True Legend (Su Qi-er) (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 5-Oct-2016

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-Making Of-x 5
Storyboards-Storyboard to Scene x 2
Music Video-"Axis of Envy" by the Shadow Bureau
Theatrical Trailer-International Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 114:49 (Case: 116)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Yuen Woo-Ping
Studio
Distributor
ViaVision Starring Vincent Zhao
Zhou Xun
Andy On
Jay Chou
Guo Xiaodong
Leung Ka Yan
Michelle Yeoh
David Carradine

Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Shigeru Umebayashi


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0
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
French
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In 1978 Jackie Chan made Drunken Master (Zui Quan), a hugely successful film which launched Jackie’s career. In Drunken Master he played the historical, and legendary, figure Wong Fei-hung as a young man who is taught the Drunken Fist kung fu style by a man called Beggar Su, who is also a historical / legendary figure. Drunken Master was directed by the prolific actor, director, action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, now well known in the west for providing the action sequences for The Matrix (1999) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) among others. So it is interesting that in 2010 Yuen turned full circle and directed True Legend (Su Qi-er), a film about the early life of Su Can, the man who became Beggar Su.

     1861. China is in chaos with the Qing Dynasty on the verge of collapse. Western powers ring the borders of China threatening war and internally local militias / bandits control swathes of the countryside. One such group has captured a Qing prince and are holding him in a mountain fortress but a rescue party lead by General Su (Vincent Zhao), Colonel Ma (Guo Xiaodong) and Su’s adopted brother Yuan (Andy On) scale the heights and storm the fort, rescuing him. The prince is very grateful and offers Su the governorship of a province but Su instead elects to retire from active service, marry Yuan’s sister Ying (Zhou Xun) and start his own martial arts school. So Yuan is made governor in his place.

     About five years later Su and Ying are married and have a young son, Feng. They are happy and are about to open a martial arts school when they hear that Yuan is coming to visit. We then learn that Su’s father, Su W***un (Leung Ka Yan), had 18 years previously killed Yuan and Ying’s father, who had learned the murderous Five Venom Fists technique and turned rogue, after which Su had adopted the two children. But now Yuan has also perfected the Five Venom Fists and wants revenge; he kills Su’s father and after a fight Su is badly wounded and thrown into a ranging torrent. Ying leaps into the torrent after her husband, leaving her son to be brought up by Yuan.

     Ying and Su survive, although Su has been badly injured. Ying drags Su into the mountains where they survive by Ying making wine. With the nursing of Ying and the help of Dr. Yu (Michelle Yeoh) years pass and Su gradually recovers his strength, but not his self-respect or his sanity, as he imagines himself in martial arts contests with the God of Wushu (Jay Chou) returning to Ying with self-inflicted injuries. Finally Ying has had enough; she wants her son and decides to go to Yuan and retrieve him. Su follows her, and in a tremendous fight he kills Yuan, but Ying also dies. A drunkard and a beggar, Su wanders the land with his son until they come to a town where he is seen by Ma, his old comrade and now the head of a Wushu federation. However, in a fight ring in the town the western wrestlers controlled by Anthony (David Carradine) are challenging all comers, killing and maiming Chinese fighters. Ma will be compelled to participate and risk his life, but can Su forget his wine long enough to become involved?

     True Legend is very much a film of four acts and a prologue. After the action prologue, the main story arc is how Su retrains himself physically and mentally to take his revenge on Yuan, but then the last third of the film is a Hero type scenario of a Chinese man taking on various western fighters in a ring. This variety allows director Yuen Woo-ping to deliver a wide and diverse range of fight sequences: a mass battle at the start, numerous fantasy one on one battles between Su and the God of Wushu incorporating a range of different weapons and styles, a violent and bloody hand to hand combat between Su and Yuan and finally the kung fu vs western wrestling fights in the ring at the end. The result is that the fights in True Legend are all different and quite distinctive and they are coupled with a very, very aggressive sound design; steel weapons clash, swords and clubs whoosh through the air, impacts on walls and bodies “thunk” resoundingly, all loud, intense and chaotic. Mostly the fight sequences are executed using wire work, green screen and real fighters which is quite old fashioned in many ways although the exercise is marred somewhat by the flashing and moving camera and fast editing which undermines our ability to see clearly some of the real martial arts moves being performed on the screen.

     True Legend does have its quieter moments, especially the section where Ying attempts to nurses her husband back to health and sanity and here Zhou Xun is excellent, her luminous beauty enhancing the spectacular mountain scenery, with its cliffs and mists. In her, True Legend finds its heart. How much of this film is an accurate look at the legendary Su is hard to know, but it is safe to say that True Legend is a colourful, action packed spectacle. One would not expect anything less from a director of the skill and experience of Yuan Woo-ping.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     True Legend is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in 1080p using the unusual VC-1 code.

     The detail of the sets, both interiors and exteriors, is rich, the landscapes beautiful, close-ups firm. Colours are bright and glossy, more natural in the mountains, duller in Yuan’s fortress and the fight ring set. In the fantasy fight sequences with the God of Wushu, most of the colours were removed giving an otherworldly monotone look. There was some blurring with motion, but it was hard to concentrate on anything during the fast editing of the fight scenes in any case. Blacks were strong, shadow detail was indistinct in sections, again due to the fast moving camera and quick editing.

     American English subtitles are in a clear white font. They were error free. French subtitles are also available.

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

Audio

     Feature audio options are Mandarin DTS- HD MA 5.1 (although the disc audio menu says Dolby Digital) and English DTS-HD MA 2.0. I listened to the Mandarin track.

     The dialogue was clean. As noted in the review, during the frequent fight sequences the film has a very aggressive sound design in the rears and surrounds as steel weapons clash, swords and clubs whoosh through the air, impacts on walls and bodies “thunk” resoundingly, wine jugs shatter spraying liquid, racks and other props crash. At other times, the rears featured the score by Shigeru Umebayashi. He is a vastly experienced composer of martial arts scores, with films including House of Flying Daggers (2004), Fearless (2006) and more recently The Grandmaster (2013); his score for True Legend is almost interchangeable with these films, featuring percussion, Asian instruments and orchestra, but it is still rousing and effective.

     There were minor lip synchronisation issues but nothing distracting.

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

Extras

Featurettes

     These extras are in five separate sections. They are better than EPKs as they feature behind the scenes footage of the building of sets and green-screen action sequences, plus film footage and interviews with a number of the cast and crew including director Yuen Woo-ping, cinematographer Zhao Xiaoding, action choreographer Ling Chi Wah, screenwriter Christine To, the production designer, visual effects supervisor, sound designer and cast members David Carradine, Vincent Zhao, Guo Xiaodong, Jay Chou and Zhou Xun. The individual sections are:

Storyboard to Scene

    This consists of a split screen showing the storyboards and the finished sequence. There are two sections;

Music Video (3:54)

     Axis of Envy by the Shadow Bureau.

International Trailer (2:08)

    As it says.

R4 vs R1

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

     Releases in all regions appear the same.

Summary

     With True Legend master fight choreographer / director Yuen Woo-ping delivers a colourful martial arts extravaganza with heart. The fights are all distinctive, intense and physical, although I would have liked less of the flashy camerawork and snappy editing. However, True Legend is still a feast for fans of kung fu cinema and seeing the early life of Beggar Su is a nice connection to Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master.

     The video is fine, the audio loud and aggressive. The extras are worth watching.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, June 08, 2017
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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