Four Assassins (2012)

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Released 21-Mar-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Audio Commentary-Director Stanley J. Orzel and actor Will Lee
Featurette-Making Of-The Making Of Featurette (44:09)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind the Scenes Footage (10:49)
Deleted Scenes-Deleted Scene (0:54)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 83:32 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Stanley J. Orzel
Studio
Distributor
Accent Film Entertainment Starring Stanley J. Orzel
Will Yun Lee
Miguel Ferrer
Emilie Guillot
Mercedes Renard
Hiro Hayama
Paul Sheehan
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Andre Matthias


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

"It’s a matter of love and death"

     Four professional killers meet in a Hong Kong hotel room to work out what went wrong in a recent hit. They are Marcus (Will Yun Lee), the man who did the job, Cordelia (Mercedes Renard), who had had a relationship with Marcus that went bad, Chase (Oliver Williams), an outsider and loose cannon, and Eli (Miguel Ferrer), an older man who had been mentor to Marcus and Cordelia. Indeed, it is Eli who is controlling things for the unseen man who ordered the hit; it seems that Marcus had been contracted to kill a couple, but that for some reason he had not killed the woman. Now the man who ordered the killing wants to know where the woman is, and the other three are there to get the information from Marcus. Over the course of a couple of hours they eat, drink, review their past lives and relationships and try to induce Marcus to tell what happened during the failed hit. All know that this must end in death, the question is whose?

     For much of the running time, Four Assassins is set in one room but this does not become an issue as the film opens out on a number of occasions as the four relive past jobs, some successful, others less so. As well, the set decoration of the room looks great, with colourful lighting and artifacts to keep up the interest levels. Writer / director Stanley J. Orzel, whose first feature this is, maintains the tensions reasonably well, using a ticking clock to accentuate the pressure of time Eli is under. Indeed, mostly TV actor Miguel Ferrer as Eli adds a gravitas and stillness to the character that is very good. Will Yun Lee as Marcus is also OK but the other two leads are less successful; Mercedes Renard does not come close to being convincing as a professional killer while Oliver Williams is totally one-dimensional. But that is probably not the actor’s fault as the dialogue is perhaps the weakest part of the film.

     Four Assassins includes a lot of clunky dialogue; I suppose it was intended to be snappy or witty but it does not work and the film is not as smart and clever as it thinks it is. The voiceover narration starts with “I was never afraid of death; after all it lasts forever” which sets the tone. Other lines include “suffering makes life seem ultimately worthwhile” and “you’re just a corpse waiting to die”. This dialogue does tend to undermine the development of the characters, which is primarily what Four Assassins is about although the interspersed action scenes are good. They are sudden, energetic and have a high impact although as they are filmed in close with quick intercutting it is sometimes hard to see what is going on.

     Four Assassins has an interesting idea and the set looks great. The film builds tension nicely and delivers some energetic action sequences. It is probably not as smart and clever as it thinks it is, and the dialogue is chunky, but this low budget film holds the interest and throws in a couple of reasonable twists.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Four Assassins is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     Four Assassins is a low budget independent film shot using digital cameras. The print is sharp and detail fine, showing off the set decoration to good effect and with good definition of faces in close-up. Colours are bright and have that digital sheeny look, while skin tones in interiors have that unnatural yellowy tinge. Establishing shots of Hong Kong are really the only night shots and here blacks are good and shadow detail fine. Brightness and contrast are consistent.

     The print shows occasional motion blur but nothing serious. There are no marks or other obvious artefacts.

     There are no subtitles.

     A good print for a low budget film.

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

Audio

     Audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 384 Kbps.

     Dialogue is mostly clear although there are a couple of instances when it can be hard to hear. This is not a film requiring a lot of surround activity; mostly the surrounds carried music. The fights when they occurred were loud with nice crashes, mostly from the front speakers, and there were occasional directional effects, such as a ticking clock. For some effects the sub-woofer seemed to add too much bass, which did unbalance the mix. This was only on a few occasions; otherwise it provided acceptable support for music and fight effects.

     The original music by Andre Matthias was interesting and effective. But again the filmmaker, to my mind, tried to be too clever by using the Guy Lombardo song Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think) in a few sequences. In the commentary the director mentions it was his idea; to me it just felt cute and jarring.

     Lip synchronisation is fine.

     The audio track did what was required.

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

Extras

Trailers

     On start-up there were trailers for Hello I Must Be Going, Heathens and Thieves, Forget Me Not, Extracted and (Privacy), that collectively run 10:00. A total of 30 trailers of Accent Film Entertainment releases can be selected from the menu - some, but not all, of the start-up trailers are repeated- and we do get a trailer for Four Assassins included. There is a “play all” option.

Cast and Crew Commentary

     Director Stanley J. Orzel and actor Will Lee sit together and chat freely about their film. They talk about the influence of Wu Xia cinema, changes made during editing including a changed opening and the voice-over, the location, the Hong Kong crew, action sequences and a variety of other things. It is interesting and worth a listen however there are a lot of silences during the commentary which are more obvious than normal as the film audio doesn’t play under the commentary! The original title for the film was Far Away Eyes and this is how they refer to the film.

The Making Of Featurette (44:09)

     This is a video diary that starts with the blessing ceremony, goes into shooting scenes and just stops abruptly, without credits. Rough on set sound (which sometimes disappears entirely) and video, there are no captions and no linking narration. It is interesting for a while to look at how a small film is shot and the fights choreographed and rehearsed by the Hong Kong crew, but it could have been shorter to hold interest better.

Behind the Scenes Footage (10:49)

     Subtitled ‘A Fateful Meeting: Looking at “Four Assassins”’ this is half an EPK and includes behind the scenes footage, film footage and interview grabs with actors Will Yun Lee, Miguel Ferrer and Mercedes Renard. There is also a look at the set with before and after pictures, which is interesting, and developing the fight scenes. Worth watching once.

Deleted Scene (0:54)

     Titled “The Awkward Moment”, a caption says that they were required by contract to have a deleted scene, so they shot 50 seconds of the actors sitting around doing nothing.

R4 vs R1

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

     The Region 1 US release, listed as 4 Assassins has similar specifications, but misses out on the Audio Commentary, extensive “Making of” and “deleted scene”. It has only the short featurette and trailer. A Region 2 UK version is available, but I am unable to find out any extras or specifications. It is unlikely to have more than our Region All version, so buy locally.

Summary

     Four Assassins is probably not as smart and clever as it thinks it is, and the dialogue is clunky, but this low budget film holds the interest and throws in a couple of reasonable twists.

     The video and audio are fine. The extras are surprisingly extensive for a low budget independent film and are mostly worthwhile.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
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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