The Warlords (Tau ming chong) (2007)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 108:42
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:05) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Chan
Wai Man Yip
Studio
Distributor
Talentaid
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Starring Jet Li
Andy Lau
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Jinglei Xu
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI Rental Music Kwong Wing Chan
Peter Kam
Leon Ko


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

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

Plot Synopsis

    I have now reviewed a number of Chinese/Korean historical action epics such as The Promise & Bichunmoo and it is a genre which I greatly enjoy.The Promise, which was released by the same distributor as this film, Anchor Bay, was very disappointing, not due to the quality of the film but rather the quality of the video transfer. Thankfully, there are certainly no problems here big enough to see the release sent to our Hall of Shame as the previous film was. In fact, this is a rip snorter of a film given a high quality DVD release. This film was made in 2007 but to my knowledge was not theatrically released here despite being a big hit in Asia. This surprises me somewhat considering the quality of the film and that it has a name star in Jet Li. Unlike many of the historical action epics from China I have seen, The Warlords does not have a doomed romance at it's core (although a bit of that is thrown in for good measure) but rather the doomed 'blood brotherhood' of three men. This is paired with a story of epic battles and war from 19th century China.

    The film starts in 1861 and runs to 1870 and is based around an historically true set of events. In the mid-1800s, China's ruling Qing dynasty was in decline due to a variety of problems and corruption. There was a major rebellion against the dynasty led by Hong Xiuquan. They had significant military success and set up a rival capital in Nanjing. This became known as the Taiping Rebellion. The first major character we meet in the movie is General Pang Qing-Yun (Jet Li) who fights for the Qing dynasty. He has survived a particularly ferocious battle by playing dead, however, all his men have been massacred. They lost the battle due to treachery by another part of the Qing army, led by General Ho. Pang stumbles away from the scene of the battle until he meets a woman, Lian (Xu Jinglei) who helps him regain his strength. After wandering aimlessly for a while he meets a bandit, Jiang Wu-Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) who immediately admires his fighting skills and invites him back to his village. It is here that he meets the third future blood brother (and Jiang's real older brother) Zhao Er-hu (Andy Lau). Zhao is initially unconvinced that he wants Pang hanging around but changes his mind after an attack on the village by General Ho's forces to recover some stolen supplies. It is also revealed than Lian is actually Er-hu's wife, however, Pang harbours a secret desire for her.

   Pang convinces the brothers that the best way to feed their village is to join the Qing army under his command rather than try to fight against it. The three make a pact that they will defend each other at all costs and head off to war against the rebels. After reconciling with the corrupt leadership of the Qing regime, Pang and the brothers quickly have success on the battlefield, gaining both friends and enemies within the regime. Pang's ambition grows and he promises to retake the cities of Suzhou and the rebel's capital of Nanking for the Empress. I won't spoil the rest of the story but suffice it to say the the pact of the blood brothers is put under great strain due to their differing views on right and wrong.

    This film is an excellent mix of action, huge and extremely well choreographed battle scenes plus human drama and emotional resonance. The film won many awards especially cleaning up at the 2008 Hong Kong film awards. The acting by the three leads is top drawer with Jet Li especially showing more acting chops than you might expect. Andy Lau, however, is the standout performer. The cinematography by Arthur Wong is also marvellous with impressive battle scenes shot so that the action is clear combined with the magnificent scenery of China. The film is somewhat gory (not for horror fans I'm sure) and deserves its MA15+ rating. The film was directed by Peter Ho-sun Chan who has mostly previously done romances which is probably why the emotional resonance of this film is higher than most action films. This is not a martial arts film, however there are certainly some scenes where Jet Li gets to show off his moves. The movie is somewhat based on a Hong Kong film from 1973 called Blood Brothers, although the director says it is not a remake and certainly the story of that film was not set in the Taiping rebellion.

   The film has been released in two versions, the original Chinese cut of approximately 128 minutes and this International cut of 108 minutes (in PAL). This version includes English credits (although bizarrely they are still translated by the burnt in subtitles). It is a shame that the local release does not include the full version of the film, however, this version is certainly generally easy to follow unlike international versions of some other films of this ilk.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this film and would certainly recommend it to those who enjoy this genre, although, I think this film is probably more suited to a male rather than female audience.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video quality is excellent before the layer change but drops off a little in quality after it.

    The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced widescreen.

    The picture was about as sharp and clear as SD gets before the layer change but later in the film there is some occasional light MPEG grain and a few MPEG artefacts such as at 75:00. Shadow detail is excellent.

    The colour rendering was excellent, however, this is not an overly colourful film with a focus on browns and steely grey.

    There were no other noticeable artefacts.

    There are burned-in subtitles in English which were clear and easy to read. As I mentioned above they transcribed on-screen titles despite those also being in English which was a little annoying. There are no subtitle streams.

    There is a layer change at 66:05 which caused a noticeable pause.
    

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

Audio

    The audio quality is excellent.

    This DVDs contains two audio options, a Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and a Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s. The surround track features excellent, immersive sound quality with loads of surround effects.

    Dialogue seemed clear but my understanding of Mandarin is limited to items of food.

    The music is wonderful, stirring and very fitting to the film. It was composed by Kwong Wing Chan, Peter Kam, Leon Ko & Chartchai Pongprapapan.

    The surround speakers were in constant use especially during the many battle scenes and for the music.

    The subwoofer was also used constantly for cannon fire, horse charges, drums and music.

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

Extras

    Small selection of extras

Menu

    The menu includes music & animation along with a nice weapons motif for the various cursors. Nice one.

Behind The Scenes (17:40) 

    A selection of interesting and honest interview footage with director and cast about making the film, along with some behind the scenes footage. Interestingly the footage from the film features some different translations of dialogue to those in the main feature. Worth watching.

Theatrical Trailer (3:36) 

    Interesting. Seems to be the original Asian trailer.

Trailer for The Promise 

   

        

 

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.

    There are many different versions of this film available on DVD and Blu-ray. I will discuss the various DVD versions here. The most obvious option for English speaking audiences in the Region 2 UK release, however there are also Region 6 and Region 3 releases which seem to feature English subtitles but also include the full version of the film.As far as I can tell there has not been a Region 1 issue of this film to date.

So, in comparison to the local release then, I can tell you the following

Region 2 UK includes the following in addition to this release

The Region 2 UK edition includes the international cut of the film and does not include the Behind the Scenes featurette (although I would guess it would be covered by the other docos) or the full theatrical trailer.

If you want the full version of the film, then there is a Region 3 release by Megastar and a very similar Region 6 edition which have the extended cut, a DTS soundtrack and lots of extras, although many of the extras do not include English subtitles, even though the feature does.

In short, the best version of the international cut with English subtitles on all extras is the Region 2 UK (although it may be cut by censorship). There does not seem to be a version of the full cut of the film where all the extras include English subtitles, but I would rate getting the full cut of the film higher than any extras so I would probably go for the Region 3 Megastar release as the best available.

Edit 31/08/09 - I have now been informed that when this is released to retail in Region 4 later in the year there will be two new versions, a 2 Disc edition and a Blu-ray version.

Summary

    An excellent and surprisingly emotionally resonant action/war historical epic from China.

    The video quality starts off excellent but drops away after the layer change.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    The disc has a small collection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Saturday, August 29, 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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