Red Corner

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Details At A Glance

Category Thriller Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1, 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0
Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Jon Avnet (Director)
Running Time 117:16 minutes Other Extras Booklet
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (69:47)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Jon Avnet

Warner Home Video
Starring Richard Gere
Bai Ling
Bradley Whitford
RRP $34.95 Music Thomas Newman

Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English 
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Jack Moore (Richard Gere) is a successful lawyer, who has travelled to Beijing to finalize a major broadcasting deal. Like any reasonably good looking single guy, Jack checks out the night scene with a Chinese colleague, meeting up with and taking back to his apartment a top model, Hong Ling (Jessey Meng). Only problem is that next morning, the model (who is the daughter of a high ranking official) is dead and Jack is dragged out of his bed as the murderer. Jack then gets a very rough introduction to justice, Chinese style and is dismayed when his court appointed lawyer Shen Yuelin (Bai Ling) appears less a defender and more an accuser. However, by shear persistence Shen Yuelin overcomes her devotion to the Chinese way and starts to see the truth about the matter, leading to a climatic court battle to clear Jack's name.

    Having now seen the film, it is easy to understand why the Chinese were very "offended" by the film. This does not flatter the Chinese justice system in any way, and it seems the producers and director went to some lengths to ensure a high degree of authenticity. Of course, the Chinese government was even more mortified by the fact that Richard Gere starred in the film, as he is decidedly a "persona non grata" in China, thanks to his avowed opposition to the Chinese invasion and occupation of Tibet and his avowed support of the Dalai Lama. Quite an engrossing film, if not necessarily the stuff of great entertainment, this is a very nicely crafted story by Robert King well brought to life by Richard Gere and Bai Ling; indeed on this performance I would suggest that Bai Ling deserves much more exposure in Western film than she currently has had. The support cast, including many Chinese actors, is no less impressive and this really is an excellent production. I especially liked the slightly different ending: nice to see a cliché not used for once.

    Having never been to Beijing, I do not know how accurate a portrayal has been made of the city, but it would seem that despite no officially sanctioned photography, a nice blending of actual photography and computer graphics has resulted in a nicely authentic feel to the production. This was immensely helped by the Chinese cast members input too, judging by the commentary by director Jon Avnet.

Transfer Quality


    In general this is a fine transfer, let down badly by one especially noticeable glitch and some rather intrusive film artefacts.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. The packaging incorrectly states this to be a 2.35:1 transfer.

    The transfer in general is quite sharp and well defined, although shadow detail at times I felt should have been better. However, it would seem that the director was trying to set a distinct style in certain scenes, which may account for some slightly diminished shadow detail. The director's commentary certainly makes reference on several occasions to the lighting effects used.

    Colours are nicely vibrant and come across very convincingly indeed. There was no hint of oversaturation or bleed at all, and this was a very consistent transfer as far as colour is concerned. Some use was made of black and white for flashback scenes, and this was very nicely done.

    The bad glitch in the transfer comes at 35:56 and I do not know if this is an MPEG artefact or a video artefact. There is a slight pause in the transfer accompanied by a picture break up, which does not look like pixelization (a la The Fugitive) but rather like an especially bad edit. Whatever it is, it is most distracting and frankly I am surprised that it was allowed past quality control. Apart from that, there were no MPEG artefacts noted nor any significant video artefacts. Film artefacts were a different matter however, with some quite noticeable marks in the transfer early on and again at about 80:40 when what appears to be a white, squarish mark is seen on the right hand side of the picture. In my view this is a flawed transfer that may cause some people concern; certainly I am less than impressed by the problems in the transfer.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change coming at 69:47; this is a very well placed change, which is barely noticeable in the flow of the film. Indeed, it was only by noting the brief 'search' message on my player that I realized the layer change was occurring.


    There are no concerns with the audio transfer however, which is very good indeed.

    Typically for MGM discs, there is only the single soundtrack on the disc, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is however also an English Audio Commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to both the soundtrack and the audio commentary.

    Dialogue was at times a little difficult to hear in the soundtrack, a combination of hushed voices and two people - the orator and the translator - speaking at once. I found myself adjusting the volume control throughout the film to try and hear the soundtrack, so you may be advised to set your volume control a little higher than normal for this one. There were no problems with the audio commentary track.

    There did not appear to be any audio sync problems with the soundtrack.

    The music score comes from Thomas Newman and it is a very oriental sounding score that complements the on screen action very well. This is probably the best soundtrack that I heard from Thomas Newman, who has turned up on a few discs in my collection recently. The use of percussion and light wind instruments was especially well done in the soundtrack.

    The surround channels were quite well balanced and nicely detailed throughout. The rear channels were not overused, but did provide some very complementary background to the front channels. I have no complaints with the sound picture created at all, with some imaginative use of unusual tonal levels especially during the scenes in the interview room.

    There was not an especially large amount of action thrown at the bass channel, but when used it was quite effective.


    A reasonable collection of extras is on hand for this disc.


    The menu is themed nicely to the film, in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

Director's Commentary - Jon Avnet (Director)

    This commentary features Jon Avnet on his own, talking over a very subdued film soundtrack. Whilst he is not the most engaging personality, I found the commentary generally interesting and informative; it filled in a lot of background information as to how or why certain things were done. There are a few short gaps during the commentary, especially later in the film, but nothing that drags on too long, even though my tolerance for these commentaries is much lower than others.


    This is the typical booklet that comes with MGM DVDs, containing extensive production notes. Whilst these sometimes duplicate items from the audio commentary, it is a nice little addition that I would like to see adopted by more companies.

R4 vs R1

    It would appear that there is no difference between the Region 1 and Region 4 releases, therefore there is no reason to prefer one over the other, except for the video transfer issues.


    I was not looking forward to Red Corner because others had some negative comments to make about it. In the end I quite enjoyed the film, although it is unlikely to be a film that will get frequent repeated viewings.

    The overall video quality is very good, but marred by some distracting problems.

    The overall summary audio quality is very good.

    A decent collection of extras rounds out the package.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris
23rd October 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-515; S-video output
Display Sony Trinitron Wega 84cm
Audio Decoder Built in
Amplification Yamaha RXV-795
Speakers Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL