Tracing Shadow (Zhui ying) (2009)
|Year Of Production||2009|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English (Burned In)||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, during|
In the last days of the Ming Dynasty three bandits break into the Forbidden City to steal a map showing the whereabouts of the Ming Imperial treasure. But they discover the map has already been stolen by female ninja Xin Mingyue (Pace Wu Pei-ci) and a chase over the rooftops of Beijing ensues until Xin is trapped. She is rescued by martial arts master Changgong (Francis Ng) but not before the map is lost. Five years later Changgong and Xin are married, have a petulant adopted daughter Xiaowei (Xie Na), and run a restaurant while the three bandits have also started businesses in the aptly named Sideroad Town. All are marking time, waiting for the treasure map to resurface, but times are hard and business is bad so all owe money to Lord Xu (Jaycee Chan), who happens to be in love with Xiaowei. Then the map is discovered, and as its rediscovery becomes widely known a diverse range of unsavoury characters, as well as the invading Manchurian army, arrive in town. As Xiaowei, Xin and Xu follow the map’s directions into an underground set of caverns filled with traps, a battle royal explodes on the streets of Sideroad Town and the true meaning of “treasure” is about to be revealed to many of the characters.
Tracing Shadow (Zhui ying) is a Chinese martial arts/comedy/Indiana Jones treasure hunt set at the end of the Ming Dynasty that has enough style and tone changes to disorient anyone. From the first rooftop chase sequence, where in turn the characters fly through snow flakes, then flower blossoms, rain and finally falling leaves we know that consistency is not going to be important. The filming style matches this – there is slow motion, fast motion, split screen effects and jump cuts utilised at different times, while the music also is a diverse mix of traditional, Canto-pop and rap! Just right for a period film! There are also characters called Jackie, Andy and Jet, who just happen to be look-a-likes for Jackie Chan, Andy Lau and Jet Lee and in fact in one scene about eight Jackie Chan look-a-likes compare the size of their noses (indeed, in the action sequences, the Jackie character always hurts his nose). From this you can judge the film’s idea of comedy. And of course Jaycee Chan is Jackie’s son, adding another layer to the in-jokes.
With so much going on, the plot was never going to be too important and the treasure map is basically a macguffin around which to hang the comedy and action sequences. Indeed, very little is explained, not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but there are also sequences where masked assailants appear out of no-where and attack Xin; who they are is never explained and their sole purpose seems to be to allow Changgong to display his martial arts skills and save Xin. The action sequences themselves are not too bad. They utilise extensive wire work, with people flying over buildings and among trees, and lots of spins and quick edits and close ups that make it difficult to see what is going on but within this restriction they are quite well staged. In fact, some of the fight sequences look very beautiful and, with the colourful sets and costumes, are the highlights of the film.
Tracing Shadow is a chaotic miss-mash that crams martial arts, comedy, in-jokes and an Indiana Jones style temple sequence, with traps and a collapsing set, into less than 90 minutes. Not surprisingly, it does not always work but there is enough energy, decent action and beautiful moments to be more entertaining than not.
Tracing Shadow is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, but is not 16x9 enhanced, despite the DVD cover indicating it is.
While this is disappointing, there is nothing wrong with the print. It is sharp enough, with consistent contrast and brightness, while the colours are vibrant and quite beautiful. Skin tones did appear on the pale side but blacks are excellent and shadow detail fine.
I did not notice any film or film to video artefacts.
The white English subtitles are burnt in and sometimes flash by too quickly to read properly. There are no obvious spelling or grammatical errors although one must wonder if subtitles like “Geez, cut the crap” are an accurate rendering of the Chinese dialogue. Given the tone of the film, it may in fact be accurate! I’m happy for any Chinese speaker to confirm.
The cover indicates that the DVD includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 or dts audio track. Neither is available; what we get is a Chinese Dolby Digital mono track at 192 Kbps. There is no set up menu but there are actually two Chinese tracks, both at 192 Kbps that can be selected from the remote. Initially I thought one may have been Mandarin and one Cantonese, but in running direct comparisons I have to say that they appeared identical (although, speaking neither I could not be absolutely sure).
Dialogue was clear and the effects have more depth than the 192 Kbps suggests – some of the crashing in the climactic temple sequence sounds quite good, in fact. There is no surround or subwoofer usage.
As noted, the music is a miss-mash of styles and there is no composer listed that I could find. In the context of the film it works OK.
Lip synchronisation was occasionally off.
|Surround Channel Use|
Nothing at all.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There is a Region 3 Hong Kong release that is reported to be 16x9 enhanced, with dts and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, a “Making Of”, music video and trailers. The feature does have English subtitles, but I’m not sure about the extras. This is NTSC of course.
I have also found a record of a Region 1 release – it seems to be 16x9 enhanced, but in a cropped aspect ratio of 1.77:1. There is no information about extras.
I can find no record as yet of a Region 2 release.
On the basis of the above, the Region 3 16x9 enhanced version in the correct aspect ratio, with 5.1 audio would seem to be the best choice.
Tracing Shadow is a Chinese martial arts/comedy/Indiana Jones treasure hunt set at the end of the Ming Dynasty. It features chaotic style variations, copious in-jokes and enough Jackie Chan look-a-likes to fuel ten Rush Hour films but it does look beautiful and with so many different tone and style shifts there has to be something to like.
The DVD video is not 16x9 enhanced, something that really should not be the case for a film made in 2009, although it does look OK. Audio is a further disappointment, being only a mono track where 5.1 audio is available in other regions. There are no extras. One must really wonder at the lack of care that has gone into this Region 4 release. Disappointing.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||LG 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 Decoder||NAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.|
|Speakers||Studio Acoustics 5.1|