The First Option (Fei Hu) (1996)

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Released 16-Apr-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Gen X Cops, Beast Cops, The Heroic Trio, The Last Blood
Trailer-Purple Storm
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 86:09
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Gordon Chan
Studio
Distributor
Media Asia
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Gordon Chan
Damian Lau
Gigi Leung
Michael Wong
Kwong Kim Yip
Kwong Wing Chan
Ki-hop Chan
Vic Kaspar
Gerard Long
Glenn Newnham
Paul Pirola
Maureen Rodbard-Bean
Mario Vaccaro
Case ?
RPI ? Music Kwong Wing Chan
Ki-hop Chan
Vic Kaspar


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A bunch of customs officers led by Minnie Kwan (Gigi Leung) raid some drug smugglers, but they get more than they bargain for when the smugglers turn out to be trained mercenaries. The SDU is called in to assist, led by Lau (Michael Wong), but he does not want to follow the orders of the customs officers and prefers to do things his own way. However, this leads to even more problems and the two must work together in order to foil the drug ring.

    Unlike many Hong Kong films, the heroes actually indulge in a lot of realistic action, working together as a group in combat situations, much as one imagines they would in real life. Unfortunately, though, this is a rather leaden film in the non-action sequences, with a pretty dull script and uninteresting characters. Michael Wong is Hong Kong's equivalent of Ben Affleck, an actor who can make good material seem dull. Here he does not have to do much to achieve this. None of the actors are able to rise above the material, so this is a tedious film as a result.

    Still, if you like action films, you can fast-forward through the slow bits.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1, so there is a minor change to the original aspect ratio here.

    This is a grainy transfer but it is reasonably sharp. Shadow detail is not the best, but does not greatly detract from the viewing experience. The colour is a little over-saturated, but is watchable, with the major problem being flesh tones looking too brown. Blacks are quite deep and dark. Overall this is better than VHS or VCD quality, but is not up to the standard of transfers of Hollywood films of the same era.

    There are numerous examples of aliasing throughout the film on almost any straight surface. Compressed to fit on a single disc, there are signs of overcompression with slight blockiness in the action sequences, and there are some very mild examples of excessive noise reduction issues on the details of the actors' faces.

    This is a single layered disc with no subtitles.

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

Audio

    The single audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 and is the English dubbed version.

    The dubbing is adequate, despite the voices not always matching the actors, and dialogue is generally clear and distinct. The audio is not brilliant, and the action sequences sound noisy without drawing you into the action as a surround mix would. There is no surround encoding present. It is disappointing that an original language soundtrack is not included. I have seen other films with Michael Wong, and I believe that this is his voice, though sometimes he appears to have looped his dialogue.

    The music score is by Chan Kwong Wing. This is an average score which does the job without drawing too much attention to itself, which is probably a good thing.

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

Extras

Theatrical Trailer (1:27)

Trailers-Gen X Cops, Beast Cops, The Heroic Trio, The Last Blood, Purple Storm (11:25)

    You only have the option here to play all of the trailers, though they do have chapter stops. All are in widescreen but not 16x9 enhanced. The trailers are in reasonable condition, with the trailer for First Option being second here.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 2 release of this film has Cantonese and English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks. Reviews indicate that the surrounds are not used to any great effect, but the availability of the original language track tips the balance towards that release. Add to that a commentary track, half an hour of interviews with director Bruce Law and Gigi Leung, plus some short behind-the-scenes featurettes, and that means that there is no contest between this and the Region 4 release.

    There is also a Region 3 release, but this is not recommendable. It is in an incorrect aspect ratio of 1.68:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced, and while it has a choice of Cantonese and English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks, it also has non-removable English and Chinese subtitles. The video and audio quality is reported to be low, with poor shadow detail and numerous compression artefacts.

Summary

    Sadly, this is a fairly dull film overall despite the action and general mayhem. Recommended only if you really must have it, but you would be better off with the Region 2 release.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is satisfactory but unimpressive.

    The extras are not worth bothering with.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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