Rise of the Legend (Huang feihong zhi yingxiong you meng) (Blu-ray) (2014)
Trailer-The US trailer for the film (1:45)
Trailer-Original Theatrical Trailer (2:18)
Featurette-Making Of (10:46)
|Year Of Production||2014|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Chow Hin Yeung|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
Chinese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Chinese Dolby Digital 2.0
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The martial artist, physician and folk hero Wong Fei-Hung (1847-1924) must be the most portrayed person on celluloid with over 100 appearances on film and TV since the 1940s. He has been portrayed by, among others, Kwan Tak-hing, Gordon Liu, Vincent Zhao, Jackie Chan and of course Jet Li who, in the Once Upon a Time in China series, brought him to the West’s attention. He has become more legend than real and now director Chow Hin Yeung and writer Christine To have had another go at his legend and in Rise of the Legend provide what is, in effect, an origin story.
In the later 19th century China is in chaos with the Qing Dynasty on the verge of collapse. In the port of Guangzhou gangs fight for control of the opium, gambling and prostitution trade and the supply of kidnapped Chinese labourers to Western businessmen to send abroad. The most powerful gang, operating from a pier and warehouse on the docks, is the Black Tiger Gang headed by the ruthless Master Lui (Sammo Hung). However, Lui is facing challenges both from other gangs and from within his own gang, which has been infiltrated by Fei (Eddie Peng). Fei wants revenge for the death of his father some years before but he also wants to wipe out the gangs in Guangzhou and free the ordinary people from their grip, and the grip of poverty. Fei is aided on the outside by an organisation run by three of his close childhood friends, Fiery (Jing Boran), Chun (Wang Luodan), with whom both Fei and Fiery are in love, and Orchard (Angelababy), who was stolen as a child and is now a high class prostitute on a Courtesan boat moored in the harbour. Can Fei complete his mission before he is exposed by his rivals inside the gang, especially the second in command North Evil (Jack Feng).
Rise of the Legend is essentially a simple tale, although the film is not told simply; for the first 40 minutes or so it is hard to know what is happening as the film provides short flashbacks to at least a couple of different time frames, switches frequently without explanation between many characters who dress and look rather alike, and has a number of (admittedly very good) fight scenes in which we do not really know who is who. Indeed, even before the opening credits the film launches into a loud, energetic and chaotic fight taking place in the rain in an alley between one bloodied man and a mass of assailants. This action is choreographed by experienced action director Corey Yuen. He has been nominated numerous times for best action director at the Hong Kong Film Awards, including for Rise of the Legend, but won only for the Jet Li starring Fong sai yuk (The Legend) from 1993, and in this opening sequence he sets the bar for the action sequences within Rise of the Legend very high; for it is full of sound as rain falls, splashes and pools, fists and kicks impact on bodies with a loud thump, steel weapons clash and bodies fly through the air landing with a loud impact on walls, doors, benches, signs and anything else that happens to be around. The cinematography here is similarly aggressive as the camera pans around and zooms, while quick cutting is juxtaposed with slow motion sections Sam Peckinpah would have appreciated. There is wire work used which does look unreal and jarring compared to other parts of the fight which are very real and physical. But everything is done so slickly and exuberantly it is exhilarating viewing.
Indeed the action, the beautifully detailed sets, especially the pier set and the alleys of the city, and the music by prolific Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi, responsible for a diverse range of film scores including House of Flying Daggers (2004) and Trishna (2011), add up to an exciting, impressive looking and sounding film. The film’s weakness, however, is the plotting, which after the confused opening adds a somewhat maudlin romantic subplot, or subplots, between the four friends that really achieves little except slowing down the action. Yet, once the film settles into its pattern and we are permitted to know what is actually happening, Rise of the Legend flows along towards the inevitable showdown between Eddie Peng and the great Sammo Hung. Sammo does know a bit about martial arts as actor, director and action choreographer; he has been nominated 20 times in various categories at the Hong Kong Film Awards, his first win occurring way back in 1981 for The Prodigal Son, one of the all-time great martial arts films. Sammo is a big man, and at the time of Rise of the Legend was over 60 years old, but he is wonderful to watch and moves like a man half his age. The climatic fight between Peng and Sammo in a fiercely burning warehouse is as chaotic, exhilarating and intense as the opening fight sequence, neatly rounding off the film.
Rise of the Legend is only the third film by director Chow Hin Yeung following the two films he directed and co-wrote with To Chi-long (aka Christine To who is sole screenwriter for Rise of the Legend). Chow’s first film was the bizarre, off the wall but very entertaining, Murderer (2009), his second the intriguing and intelligent psychological thriller Nightfall (2012) which I enjoyed when I reviewed it on this site. So far this is an impressive pedigree; I look forward with interest to whatever he does next.
Rise of the Legend is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.
The sets are impressively rich with detail while each close-up, raindrop, blood spray and wound is firm and detailed. The film’s colours have been manipulated; they are glossy but hardly natural with sections that have a yellow tinge and others with grey / blue. In some places colours have been reduced, others exaggerated, such as the brilliant yellow of the fires. This manipulation does affect skin tones which do not look natural, however blacks and shadow detail are strong, brightness and contrast consistent.
I did not see any obvious artefacts.
American English subtitles are in a clear white font. They were error free.
There is no audio or subtitle menu – the menu features only Play Movie / Making Of / Trailer. However using the remote you can toggle through Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1, Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD MA 5.1 and English Dolby Digital 2.0. Note that the Blu-ray cover incorrectly refers to the two 5.1 audio tracks as Dolby Digital.
I listened to the Chinese 5.1 audio which was loud, aggressive and enveloping. The dialogue was clear. In the action sequences the surrounds and rears were full of sound such as the splashes and fall of rain, the crackle of fire, the crash of burning and falling timbers, the thud as fists and kicks impact on bodies, the clang and clash of steel weapons, the impact of bodies flying through the air to land with a loud thunk on walls, doors, benches or anything else that happens to be around. At other times the surrounds and rears featured the twittering of caged birds, dogs barking, voices and the music. The sub-woofer added oomph to the impacts, fireworks and the music.
The score by prolific Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi uses an orchestra, Chinese instruments and the usual percussion during the martial arts one-on-one climax to good effect. Otherwise it mostly avoids clichéd cues and only adds the iconic and instantly recognisable Wong Fei-Hung theme when Eddie Peng casts off his role as Fei and becomes, to his followers, the Wong Fei-Hung of legend!
The lip synchronisation was fine in the Chinese audio.
|Surround Channel Use|
The US trailer for the film.
As it says.
This consists of five short EPK type featurettes; the same introduction occurs before each. There is on-set and film footage and comments by director Chow Hin Yeung, cast members including Eddie Peng, Wang Luodan, Jing Boran, Qin Junjie, Angelababy, Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Sammo Hung, and the production designer. Topics include reinventing the legend of Wong Fei-Hung, casting, the sets, injuries in fights and the style of the film. The individual sections are headed:
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This Region B Blu-ray of Rise of the Legend is identical to the USA Region A Blu-ray disc, except that that one includes trailers for other Well Go USA releases.
The plot of Rise of the Legend leaves something to be desired. However the sets are large, detailed and expensive looking delivering a sense of period, and the music is impressive. But, first and foremost, Rise of the Legend is a martial arts action film that delivers varied sequences, including fights in the rain, mass brawls with fists, feet and weapons, furious one on one and one vs many and a fight in a burning warehouse, that are colourful, loud, energetic and chaotic. I doubt the film tells us anything realistic about Wong Fei-Hung, but I guess his legend continues to grow. And sell movie tickets!
The video is manipulated, the audio enveloping and aggressive, the extras EPK. Action fans should not be disappointed.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S580, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 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 Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|