Warlords, The (Tau ming chong): Collectors Edition (Blu-ray) (2007)

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Released 30-Nov-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Featurette-117 Days - A production Journal
Featurette-Reflections on 'The Warlords'
Deleted Scenes
More…-The history behind 'The Warlords"
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 113:00 (Case: 109)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Peter Chan
Raymond Yip
Studio
Distributor
Talentaid
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Starring Jet Li
Andy Lau
Takeshi Kaneshiro
Xu Jinglei
Guo Xiao Dong
Jacky Heung
Wei Zong Wan
Gu Bao Ming
Wang Kui Rong
Zhou Bo
Shi Shao Qi
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Kwong Wing Chan
Peter Kam
Leon Ko


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Mandarin DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Mandarin Linear PCM 48/24 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    The Warlords is set during the time of the Taiping rebellion in China when five million people died from starvation, disease or by the sword. When General Pang Qing-Yun's (Jet Li) Qing soldiers are massacred in a three day battle with the Taiping rebels because his allies, led by General Ho (Shi Shao Qi), refused to fight, Pang is the sole survivor. Alone and racked with guilt, believing dying is easier than living, he stumbles across the equally damaged Lian (Xu Jinglei) who comforts him for a night and is gone. Pang then meets bandits Jiang Wu-Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Zhao Er-hu (Andy Lau) and persuades them that salvation for their vulnerable and impoverished villagers is for them to join the Qing army and fight the Taiping. The three form a blood brotherhood and their tactics and determination lead to victory against the odds at Shu City. Granted more men by the Qing Imperial War Council, the new Shan Army commanded by the blood brothers goes from victory to victory. But Pang realises that neither the Qing Imperial War Council nor General Ho want the fighting to stop as this would undermine their power. So Pang decides to incur their enmity by attacking the strong Taiping city of Suzhou as a preliminary to capturing their capital Nanking and ending the war and the people's suffering.

     No longer supported by the Qing, the Shan army fails to take Suzhou by assault which leads to the dehumanising stalemate of a nine month's siege. The result is a war of attrition: bloody trench warfare where both attackers and defenders face sudden death from shot and shell while starvation and disease are ever present. Facing annihilation and the end of his dreams for a better, safer world, Pang is forced to make an alliance with General Ho to secure supplies. Then, after the fall of Suzhou, Pang displays a streak of brutality that disgusts Zhao, threatening to split the brotherhood. Even more critical to the brotherhood is the presence of Lian, whom both Pang and Zhao love. When Pang successfully captures Nanking he is appointed governor by the Qing Empress. But as his inauguration approaches, his enemies, and his friends, are circling for retribution.

     The Warlords is a magnificent epic film with large scale battles, huge sets and a cast of thousands that still manages a focus upon intimate personal relationships. The Warlords explores in a sensitive manner the themes of love, brotherhood and betrayal and here it is well served by a great cast. Jet Li, in a role for which he won Best Actor at the 2008 Hong Kong Film Awards, is simply brilliant as the ambitious General Pang, intent upon the bigger picture and prepared to sacrifice whoever and whatever it takes to achieve his goals. He says "winning is all that matters in war" and that is indeed his creed. Andy Lau as the charismatic, humane and honourable Zhao is equally good; in a world falling apart he just wants to look after his family and his village without breaking his promises or compromising his honour. Takeshi Kaneshiro as the young and naive Jiang is the perfect foil; he is caught between his two blood brothers with knowledge that has the potential to destroy everything they have fought for. And finally Xu Jinglei is superb as Lian, the catalyst that draws everyone towards their individual fates. Each of these characters have their own clearly defined journey in the film and each journey reaches a logical and deadly resolution.

     The action and colour palate of The Warlords reflects the bleak period of Chinese history that was the Taiping rebellion. Despite the staring role of Jet Li, this is not a martial arts film and it has no use for characters floating in trees or across lakes; instead the battles are bloody, intense and brutal. It is not a time for heroes; it is a time when edged weapons and cannons meet, when trench and siege warfare occurred amid dirt and disease and people in their millions died of starvation. The colour palate of The Warlords mirrors the darkness; it is deliberately monochromatic, grainy and muted with browns, yellows and greys dominant although there are still some stunning images superbly captured by cinematographer Arthur Wong.

     The Warlords from director Peter Ho-Sun Chan (Perhaps Love) is a stunning cinematic experience with perhaps action star Jet Li's best performance. But the film is far more than one performance: it is a historical epic with a focus upon individual, intimate relationships that builds to a climax that will not soon be forgotten.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The original theatrical aspect ratio of The Warlords was 2.35:1 and although the Blu-ray cover indicates the film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 this is not so and we do get the original theatrical ratio. The film is 16x9 enhanced.

This is a magnificent print. The film, except for a few scenes towards the end, has an intentional monochromatic desaturated colour palate, with all bright colours leeched out leaving a dull, silver tinged predominately brown, yellow and gray print that effectively renders the poverty and desolation of the period and the horrors of war. Intentional grain occurs throughout but this does not stop this print from displaying razor sharpness and intense shadow detail. Every detail of costumes and armour is clear and the faces in close-up show every wrinkle, blemish and blob of dirt. I was surprised at 7:47-48 to see some white artefacts but this was the only time I saw anything amiss.

The English subtitles in a clear white font appeared timely and I only saw one spelling error: "closes your eyes" (45:56).

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

Audio

    The Warlords offers a choice of Mandarin DTS HD Master 5.1 or Mandarin PCM Stereo 2.0. The DTS HD Master 5.1 is stunning. Dialogue is clearly heard and the surrounds constantly support rain effects, battle sounds, ambient noise and music; the subwoofer is constantly in use for hooves, explosions and music to provide an enveloping audio experience. The orchestral score is both strident and lush, providing wonderful support in both the action scenes and the more intense, intimate moments. If your system only allows 2.0, this track is surround encoded and reasonably robust.

Lip synchronisation is occasionally noticeably off.

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

Extras

117 Days: A Production Journal (35:22 minutes).

The journal commences with a press conference held at the start of the 3 months of shooting then goes straight into behind the scenes footage, including a major traffic jam trying to get to the location on the first day! This journal is a candid look at the difficulties of filming a major production; difficulties with the weather, the locations, the cast and crew and logistics generally. The featurette includes on set footage and comments from the director and principal cast members and is a refreshing and informative look at the entire filmmaking process. Recommended, although some of the footage from the Reflections on The Warlords is repeated. The actors and director speak in Chinese with burnt in English subtitles. The spelling is US English and there are minor errors such as "at lease a couple of hours" (4:00) or "working with you was me dream" (32:40).

Reflections on The Warlords (36:37 minutes).

This is misnamed; it is not reflections but a wide selection of pre-release promotional material - looking a bit like webcasts. There is some terrific material here; genuine and interesting behind the scenes footage and interviews with the four principal actors and the director. This is not your usual "love -in". Most surprising are the candid observations of actor Xu Jing-lei (Lian) on what makes a true hero, the role of women and the issue of "manhood".

    The first 7 items are short (just over 1 minute each); sections cover costume design, the construction crew, the battlefield, "true heroes", the use of fire and smoke effects, life in the trenches and the role of women. Following these are some longer sections (up to 4 or 5 minutes) on specific sequences of the film. These include filming the Shu battle (an excellent piece), the emphasis in the action sequences upon realism, the Suzhou massacre, the love triangle and the fall of the brotherhood. Two final items concentrate on the director and the cast.

     While for ease of access these could have been better organised, the sections provide an interesting and very informative look at the production of The Warlords. The actors and director speak in Chinese with burnt in English subtitles in US English with some minor errors.

Deleted Scenes (22:52 minutes).

There are 16 deleted scenes in total. They range from around 3 minutes to less than 1 minute but are without linking captions or commentary. However, they are presented chronologically and as most are extended sequences from existing scenes it is easy to see where they fit. Most may have been cut because they provide information that is already in the film, such as the extended opening scene that reinforces the desolation and poverty of the countryside and the people. Nevertheless, the deleted scenes are in excellent condition and are worth seeing.

The History Behind The Warlords.

Consists of only 3 screens of text, mostly concerning the history of the real person upon whom Jet Li's character was based.

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.

    The Australian Region B Blu-ray of The Warlords is identical to the UK Region free release (down to the artefacts at 7:47-48). It contains the International cut of the film and the same extras, except that the UK Blu-ray also has the UK theatrical trailer (I own the UK Blu-ray and can verify that although the cover states it includes the International Theatrical Trailer this is not on the disc). I have read that the Region A Blu-ray distributed by MegaStar Hong Kong contains the 125 minute Asian cut of the film, audio options Mandarin DTS HD 7.1, Mandarin Dolby True HD 7.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital EX 5.1, the same production diary, deleted scenes (that are reported to run 40 minutes as opposed to the 23 minutes of the UK and Australian release), plus an Audio Commentary by Director Peter Ho-Sun Chan. The commentary is in Mandarin and is subtitled. In addition the deleted scenes also have a commentary subtitled in English. The Region A misses out on the excellent Reflections on The Warlords feature & the text historical screens. Still a win to Region A I think.

Summary

    The Warlords from director Peter Ho-Sun Chan is a stunning cinematic experience. It is an historical epic with exciting, brutal action sequences and enough blood and mayhem to satisfy anyone. Yet, with a focus upon individual, intimate relationships and perhaps action star Jet Li's best performance fully supported by Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Xu Jinglei, The Warlords builds to an inevitable climax that will not be forgotten in a hurry. The Warlords is a powerful film, one of the best epic action films of 2007, presented on a Blu-ray with exceptional video and audio and a great range of genuine extras. Very, very highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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