Musa: The Warrior (2001)

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Released 8-Dec-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-(10:59)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Eastern Eye Promo Reel
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 157:51
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (84:04) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sung-su Kim
Studio
Distributor
CJ Entertainment
Madman Entertainment
Starring Woo-sung Jung
Sung-kee Ahn
Jin-mo Ju
Ziyi Zhang
Yong-woo Park
Jeong-hak Park
Hye-jin Yu
Seok-yong Jeong
Du-il Lee
Yeong-mok Han
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Shirô Sagisu


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.45:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    If you do a bit of reading around on the internet, you'll find this film is often compared to the likes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Braveheart. While these comparisons are certainly warranted, there's no doubt that Musa: The Warrior contains enough style and substance to stand on its own as a triumph for Korean cinema. Director Kim Sung-Su is well known for his earlier films Beat and City of the Rising Sun, both of which confirmed his love for Hong Kong-style action and violence. I must emphasise the violence part, because every battle scene here contains enough severed limbs and arrow piercings to make the most extreme, battle-hardened viewer cringe. But wait, don't start thinking that this is a simple, one-dimensional knuckle-headed gore-fest! There are deep philosophies and genuine historical facts at play here, not to mention some superb performances.

    I'm no historian, but I'm told there is a legitimate and enlightening back story to this exciting tale of blood and battle. This film is set in the year 1375, a time when three major powers were struggling for dominance in Asia. The Han people were being governed by the new Ming Dynasty and the Moguls were steadily losing ground after the exploits of their former leader Genghis Khan three hundred years earlier. Today's Koreans are descendants of the Koryu, and it is these people who are the focus of this story.

    A diplomatic envoy of Koryu and their military escort become desperate exiles when their mission to meet the Ming Emperor fails miserably. Forced to make their way home across the unforgiving desert, the remaining members of the envoy take the opportunity to rescue a Ming Princess from her Mogul captors in the hope that it may strengthen their stance and help them complete their original mission to gain an audience with the Emperor. Once the Princess is in their guardianship, a Mogul General vows to recapture her or die - leading to a series of confrontations that slowly whittles away the number of Koryu. Ultimately they are forced to band together in a derelict fortress for a final battle over possession of the Princess.

    On a dramatic level there are many good reasons why this film is superior to your normal action fare. The performances from the entire cast are first rate and the characters have a human depth rarely seen in such films. There is also a complex array of characters at play, and if the film has one fault, it may lie in the sometimes perplexing range of plot threads, characters and scenes - which is one reason why many people prefer the much shorter International Cut of the film. The director does a good job of reigning in the character development all the same, and I find our full length Korean cut to be admittedly long, but highly enjoyable viewing.

    Musa: The Warrior is part period drama, part action epic, and all class. While it's not particularly mould-breaking in its premise, it certainly makes up for any lack of originality with breathtaking action and stunning cinematography, coupled with great performances. Fans of Asian cinema shouldn't miss this.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer isn't the greatest you'll find, and even borders on a little disappointing considering the recent nature of this production.

    The transfer on this DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.45:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. The film's original theatrical aspect ratio is 2.35:1, which tells us straight away that some cropping has been performed. Judging by the framing of many scenes, I'm led to believe that the transfer has been cropped at the top, leading to some very tight framing issues and a cramped feel at times. Wide shots of scenery and flora translate fine, but I found the closely filmed action sequences suffered a bit.

    The level of sharpness is generally acceptable, but does visibly drop on occasion. At 21:20 there is a very soft and hazy scene, but it is very short and doesn't seem to be intentional. There is very little film grain to speak of. Shadow detail varies from scene to scene but generally remains at a good level. There is a scene at 18:25 that involves two men talking, however their faces are so dark we can't see who's doing the talking or what's going on. There was no low level noise evident in the transfer.

    Most colours appear well rendered throughout the film, while desert scenes were clearly graded in post production to give a more washed out feel. The film's opening scenes seemed to have their reds emphasised for some reason, which lends itself to some glary fireplace scenes.

    There are no obvious MPEG artefacts or compression faults within the transfer. The transfer is relatively free of any unsightly aliasing, and looks great in that respect. Some minor positive and negative film artefacts can be seen intermittently during the film, but aren't dominating in any way. At 37:00 there is a persistent scratch lasting for three seconds on the right hand side of the frame, but this is thankfully the most extreme example of damage to be found. Some instances of edge enhancement are evident throughout, such as the outline of the face at 12:00. Of all the transfer's faults, I found the utilisation of edge enhancement most distracting and disappointing.

    An English subtitle stream is included, and does a fair job of the often fast paced dialogue. A couple of grammatical errors exist at 48.20 and 63:32, followed by a minor punctuation issue at 68:30. Other than these minor issues the stream is problem free and quite easy to follow.

    This disc is dual layered (DVD9 format), with a barely recognisable layer transition taking place during the feature at 84:04.

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

Audio

    There are two Korean soundtracks included with this film in Region 4; a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo option. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is default in this case. I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and briefly sampled the 2.0 option.

    The dialogue is clear and succinct at all times. The ADR is a little obvious in some scenes, but doesn't present any major issues. Audio sync is consistently spot-on.

    The use of the surround channels is quite good for a recent production such as this. Dedicated panning can be heard throughout the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, from arrows flying in the rears at 6:50, to a distinct scream in the right rear channel at 77:42. The use of the surround channels also extends to atmospherics. Voices are generally confined to the front centre channel and rarely stray.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 stream appears to contain some surround info, but is mastered at a much quieter level than the other soundtrack. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack provided a much more enveloping and enjoyable experience.

    The film's score is sweeping and orchestral, with some surprising percussive touches. The score guides the viewer through the emotional highs and lows with ease and suits the scope of the production nicely.

    The subwoofer is used to accentuate various Foley effects, such as horse's hooves and battle effects. There are some deep, rumbling drums within the score, and they are aided by the LFE channel very effectively.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu pages are 16x9 enhanced and accompanied by a short audio clip taken from the film's score. The main menu page features some subtle animation and includes the following options:

Featurette-Making of Musa (10:59)

    This Making Of covers the various hardships that the crew had to endure during the shoot, and many of the film's key special effects scenes. It is pretty short, but covers a lot of ground in its runtime.

Theatrical Trailer (1:24)

    This is a typical trailer, focusing on the film's intense action scenes. This trailer is presented in 1.78:1 but isn't 16x9 enhanced. An English subtitle stream is also provided.

Trailer-Eastern Eye Promo Reel (2:21)

    Simply the same promo piece you'll find on all Eastern Eye discs.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title isn't currently available in Region 1.

    The Region 2 UK two-disc edition includes:

    The Region 3 Korean disc includes some interesting extras in Korean only:

    It seems that only the shorter cuts of the film have dts audio. I don't understand Korean at all, but a director's commentary sure would be great to hear. I think the Korean disc wins this battle.

Summary

    Musa: The Warrior is an entertaining and bloody epic, detailing a stunning period in the history of Asia.

    The video transfer is slightly cropped to create a wider frame, but translates to DVD well..

    The audio transfer is very active and enveloping.

    The extras are few, but make for interesting viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Thursday, September 09, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-525, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX76PW10A 76cm Widescreen 100Hz. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Music a let down - Tom (read my bio)
Scandanvian - REPLY POSTED
Great storyline, but the action is superb -