Shadowless Sword (Muyeong geom) (2005)

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Released 4-Apr-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Reversible Cover
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-2
Interviews-Cast
Gallery-Photo
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 110:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (43:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Young-jun Kim
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ji-Woo Choi
Ho-bin Jeong
Jun-ha Jeong
Su-ro Kim
Ki-yong Lee
Seo-jin Lee
Hyeon-jun Shin
So-yi Yoon
Steve Burgess
Steve Burgess
Steve Burgess
Robert Mackenzie
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Korean dts 5.0 (768Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
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 Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    'The Killer Blades Vs The Killer Babe!'

    In 2004, I reviewed a Korean film called Bichunmoo without knowing very much about it. I thoroughly enjoyed its mixture of martial arts action, romance, melodrama and historical epic. This DVD, Muyeong geom (Shadowless Sword), which has a lot of the same elements as the previous film, has been lurking around our site office for some time (it was released on DVD in 2007). I had not realised that this film is actually the second feature by the same director as Bichunmoo , Young-jun Kim. In fact, when I chose it for review I still didn't know and only worked it out whilst watching the DVD extras on this disc. I would certainly have reviewed it much earlier if I had known.

    Once again the story here is set in ancient Korea, this time in 927AD. Two kingdoms are fighting a bloody war, Balhae & Georan. Georan has recruited some mercenaries from Balhae, the Killer Blade Army led by the evil, Kun  (Hyun-joon Shin who also starred in Bichunmoo). With their help, Georan has managed to capture the Balhae capital and almost wipe out the Balhae royal family, either in battle or by assassination. The surviving Balhae military leaders decide that they must protect the last known remaining prince, who has been an outcast for many years, Jeong (Seo-jin Lee). They send one of their best warriors, a young woman, So-ha (So-yi Yoon) to protect him and bring him back from exile. Of course, Kun sends his female assassin, Mae (Ki-yong Yee) to kill them both. This, naturally enough, leads to numerous fight scenes, a long chase, romance, melodrama, comedy and a final showdown between all the main protagonists.

    This is a very entertaining film featuring lots of excellent action scenes mostly involving swordplay rather than other types of martial arts. There is lots of wirework involved also, so if you are someone who shies away from films that employ a lot of wirework then shy away from this one. There are also wonderful costumes, great sets and lots of wonderful locations including some excellent mountainous scenery in China. On the subject of costumes however I think some of the costume designers liked Captain Jack from Pirates of the Caribbean's look a bit too much as quite a few of the comic relief characters bear more than a passing resemblance to him. The stunts were done with the aid of a Hong Kong stunt team which is often referred to in the extras. The plot is certainly not as rich (or confusing) as Bichunmoo however it is certainly a rollicking story which suits the style of film. There are a few scenes early in the second half of the film which could have been trimmed as the pace falls off for a little while.

    This version of the film includes English captions and opening credits which make me think this is some sort of international version of the film. New Line were certainly involved in the production as one of the partners. Seemingly, the actual cut is the same on all DVD releases, running 116 minutes in NTSC and 110:50 in PAL. There is a Region 3 release referred to as the Director's Cut, however, it has the same runtime as far as I can gather. More on this in the region comparison below.

    If you enjoy martial arts historical epics and are interested in moving beyond films like Crouching Tiger this one is worth a look.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is good but has some significant issues.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio which is not the original aspect ratio. The original aspect ratio is 2.35:1. Annoyingly the packaging advertises a 2.35:1 transfer. The cropping is quite obvious in some scenes were people are talking but only half their head is on screen but generally it is not too bad. It is 16x9 enhanced.As per our site policy I will remove one star from the overall video rating for the incorrect aspect ratio.

    The picture was quite clear and sharp generally although there was occasional grain and minor MPEG artefacts such as at 11:55, 43:50 & 86:00. Shadow detail is generally very good.

    The colour was very good with no major issues to report.

    There was some fairly obvious edge enhancement from time to time.

    There are subtitles in English which were clear and easy to read. They are in SBS yellow however the standard of English is somewhat variable. Some lines seemed a but literal in translation but they were generally understandable.

    There is a layer change at 43:27 which is not really noticeable during playback.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is excellent.

    This DVD contains two audio options, a Korean Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and a Korean DTS 5.0 surround soundtrack encoded at 768 Kb/s.The DTS is much better than the Dolby Digital in this case with the music and action sounds much more prominent.

    Dialogue seemed very clear, although I don't understand a word of Korean.

    The music is a bit all over the place with great music for tense and action scenes but for melodrama or romantic scenes its sounds like the music department from The Love Boat was involved. One of the real highlights of the DTS rack is the way the music jumps out during action scenes but still meshes perfectly with other sounds.

    Surround speakers were very well used especially during the many action scenes ad for music.

    The subwoofer use was excellent with lots of thumps, thuds and music shaking the room.

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

Extras

    A decent set of extras are included.

Menu

    The menu is great, featuring 5.1 sound, an intro, scenes from the film and some excellent music. It really gets you ready for the film.

Making of featurette (10:50) 

    In Korean with subtitles. 4x3. This is mostly behind the scenes footage rather than a proper making of although there is some interesting footage of training, wire work and stunts being performed. Looks pretty tough on the actors. Making Korean films is not for the faint of heart.

Cast Interviews (5:19, 5:50 & 6:32) 

    In Korean with subtitles. 4x3. Reasonably interesting interviews with Hyun-joon Shin, Seo-jin Lee & So-yi Yoon. They discuss working with the director, costumes problems, cold, locations, safety issues, injuries, stunts and other topics.

Poster Shoot (6:57) 

    In Korean with subtitles. 4x3. Yawn...behind the scenes footage of a photo shoot for the movie poster.

Trailers (2:51, 2:55, 0:33, 0:21, 0:17) 

    Great trailers for this film. Included are the teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and three TV spots.

Stills Gallery 

    38 shots from the film. Pretty pointless especially considering the shots are quite a bit softer than the film.

Reversible Cover

    For those that care, you can turn the cover around to remove the OFLC rating.

Madman Trailers 

    The Myth and Aragami.

 

R4 vs R1

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

    There are two other options worthy of consideration here. There is the Region 1 version entitled The Legend of the Shadowless Sword and a Korean Region 3 version. The Korean release includes English subtitles for the feature but not for any of its copious extras. If you speak Korean this would be the version of choice as it is in the correct aspect ratio. If you don't however the choice comes down to the Region 1 release or our local one.

    The Region 1 version misses out on the following from the Region 4 version:

    The Region 4 version misses out on the following from the Region 1 version:

   Based on original aspect ratio alone I have to put the Region 1 version forward as the best for English speaking audiences.

Summary

    An entertaining Korean martial arts epic.

    The video quality is good but in the wrong aspect ratio.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    Decent set of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS708H upscaling to 1080p, using HDMI output
DisplayLG Scarlet 42LG61YD 106cm Full HD LCD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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