DirectorRichard C. Sarafian
Release Date(s)1986 (May 25, 2021)
Studio(s)Scotti Brothers Pictures (Scorpion Releasing/Kino Lorber)
- Film/Program Grade: C
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: D
Action films are a Hollywood staple and have been for years. With a solid script, they can result in excitement, drama, and suspense. But when action takes precedence over story, things can go awry and the film becomes a loud, non-stop series of violent set pieces strung together by a thin, tired plot.
Eye of the Tiger stars Gary Busey as decorated Vietnam vet Buck Matthews, who has just returned to his home town following a prison term for a crime he didn’t commit. All he wants is to resume a normal life with his wife, Christie (Denise Galik), and their young daughter, Jennifer (Judith Barsi). Christie wants to move so the family can start a new life where Buck doesn’t have “ex-con” written all over him. But Buck insists on staying, even though the town is under siege by a violent motorcycle gang of drug dealers, headed by Blade (William Smith). As the gang terrorizes the townsfolk, the corrupt sheriff (Seymour Cassel) looks the other way.
When Buck saves a woman from being raped by gang members, he and his family are targeted. His home is destroyed, his wife is killed, and Jennifer is traumatized. Enlisting the help of a fellow former prison inmate and war buddy (Yaphet Kotto), Buck sets out to hunt down the bikers and not stop until all are either dead or vanquished.
Eye of the Tiger tries to be a revenge thriller like Death Wish or Taken, but the script by Michael Montgomery follows a predictable trajectory and lacks originality and style. Director Richard Sarafian wastes little time getting to the action, providing just enough information about Buck to move the plot forward.
Buck hardly has time to grieve after his wife’s death before he starts organizing a strategy to confront the bikers. Resolute, seeming to care little for his own safety, he masterminds a plan that involves a pick-up truck armed with mortars and machine guns, lethal booby traps, lots of explosions, and daredevil stunts. With the exception of Blade, the faces of the gang remain covered by helmets and are never seen. As the black-clad bikers tear through the streets, the townspeople look on with complacency rather than fear. The climax, Buck’s one-on-one confrontation with Blade, is an anticlimactic slugfest in the desert.
Gary Busey is not convincing as an action hero. He uses a dour expression as his primary acting tool to convey his intense dedication to protect “his” town. There are many holes in the plot. If the town sheriff is corrupt, why not seek help from other sources such as neighboring police forces or the FBI? Audiences will suspend disbelief if the script creates solid characters with whom they can identify, but since Buck is merely the means to concoct a vigilante’s killing spree, the move’s intention is clear—plenty of violent action and little else.
Featuring 1080p resolution, Eye of the Tiger is presented by Scorpion Releasing in the widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The new master is derived from a 2K scan of the interpositive. The print is clean, with no dirt specks, emulsion marks, scratches, or other debris. Clarity is sharp for the most part. In scenes when motorcycles churn up dust, the image is diffused by smoke and dirt particles in the air. Most of the action takes place outdoors in bright sunlight. Director of photography Peter Lyons Collister relies a lot on natural light, giving the outdoor scenes a bland, flat look. In the night scenes, the bikers’ black outfits often blend into the darkness, giving them an air of mystery.
The soundtrack is English 2.0 DTS-High Definition MA. Optional subtitles are included in English SDH. The stereo is best when vehicles are in motion, their movement corresponding to sound shifting from right to left channels or left to right channels. Dialogue is clear throughout. The final confrontation between Buck and the bikers contains plenty of sweetened sound effects, such as shotgun blasts, machine guns, explosions, a screeching truck bouncing over hills, multiple motorcycle engines, and grunts from bikers. The sound effects of the fist fight between Buck and Blade consist of grunts and pummeling noises. The song Eye of the Tiger by Survivor is played repeatedly throughout the film.
The only bonus materials on this R-rated Blu-ray release are a series of trailers.
Trailers – Seven theatrical trailers are included: Eye of the Tiger, Trackdown, Barbarosa, The Barbarians, King of the Mountain, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, and Fritz the Cat.
If you love action, you might enjoy Eye of the Tiger, but if you crave a decent plot as well, look elsewhere. It never quite achieves the status of “so bad it’s good,” but genre buffs might excuse the shallow story because of all the cinematic mayhem.
- Dennis Seuling