• Black Eagle

    Released by: MVD Rewind
    Released on: February 27th, 2018.
    Director: Eric Karson
    Cast: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Sho Kosugi, Doran Clark, Bruce French, Kane Kosugi
    Year: 1988
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    The Movie:

    You’d assume an eighties action movie starring Sho Kosugi and Jean-Claude Van Damme from the man who directed Chuck Norris in The Octagon would be a sure-fire winner, right? Yeah... you know what they say about assuming.

    Black Eagle takes place after an American F-11 fighter jet is shot down. The fuselage lands somewhere in the Mediterranean Ocean off the coast of Malta and the American government intends to get it back at any cost. Why? Because in that plane was a new laser-tracking device important to national security. Clearly, they don’t want this to fall into the wrong hands. In order to make this happen, the C.I.A. brings in their best man, Ken Tani (Sho Kosugi). They send him to Malta, where his kids (played by Sho’s real kids, Kane and Shane Kosgu) have already been relocated (they think they’re on vacation) to meet up with firearms expert Patricia Parker (Doran Clark) and a priest/oceanology expert named Father Joseph Bedelia (Bruce French). It’s expected that with Bedelia’s help, Tani should be able to dive down to the ocean floor and get the laser-tracker.

    Of course, this being 1988, there are Russians afoot. Col. Vladimir Klimenko (Vladimir Skomarovsky) and his knife-throwing-splits-doing enforcer Andrei (Jean-Claude Van Damme) are skulking about trying to find the same prize… and before it’s all over a whole lot of people get kicked in the face and JCVD shows us his butt. This seemed to be a contractual obligation in eighties/early nineties Van Damme movies, which is fine – hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it – but it’s comical how often it happens in his filmography.

    Black Eagle should have been great. It’s not great. It’s not bad however. As far as eighties action movies go the plot plods along a bit too much in the middle stretch and at times, the story gets pretty lost in the shuffle, but it has good things going for it. The Maltese scenery is nice, it gives the movie a reasonably exotic flavor that goes a long way towards making it look like it had a bigger budget than it did. Sho and JCVD square off no less than three times, which is kind of cool, and in their final fight Sho is covered in black oil and the two of them fight in front of a whole bunch of fire. There are spin kicks galore, some cool ninja-esque behavior from Sho, and more wonderfully stilted acting than you can shake a stick act.

    Kosugi, despite the fact that he’s clearly struggling to deliver his lines in English, is just really likeable here. As hokey as it is to see him teaching his Heathcliffe comic reading kids the significance of the title and how to do backflips on a Mediterranean beach, it’s also kind of charming in an admittedly really dumb way. Van Damme doesn’t have a lot of dialogue here, he mostly stares at people and kicks them, but he does get to hop into the sack with a cute Russian girl and, as was mentioned, he does the splits and throws knives at things for fun. He’s got a serious aversion to shirts but he’s fun in the part. Supporting work from the mini-Kosugi’s is as goofy as you’d expect from child actors in an eighties action movie, but Doran Clark and Bruce French are okay in their supporting parts, doing the best that they can with some rather thin characters.

    This should have been better than it was, however. No one seems to bleed when they get shot, there are obvious budgetary limitations that take away from the action set pieces and the pacing could have been a lot better. Still, the cult of Sho should appreciate the fact that he gets a lot of screen time here and that he gets to play the good guy too.

    Note that this disc includes both the ninety-three-minute theatrical version and the one-hundred-and-four-minute uncut extended version of the film. Presentation quality is about the same on both cuts and while the extended cut does elaborate on a few plot points, the theatrical edition features better pacing.


    Black Eagle arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that has some problems. Minor to moderate print damage is a regular occurrence throughout the movie but for most of us, that’s not a deal breaker. What might put some off, however, is the obvious digital filtering and noise reduction that’s been applied here, sandblasting away much of the detail that should be there and resulting in some wonky ‘frozen grain’ effects. By this I mean that you’ll see what looks like grain in the backgrounds, but it doesn’t movie, while the characters in the frame do. On top of that, the colors are flat and bland, resulting in skintones that occasionally look grey. Black levels are off, the image is contrasty, and generally things just look really drab and unimpressive.

    The theatrical cut gets a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound remix and an LPCM 2.0 option. The 5.1 track spreads out the effects and score a bit but it’s not particularly engrossing. The English language LPCM 2.0 audio track on extended cut, which sounds awfully similar to the one on the theatrical cut, is decent enough, if unremarkable. Dialogue is a little flat and occasionally muffled but most of the time it’s problem free. No alternate language options or subtitles are offered on the disc.

    Where the disc does impress is in its supplemental package, which is comprised primarily of a selection of featurettes starting with Sho Kosugi: Martial Arts Legend, a twenty-one-minute interview with the actor shot in 2017. Here he speaks about his training and the early days of his martial arts career, moving to the United States and getting into the action movie game, working with his kids and plenty more. Up next is the thirty-six-minute Making Of Black Eagle which is made up of a selection of newly shot interviews with director/producer Eric Karson, writer Michael Gonzalez and cast members Sho Kosugi, Doran Clark, Shane Kosugi and Dorota Puzio. Lots of interesting stories here about what it was like on set, where some of the story ideas came from, the characters that populate the film, the movie’s production history and a lot more. In Tales Of Jean-Claude Van Damme those same participants spend about twenty-minutes talking about working alongside JCVD (who is really the only key player not interviewed on this disc, sadly) while in The Script And The Screenwriters we spend twenty-seven-minutes with Gonzales, Karson and a few others discussing different ideas and influences that wound up in the script, changes that were made during the different phases of production and more. Each of these pieces is nicely shot, well-edited and quite interesting.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are a few minutes of deleted scenes, an original trailer for the feature, bonus trailers for a few other MVD Rewind releases (including D.O.A. and Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes), menus and chapter selection.

    As this is a combo pack release we also get a DVD version of the movie included that contains the same extras as are found on the Blu-ray disc. As to the packaging, the clear Blu-ray keepcase fits nicely inside a cardboard slipcover made up to look like an old VHS rental box. Also included with the two discs inside the case is a collectible mini-poster replicating the film’s poster art.

    The Final Word:

    It’s a shame that Black Eagle doesn’t look better than it does here. Both Kosugi and Van Damme have made much better movies but this is a decent popcorn film with a few cool action set pieces. If the transfer on MVD’s Blu-ray release is lackluster, the disc does feature some pretty solid extras. Obviously it’s up to you to decide if that makes up for it.

    Click on the BlackEagle below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      All I remember is the Van Damme splits thing, but he used it to just sit around on a boat and throw knives. WTF.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Yeah, that scene is weird. But also kind of great.