Wu Xia (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 2-Dec-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 115:05 (Case: 126)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Chan
Studio
Distributor
Vendetta Films Starring Donnie Yen
Kara Hui
Wu Jiang
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Yu Kang
Xiao Ran Li
Wei Tang
Kenji Tanigaki
Yu Wang
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Kwong Wing Chan
Peter Kam
Chatchai Pongprapaphan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English (Burned In) Smoking Yes, pipes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

“No-one truly has free will”

     Rural China 1917. Two notorious bandits wanted for murder are killed in a fight by humble village papermaker Liu Jinxi (Donnie Yen) while attempting a violent robbery, much to the astonishment of the villagers, his wife Ayu (Tang Wei) and their two small sons. The local officials are pleased with the deaths of the bandits and commend Jinxi, but investigator Xu Baiju (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is puzzled: how could two trained martial artists and killers be bested by a lowly papermaker? As Baiju delves deeper into the mystery, he finds that Jinxi has only been in the village for 5 years and he begins to suspect that Jinxi has a past from which he is hiding, a past that is indeed about to catch up with him in the form of the feared 72 Demons cult and its deadly leader, The Master (Jimmy Wang Yu).

     Wu Xia (called The Swordsmen in the US) is directed by Peter Ho-Sun Chan, responsible for the excellent ensemble piece The Warlords (2007). Like that film, Wu Xia is not an outright martial arts extravaganza, although there are intense one on one action sequences from star and fight choreographer Donnie Yen. Instead Wu Xia is a character piece , a meditation upon choice and free will and a mystery as Baiju uses his detective skills to reconstruct the opening fight where the bandits are killed, revealing a very different scenario to that we had already seen. From there it is a cat and mouse game as Jinxi plays the innocent village family man, loved by his wife and children, respected by the village and the elders, who resent Baiju’s intrusion. This is clever filmmaking by Chan: we get vignettes of peaceful village life, the harvesting, papermaking, the festivals as well as Jinxi’s home life while Baiju and Jinxi feel each other out and the bloody past is gradually revealed.

     The film is well served by the leads. Takeshi Kaneshiro is not a martial artist as such but is a wonderful actor often used in action films, such as John Woo’s Red Cliff, as the intelligent heart of the story. Here again Kaneshiro does not disappoint, reconstructing the past piece by piece, but the revelation is Donnie Yen. He is a genuine martial arts superstar and has appeared over the last few years in films such as 14 Blades , Ip Man 2, Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (all 2010), and The Lost Bladesman (2011), not a bad portfolio. Lately Yen has been increasing his dramatic range and in Wu Xia he very successfully gives us the man behind the mask, the simple family man who has a history he is trying to forget. It is also fantastic to see martial arts legends Jimmy Wang Yu and Kara Hui. Wang Yu was the star of the original The One Armed Swordsman in 1967 while Hui came to prominence in My Young Aunty as a 21 year old in 1981. Both still look fabulous and still have a martial arts presence and good moves, although Wang Yu, now in his late 60s has, not surprisingly, put on a bit of weight!

     Indeed, in Wu Xia the parts are well written and everyone, Jinxi, Baiju and Ayu (a very good Tang Wei) has their history, and their memories. Do they have a choice and can atone for their pasts or, as Jinxi remarks, is it the case that “no-one truly has free will”.

     Part mystery, part meditation upon free will and values, part martial arts Wu Xia is a wonderful, intelligent film from Peter Ho-Sun Chan. Like the excellent Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, if you like to think as you enjoy highly skilled martial arts, this is the film for you. Highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Wu Xia is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, in 1080p, using the MPEG-AVC code.

     The print is a mixed bag. Some of the scenes have glorious colours and superb detail, such as the fight in the stream near the beginning where every drop of water spray in finely detailed. The outdoor scenes of rural and village life are likewise pristine. However, when the film moves indoors or at night it is another matter and some scenes, such as the one in the woods at night, look as if they were shot through a gauze, resulting in a brown hazy look with a subsequent loss of detail. Some blacks are excellent, others less so, and contrast can also vary. However, other than slight ghosting with movement, for example on the roof tiles during the chase, and some noise reduction artefacts and marks are absent.

     Burnt in English subtitles are in a clear white font and are easy to read. They are in American English and are grammatically correct but they contain one spelling error that I spotted: “stil” instead of “still” at 61:06.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The sole audio track is a Chinese DTS-HD MA 5.1, which I think was Mandarin, but I cannot be totally sure. I could appreciate feedback from a Chinese speaker on that one. What I can say is that, unlike the video, the audio is excellent.

     Dialogue is clear and centred. The surrounds are used constantly for music, weather effects such as rain and thunder, hooves and ambient sound. They are also active during action scenes with the resounding thud of punches and kicks while panning occurs as swords whoosh about the sound stage. However, the audio also makes good uses of silences. The subwoofer adds bass to music and effects. The sounds are well defined with good separation.

     The score is by Chan Kwong Wing, Peter Kam and Chatchai Pongpragaphan was unusual for a Chinese martial arts film. It does not sound Chinese. It is orchestral in places but in others electronic music takes over the stage. At times it was a little distracting, but mostly was very good.

     Lip synchronisation was occasionally off, but was not distracting.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Theatrical Trailer (1:00)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A Hong Kong Blu-ray seems the only one available elsewhere at present. It includes interviews with Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kanishiro, Tang Wei, Jimmy Wang Yu and Wa Ying Hung plus Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and Cantonese DTS-HD MA 7.1 plus Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1. There are English subtitles for the feature and extras, making this release the best available. However, if your system is not 7.1 capable, the interviews are not extensive so our local version is fine.

Summary

     Part mystery, part meditation upon choice and values, part martial arts Wu Xia is a wonderful, intelligent film; if you like to think while you enjoy highly skilled martial arts, this is the film for you.

     The video has some issues but the audio is excellent. The only extra is a trailer, but at least we have one.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, October 22, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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