Blu-ray Review: Bat 21

Released in 1988, Bat 21 (stylized as “Bat*21”) is based on the true story of Lt. Col. Iceal “Ham” Hambleton, a weapons countermeasure expert shot down in the jungles of Vietnam while taking part in a recon mission. Just when he’s about to be saved, something happens to abort the rescue attempt–more than once. Stranded with a survival kit, pistol, and radio, Hambleton must persevere, and because he has access to high-level secrets, his rescue is very important to the Air Force.

An intelligent, career military man Hambleton (Gene Hackman, The French Connection), has no combat experience. A reconnaissance expert, when reports of a major troop movement along a jungle highway begin coming in, he decides to ride along on a surveillance flight to check things out. When the plane is shot down, Hambleton is the only survivor. Bad weather aside, complicating Hambleton’s rescue is the increased activity of Viet Cong; if he doesn’t get out of there quickly, he could become a victim of friendly fire. Under this call sign “Bat 21,” Hambleton is connected to spotter pilot Capt. Bartholomew Clark (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon) aka “Bird Dog,” who becomes air support, guiding him to a safe spot for pick up and being a cheerleader of sorts, when they encounter unexpected difficulties.

Hambleton has spent his military career keeping war at arm’s length. Now, nearing retirement, he’s forced to confront his own mortality and his attitudes toward combat as he makes his first kill and witnesses hundreds of Viet Cong killed during a missile attack. Scared and out of his element, Hambleton doesn’t become a John Wayne type hero, but rather someone reliant on others. Capt. Clark becomes obsessed with getting Hambleton to safety, even if it means breaking a few rules along the way.

Director Peter Markle keeps the story moving a brisk pace, largely focusing on Hambleton’s confusion, but not afraid to rely on the firepower and explosions of War when appropriate. As Hambleton, Gene Hackman provides the perfect combination of fear, anger, and impatience as his rescue attempt is repeatedly postponed for one reason or another. Danny Glover’s Clark never meets Hambleton during the mission, but the two form an important bond based on mutual respect. When it comes to life and death situations, sometimes experience means more than rank. Colonel Hambleton, used to giving orders, must now take them from Capt. Clark. His life depends on it.

Kino Lorber’s 1080p transfer, framed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio is a fine transfer. While it certainly doesn’t reach reference levels, the cinematography is a highlight. Detail is satisfactory with nice texture regarding facial features. Skin tones appear natural. There’s a nice sense of dimension throughout. Colors are lively throughout, and the image doesn’t exhibit any major damage.

The 2.0 DTS-HD MA soundtrack delivers the dialogue without any major issues. Voices are clear throughout, even on radio frequency. Sound effects are well defined, and intensity is appropriate during violent moments. The score is mixed well to add to the overall ambience, but never overpower dialogue or scenes of dramatic importance. English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Peter Markle
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:24)

Movie title: Bat*21 (1988)

Director(s): Peter Markle

Actor(s): Gene Hackman , Danny Glover , Jerry Reed , David Marshall Grant, Clayton Rohner , Erich Anderson, ,

Genre: Drama, War

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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