The Promise (Wu ji) (2005)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
|Year Of Production||2005|
|Running Time||101:54 (Case: 98)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (65:13)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Kaige Chen|
|Anchor Bay Entertainment||Starring||
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Pan & Scan||
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English (Burned In)||Smoking||No|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The story told here begins with a young girl, who is searching a battlefield of dead soldiers for food to carry to her dying mother. She comes across the dead body of a soldier clutching a small dumpling in his hand. Just as she takes it she gets trapped by a young boy in full battle outfit who demands that she must be his slave if she wishes to be released. She tricks him and runs off with the dumpling only to drop it into a lake as she crosses it. A goddess called Manshen appears and offers her untold riches if she will accept that any love she ever has will only be fleeting. She readily agrees as she is basically without hope.
We then flash forward and the young girl has grown into a beautiful woman, Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung) who is the King's concubine, greatly revered for her beauty. Meanwhile, a great but somewhat unethical general, Guenguing (Hiroyuki Sanada) is fighting a war against invading hoards. As part of his strategy to win a battle where he faces vastly overwhelming numbers, he decides to buy some slaves and use them as cannon fodder by letting the opposition slaughter them thinking they are his troops. Amongst these slaves is a young man called Kunlun (Jang Don Gun) who possesses an amazing ability to run faster than you can imagine. When the enemy uses a herd of bulls to attack the slaves he uses his amazing turn of speed to outrun them and save his own life. Guenguing notices this skill and after being victorious decides to take Kunlun as his own personal slave.
Unbeknownst to Guenguing and Kunlun, an evil lord called Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse) has sent an assassin to kill the general. When he attacks them, the general is badly injured despite his fighting skills and it is Kunlun that ends up seeing off the assassin due to his lightning speed. The assassin realises that he and Kunlun are from the same place, the Land of Snow. This leads to Guenguing sending Kunlun in his place to see the King which results in a number of major events occuring by mistake. The plot gets fairly complex after that as drama, romance, action, skullduggery and action ensue.
It is worth noting that the cut of the film included on our local release is the US cut which is about 20 minutes shorter than the Chinese cut. It was recut for US release by The Weinstein Company. I have read that the film is easier to follow in the original cut and I would definitely like to see it. Despite this the cut included here flows reasonably well considering the fairly convoluted plot. There is some fairly obvious CGI which may annoy some.
Production design, costumes and cinematography are certainly the highlights of this production, although the cinematography is badly affected by the transfer. The costumes are quite amazing although sometimes a little over the top leading to an occasional feeling of slight silliness about the movie. A good example of this a solid gold hand with pointing finger carried around by Wuhuan which he uses as a weapon. This sometimes looks a little comical depending upon where he is pointing it at the time. I would not really recommend this film for martial arts fans as the martial arts style action is quite limited.
This disc features an unskippable piracy warning.
I enjoyed watching this movie despite its flaws and overly complex plot. I would love to see it with a better transfer and it its full cut rather than this truncated US cut. It feels like some parts of the film jump around too much possibly missing important scenes. A film worth seeing for fans of other Chinese historical epics but not the one to see first. Start with Crouching Tiger first instead.
The video transfer is extremely disappointing due to three major issues.
Firstly, this film was originally 2.35:1 and it has been pan & scanned to 1.33:1 here which considering the magnificent visuals on offer is a travesty. Some scenes have obviously been cropped and the inclusion on the disc of a widescreen trailer is just insulting.
Secondly, based on the running time I believe that it is an NTSC to PAL conversion as it runs 101:54 on this PAL disc which is the same as the quoted length of the US cut on IMDB. Consistent with this there are interlacing artefacts especially during fast motion. Other PAL versions from Europe run 97 minutes.
Thirdly, a section which seemingly involved a brief glimpse of nudity has been blurred out as if it was a photo of an accused criminal going to court. This is truly ludicrous.The screen shot below shows the blurring and also the interlacing artefacts.
These things add up to a completely disastrous transfer despite being quite sharp generally with good colour and minimal artefacting (other than that mentioned above). I can only guess that this transfer has been sourced from a television version. Considering the other transfers available in other regions this is just not good enough.
There was also a bit of minor aliasing and some light grain.
There are burned in subtitles in English which were clear and easy to read, however, some flashed by too quickly to read.
The layer change occurs at 65:11 and caused a slight pause.
The audio quality is very good.
When I received this disc for review I noted on the cover that an English 5.1 soundtrack was included which concerned me because I thought we might have only got a dubbed version, however, luckily good sense prevailed in this department and the soundtracks are both in Mandarin, one Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448 Kb/s and one Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 224 Kb/s.
Dialogue seemed clear but as I don't understand Mandarin I will have to check with Kevin07 to be sure.
The score by Klaus Badelt is very suitable for the film and provides a nice backdrop to the drama.
The surround speakers were well used for immersion and atmosphere but there were minimal specific effects.
The subwoofer was well used for battle scenes including the hooves of the bulls in the opening battle and throughout for the music.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu was simple but did include an intro, some minor motion, music and a cursor shaped like the dumpling in the opening scene.
Short electronic press kit style interview snippets about the themes of the film and martial arts.
Very short on set footage with no explanation.
As I mentioned above this trailer adds insult to injury by being in widescreen although non 16x9 enhanced.
Trailers for other Anchor Bay product.
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.
Every other release of this film globally (that I can find details of) contains a widescreen transfer.Accordingly any of them can be recommended over this. The best version seems to be a 2 Disc version from Hong Kong by Deltamac which includes the original cut, deleted scenes, interviews, galleries and is also available in a deluxe version which includes postcards and a booklet. It also has English subtitles and a DTS-ES 6.1 soundtrack.
The video quality is unacceptable.
The audio quality is very good.
The disc has a small collection of extras.
|DVD||Pioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output|
|Display||Sony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Monitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer|