Back in the Saddle

McBain was not the movie Simpsons writers used to form their action star parody character of the same name – that was 1988’s Bulletproof starring Gary Busey. This McBain bombed in theaters but a few months after The Simpsons debuted their character, and in a bizarre history, the movie McBain mirrors nearly everything in those animated clips.

Copious amounts of action put McBain’s body count near 250 or so. It’s absurd, with shots of soldiers waving their guns around, firing aimlessly, as if no choreography was performed. A late entry into the post-Vietnam PTSD genre, McBain even copies the similar Rambo sequels, one soldier asking when the war ends, “Did we win?”

McBain is potentially a satirical classic

Some 18 years after their service in Vietnam, Christopher Walken leads his troops to Colombia to take out a vicious dictator, but only after funding their non-government approved mission. Money is taken from corporate leaders and in a pure hyper-violence sequence, rolling through a drug den, guns blazing. Later, they confiscate planes to riff on Top Gun in one of the dullest aerial combat scenes ever committed to film.

Director James Glickenhaus was made for the late ‘80s/early ‘90s action genre, showing an appreciation for ludicrous amounts of bloodshed, as if a proto-Sam Peckinpah (but nowhere near that class). So enamored with brutality, Glickenhaus nearly sank Jackie Chan’s American career with The Protector. McBain didn’t do much for Walken either, but Walken and Chan both made it out unscathed.

For Walken, it’s a goofy, almost satirical take on this distinctly western view of Vietnam and trauma. With but a few winks toward the camera in acknowledgment, McBain is potentially a satirical classic, but instead plays the image of Walken dropping from a ceiling to kill a political leader as legitimate. Arguably, that’s funnier, but it’s on the audience to figure that out. Most probably won’t.

Puffed up with American symbology (Walken fishing with the Statue of Liberty behind him) and co-star Maria Conchita Alonso adding it’s, “the best country in the world,” McBain is flush with such ideology. It’s up to the veterans to save Colombia when the U.S. President refuses to intervene, putting everything on the citizens to right this South American wrong. The near 40+ year-old vets win, because of course they do, gunning down soldiers seemingly by looking in their direction. Yes, it’s hilarious, if in the proper mindset.


A splendid new restoration was clearly done at high resolution, bringing judicious color saturation to McBain. From soldier uniforms, flags, and jungle vibrancy, the vividness is a powerful asset.

That, in conjunction with the visible detail, makes for a lavish Blu-ray presentation. Texture is a constant, even at mid-range. Sharpness only wavers due to the original cinematography. Synapse’s encoding handles a mild grain structure with ease.

At its peak, contrast carries bite. Black levels dip low, the slightest crush a minor complaint. McBain sports plentiful depth.


A new 5.1 DTS-HD mix is featured on this disc, along with the original stereo track as well. It’s a robust surround track, able to convincingly convey thick jungle ambiance as well as rockets and bullets sweeping around the soundstage. While fidelity reveals its age, it’s a minor lapse in clarity.

Most of the age shows in the lack of low-end, and if featured, it’s puffy, loose, and unconvincing. If anything, it’s a distraction rather than helping McBain feel full. There stereo track is a better option if the bass causes issues.


Director James Glickenhaus and historian Chris Poggiali offer a commentary as the main bonus, followed by a trailer.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Hilariously overdone, McBain’s knock-off status isn’t well hidden, but that’s what makes it tolerable.

User Review
4 (2 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 40 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray:

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