SPL (Saat Po Long) (2005)

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Released 11-Oct-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Press Conference
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Gallery-Stills
Trailer-A Bittersweet Life, Infernal Affairs 3, Breaking News
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 88:15 (Case: 93)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (31:50) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Wilson Yip
Studio
Distributor
Madman
Madman Entertainment
Starring Donnie Yen
Sammo Hung Kam-Bo
Simon Yam
Jacky Wu
Kai Chi Liu
Danny Summer
Ken Chang
Austin Wai
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Ken Chan
Kwong Wing Chan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Chinese dts 5.1 (1536Kb/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 English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Wong Po (Sammo Hung) is an organised crime lord who has had a long running and bloody feud with detective Chan Kwok Chung (Simon Yam). When Chung finds out he has a terminal brain tumour he finally snaps and, with the aid of his elite squad, goes out of his way to bring down Po. As a result of this terminal illness, the police chief appoints Inspector Ma Kwan (Donnie Yen) to replace Chung. Though he is as eager as Chung to convict Po, Kwan is not willing to step beyond the bounds of the law and finds himself fighting both to bring about law and order.

    Though it fails to live up to the epic story that it promises, the action half (and I do mean half - the first half of the film is almost all story and the second half non-stop action) of S.P.L. is excellent. It is amazing to see Sammo Hung still moving about so flawlessly and at such speed. Donnie Yen is also top notch and has done a great job of choreographing the action in S.P.L. (for which he deservedly won the Hong Kong Film Award for Action Choreography).

    The story component is good, but not great. The root of the problem is that it is a familiar story and it is one that has been done better. The story aspires to the level of Infernal Affairs and Election, but it lacks the poetic exposition of these peers, instead leaping between story points before descending into an all-out martial arts action-fest.

    S.P.L. is one of the few films out of Hong Kong in the last few years that more or less lives up to the hype surrounding it (and in Hong Kong, that was a lot of hype). It is by no means a classic, and certainly not the silver bullet that the industry is hoping will bring the HK industry out of its post-reunification slump, but it is a solid action film nonetheless. It is quite dark, both in terms of visual style and plot, which makes for a memorable film even if it is not the best out there.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio for the film is 1.85:1.

    The video quality is a little disappointing for a recent film. The transfer is quite grainy, particularly in many of the darker scenes (such as at 56:49). The image is not particularly sharp, thanks in part to the level of grain, but consistent throughout. The level of detail in the many darker scenes and shadows is reasonable

    The film uses two very different colour schemes at different points in the film, a noir/neon colour scheme and a very bright and bold, natural scheme, both of which look very good and express the tone of the film well. There is a very good level of depth to the colour, particularly the bright neon colours in the darker scenes. For example, the neon background to a fight scene at 69:30 looks great and really improves the look of an otherwise grainy scene.

    There are no noticeable MPEG compression artefacts in the transfer, but edge enhancement halos are a little noticeable in a number of scenes (such as at 47:54). The edge enhancement artefacts aren't significant enough to be distracting on smaller displays, but may be a little frustrating for anyone with a larger high definition display.

    The English subtitles are a bold yellow with a black border. They are both very easy to read and well timed, although at one point (around 63:40) they do come and go a little bit too quickly during a frenetic conversation.

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

Audio

    There are two audio tracks, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448 Kbps) and Cantonese DTS 5.1 (1536 Kbps).

    The dialogue is clear and appears in sync throughout.

    The soundtrack makes excellent use of the surround speakers, particularly for environmental effects. The immersive sound constantly puts the viewer in the middle of the action and sound is frequently used to build a fittingly grisly level of tension. One car crash, at 3:41, is the highlight of this great soundtrack - you can clearly hear different parts of the car impact and glass smash all around.

    The LFE track gives the subwoofer plenty of work to do and complements the soundtrack superbly. Granted, the subwoofer is mainly used to support explosions and impacts during the martial arts sequences - pretty standard fare - but what it does is done very well and adds some real feeling to the martial arts sequences.

    The score is occasionally a little over the top, certainly for western tastes, but it fits the tone of the film very well.

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

Extras

    There is a reasonable range of extras, but they are mostly filler.

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    A fairly stylish menu introduction.

Featurette-Making Of (10:03)

    A brief press-kit style making of featurette that mostly consists of cast interviews over behind the scenes footage cut into the background. Worth a watch once, but no more. This featurette has English subtitles packed into the video stream (rather than selectable via the subtitle function on the DVD player) that are easy to read.

Press Conference (23:01)

    A fairly dull press conference held with the cast and crew. Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio and shot on a fairly low resolution hand-held camcorder. This extra really is little more than filler. This featurette has English subtitles packed into the video stream (rather than selectable via the subtitle function on the DVD player) that are easy to read.

Theatrical Trailer (1:47)

    An action packed trailer, presented in the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

TV Spots (1:37)

    4 brief TV spots for the film.

Gallery

    15 generic production stills presented in a static slideshow.

Trailers - A Bittersweet Life, Infernal Affairs 3, Breaking News

    3 well selected trailers for other movies available from Madman.

R4 vs R1

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

    S.P.L. is not currently available in Region 1.

    There is a Region 0 version available throughout Asia that features almost exactly the same special features, including English subtitles (it is only missing the 3 trailers for other Madman-released features). It is spread over 2 discs and features an additional Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 dub. The video quality has been favourably reviewed by other sites, although I have not personally seen it for comparison.

    The Asian Region 0 version appears to be the version of choice, although the two versions are similar enough that most viewers would be more than happy enough with the Region 4 version.

Summary

    S.P.L. is far from the silver bullet that will restore the reputation of Hong Kong cinema, but it is a good martial arts film nonetheless.

    There are a reasonable number of extras, but nothing terribly worthwhile.

    The video quality is reasonable, although quite grainy for a relatively high profile recent release.

    The audio is excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDLG V8824W, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 80cm 4x3 CRT. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D512. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D512
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, and a 100W centre and 2 surrounds, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Region 1 release retitled "Kill Zone" - Anonymous
The blu-ray FUD in the news column - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
re the blu-ray FUD - Bran (my bio, or something very like it)