Eric Roberts Goes To War

The Asylum has churned out hundreds of serviceable, if disposable, indie movies over the last two decades for television and screen. More known for their cheap genre schlock like the infamous Sharknado franchise and SYFY’s Z Nation, the production company dips their toes into serious World War II action with Assault on Hill 400. The predictable combat movie could be called a poor or possibly broke man’s Saving Private Ryan, noble in its intentions but ultimately limited by design.

A trio of names receive top billing on the movie’s cover though their actual involvement varies: William Baldwin (Sliver), the always interesting Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs), and the versatile Eric Roberts. Baldwin and Madsen barely contribute, probably not taking much more than a day or two of actual filming for their roles. They play a pair of Army generals, chewing the scenery like nobody’s business in their limited screen time.

Assault on Hill 400 is exactly what The Asylum intended the war movie to be – a watchable flick made on a limited budget

Eric Roberts has a legitimate supporting role, an embedded Army photographer whose years of experience on the battlefield helps his American unit despite not carrying a rifle. He’s not the actual lead but a recurring element which the narrative heavily features.

Based on true events, a plucky Army unit overcomes all odds in a necessary step for the Allied invasion of Germany. On November 14, 1944, the 2nd Ranger Battalion is tasked with laying siege to the German town of Bergstein and securing Hill 400. They are ordered to take Hill 400 at any costs, a valuable strategic position currently held by the Third Reich’s artillery units.

The Asylum veteran Christopher Ray (Attack of the Meth Gator) directs the heroic action tale. There are a few wrinkles in the screenplay but what Assault on Hill 400 delivers is workman-like drama and bursts of uninspired battles. It’s mostly paint-by-numbers dialogue with maybe a small exception for Eric Roberts’ grizzled veteran photographer. Roberts is probably too old for the role, which they help hide with some curious color grading choices.

The cast who don’t receive prominent billing actually carry most of the film. Actors Josh Nuncio and Rich Luonello play the actual leaders of the troops, tasked with taking the unit through forests and farm land as they encounter Nazi forces. It’s a rag-tag group of American soldiers who must save the day. There’s a ham-handed attempt at romance when a German nurse caring for the wounded meets our boys.

Assault on Hill 400 is exactly what The Asylum intended the war movie to be – a watchable flick made on a limited budget. It rarely surpasses those expectations and frankly there isn’t much here you haven’t seen from a dozen other war movies. Token players like William Baldwin and Michael Madsen are the bait, hoping unsuspecting audiences will mistakenly think this is a big Hollywood blockbuster when they see those names.

Video

Assault on Hill 400 arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of independent label Shout Studios in a faithful 1080p rendition of the movie’s presumed 2K digital intermediate. The 2.39:1 presentation exudes razor-sharp definition from a nigh flawless RED camera capture. The result is glossy picture quality, often sterile in tone with select scenes graded for darker and more muted circumstances. This isn’t Oscar-winning cinematography but a mostly pedestrian effort filmed on an indie budget.

The main feature runs 86 minutes on a BD-50, encoded in average AVC transparency. Assault on Hill 400’s crisp digital filmmaking mostly resembles standards set by current television productions. The Asylum has been working with RED cameras on many films for years, so expect similar video quality to their earlier releases.

Audio

5.1 DTS-HD MA audio pushes the war movie’s discrete sound effects around the battlefield with aggression. Nicely immersive with occasional bursts of subwoofer power, the crisp soundstage always retains intelligible dialogue. Assault on Hill 400 is more drama than action, so the surround activity greatly depends on several key scenes. The score is gently spread around the rear, building atmosphere.

The Asylum’s productions tend to punch above their budget in terms of sound design. While Assault on Hill 400’s mix isn’t quite on par with Hollywood’s WWII blockbuster fare, there’s enough action and separation for a rousing home theater experience.

Optional English subtitles always play inside the scope presentation and in a white font. Secondary 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio in stereo is offered.

Extras

Shout Studios issues Assault on Hill 400 as a Region A Blu-ray. Early pressings include a slipcover. Bonus features are scant, a missed opportunity considering the cast.

Assault on Hill 400 Trailer (01:40 in HD)

Image Gallery (03:04 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Assault on Hill 400
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Indie production company The Asylum churn out a mostly disposable WWII combat flick with Eric Roberts in tow

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One thought on "Assault on Hill 400 Blu-ray Review"

  1. Kevin Baker says:

    As my late Father-in-Law fought in 2d Ranger Bn at Hill 400, I was excited to see what they had to show. Disappointing would be far too good of an adjective for the movie. The story did not even come close to what actually happened, and had some glaring and insulting historic technical errors – one was a 3-star general wearing a Ranger patch … the highest Ranger at the operational level was Lt. Col. James Rudder, and although he planned the entire operation, he was not present for the battle – that task fell to Major Williams. There were no General officers in the Rangers – ever. But the most egregious error was when some Rangers sent a message to a German officer who was requesting their surrender (it never happened – they were too busy in hand-to-hand combat with their numbers dwindling by the hour at the top of the hill) – the movie-makers ignorantly (or purposefully) mistook what happened at Bastogne much later in December and instead sent a message back to the Germans with a map that had “Malmedy” written in red ink, supposedly to tell Germans they would never surrender. The worst part of this is that The Malmedy Massacre also took place ten days after the Hill 400 action by the Rangers ended – so the worst part of this is that they not only dishonored the Rangers they were supposedly honoring with this movie, but they also dishonored the men who were massacred by the Waffen-SS outside of Malmedy on 17 December 1944. Disgraceful.

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