returned after a period of inactivity, his signature is the telltale ripping out of victim's hearts. 

The cynical Stone is a loose cannon prone to violent outbursts and not playing nice with others, and after an episode following the death of a woman at a dance club Stone is partnered with the nerdy Oxford-educated psychologist Dick Durkin (Neil Duncan, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), who has been tasked by the Chief with keeping an eye on Stone, which of course rubs the irritable detective the wrong way. What ensues is a buddy-cop flick along the lines of Lethal Weapon by way of Predator. That's right, I said Predator, because the killer in this genre blending flick is a black-skinned creature of some sort, though to be fair it is never explained to any satisfying degree what the fuck it is, it could be a creature, an alien or maybe even a dang demon. The look of the creature is cool even if it's only glimpsed in quickly edited snippets, I am assuming that budget limitations prevented this from getting any serious screen time. To my eyes it looks a lot like the Marvel Comics character Venom, a towering black-skinned figure with long taloned finger and a mouthful of glistening, razor sharp teeth, only instead of biting off heads it's ripping out hearts.

The chemistry between Stone and his new partner is fun, the film plays with a lot of the usual buddy-cop tropes we've seen in loads of action films during this era, with the guys initially mixing like battery acid and Evian water before bonding over their love of gigantic hand-cannons. The best parts of the film are seeing Hauer chew up the scenery, chugging down black coffee, blasting shit with his hand-cannon, and shoving a lot of people around. Sure, the characters are fairly one-dimensional but the chemistry between the cops is fun stuff, they're almost lampooning the usual buddy-cop tropes but not adding anything to them either, and then you throw on top of that the sci-fi elements like Stone's psychic connection to the creature and killer's penchant for leaving behind blood scrawled astrology signs, and it's just a damn good time. 

Also appearing in the flick is sexy Kim Cattrall (Big Trouble in Little China) as as Stone's love interest,  Pete Postlethwaite (Alien 3) as an adversarial cop with a grudge against Stone, and  Michael J. Pollard (Scrooged) as a demented subway dwelling rat-catcher. It's definitely got a fun cast of characters which helps keep the sort of sketchy plot moving forward, it might be silly but it is never a dull watch.  Amidst the genre blending it also crowbars in environmental message into this sci-fi buddy-cop film, establishing from the beginning text crawl that global warming is the reason that the city is seasonally flooded, with all the alleys submerged in a foot of water. All the water  is probably the reason I thought the film was set in Venice, Italy when I first saw it. The fun flick has got plenty of action, violence and gore, with the scenes of bloody corpses with their hearts ripped being quite splashy in their use of the red stuff. The downside is that we don't get a lot of scenes of the creature actually ripping the hearts out, we just see the carnage it has left behind. 

Split Second is a ton of fun, it has plenty of shortcomings if you're looking to pick it apart, but it has enough gore, nudity and buddy-cop sci-fi action to keep any cult-film lover's blood flowing without overstaying it's welcome at a tidy ninety-one minutes long. 

Audio/Video: Split Second (1992) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from the MVD Entertainment Group via their cult cinema  imprint MVD Rewind Collection with a brand new 4K scan sourced from the 35mm internegative. The film is framed in the original 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p HD, and while the film is an advancement over the previous full-frame DVD - which is my only source for comparison for this review -  it's probably not gonna have the wow-factor you will be hoping for, so I suggest coming into this with tempered expectations. The source is in decent shape but it does have print damage and quite a few cigarette burns that pop-up throughout. Film grain is present but can appear uneven and a bit chunky at times, looking filmic but grindhouse vintage filmic. Pleasing fine detail comes through regularly but the image lacks the depth and clarity many will be expecting of a Blu-ray in this day and age with a touted new 4K scan. The black levels are solid but the whites can look a bit blown-out in certain scenes,  but the colors look good, particularity the the blue-tinting of the exterior night scenes. It's definitely not 1080p perfection but it is an advancement over my full-frame DVD.

Audio comes by way of an uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo track with optional English subtitles that is clean and well-balanced. The score from Stephen Parsons (Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf) & Francis Haines is well represented, and the overcooked audio effects are appropriate for a late-80's/early-90's action-film with the gun blasts being quite aggressive, with a more subtle recurring heartbeat motif that comes and goes throughout the film. I do think that a new 5.1 surround track would have been kind of cool, a lot of the film takes place in environments dripping with water and could have benefited from the expanded sound field, but the original stereo track works well and has some effective stereo panning effects. 

Onto the supplemental material I can easily say that this is the most packed set of extras I have seen from MVD yet, who partnered with UK distributor 101 Films to create the new extras. We begin with the longer running 96-minute Japanese cut of the film, which is sourced from a fullscreen VHS with burned in Japanese subtitles. It's a cool extra, the additional bits are largely dialogue and character bits that do not offer any additional glimpses of the elusive creature or gore though, so that's a bit disappointing. We also get a a brand new audio commentary by action film historian Mike Leeder and filmmaker Arne Venema who cover a lot of ground while also taking some fun shots at the lesser aspects of the film. 

New stuff continues with over 2-hours of interviews with Producer Laura Gregory & Actor Alastair (Neil) Duncan (27 min), Composer Stephen W. Parsons (22 min), Line Producer Laurie Borg (23 min), Creature Effects Designer Cliff Wallace (32 min) and Cinematographer Clive Tickner (19 min) that explore the many facets of the film. In addition we get over an hour of vintage features with the cast and crew, 5-min of deleted scenes from the Japanese VHS cut, a 2-min trailer, 13-min promotional TV spots,  a 3-min home video promo, and a selection of MVD trailers.

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring original movie poster and a new bad-ass illustration by The Dude Designs. The new illustration is also featured on the limited edition slipcover. Inside there is a collectible mini-poster featuring original VHS style artwork, which is cool but I wish the mini-poster were reversible with The Dude Designs illustration, I would have totally framed that! 

Special Features:
- High Definition (1080p) presentation of the main feature in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, newly scanned, restored and color graded in 4K from the 35MM internegative
- Audio: 2.0 LPCM Stereo
- English Subtitles
- NEW! Audio Commentary by action film historian Mike Leeder and filmmaker Arne Venema
- NEW! "Great Big Bloody Guns!" Producer Laura Gregory & Actor Alastair (Neil) Duncan on Split Second (27 min) HD
- NEW! "Call Me Mr. Snips!" An Interview with Composer Stephen W. Parsons (22 min) HD
- NEW! "Stay In Line!" An Interview with Line Producer Laurie Borg (23 min) HD
- NEW! "More Blood!" An Interview with Creature Effects Designer Cliff Wallace (32 min) HD
- NEW! "Shoot Everything!" An Interview with Cinematographer Clive Tickner (19 min) HD
- Original 1992 Split Second "Making of" featurette that includes interviews with stars Rutger Hauer, Kim Cattrall, Alastair (Neil) Duncan, Michael J. Pollard, Writer Gary Scott Thompson and more! (7 min) SD
- Original 1992 behind the scenes featurette with effects creator Stephen Norrington, cast and crew (54 min) SD
- Split Second Japanese Cut, full frame with burnt-in Japanese subtitles (96 min)
- Deleted Scenes from the Japanese Cut (English, burnt-in Japanese subtitles) (5 min) SD
- 7 Promotional TV Clips SD (13 min) SD
- U.S. VHS Home Video Promo (3 min) SD
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) SD
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Dude Designs created exclusively for this release
- Collectible Mini-Poster featuring original VHS style artwork

Sci-fi actioner Split Second (1992) finally has gotten a Blu-ray release here in the U.S. from MVD Rewind Collection, the HD image falls a bit below expectations but is still a  very nice upgrade, plus it's packed with some quality extras that get into the various incarnations of the film as well as why original director Tony Maylam (The Burning) left the project before it's completion.  A definite recommend for fans who love buddy cop flicks and sci-fi genre mash-ups, I would suggest a fun triple feature of alongside the kindred Predator 2 (1990) and I Come In Peace (1990). 

Order it from the good guys at Diabolik for a very reasonable $23.99:

More screenshots from the MVD Blu-ray: