The White Dragon (Fei hap siu baak lung) (2004)

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Released 15-May-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Trailer-x 3 but not for this film
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 89:00
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (71:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Wilson Yip
Studio
Distributor
SONY Pictures
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Francis Ng
Cecilia Cheung
Hui Shiu Hung
Liu Lei
Andy On
Nay Suet
Patrick Tang
Kitty Yuen
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Tommy Wai


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Chinese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Dutch
Arabic
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Phoenix (Cecilia Cheung) is a typical spoiled teenage school girl from a wealthy family in Imperial China, concerned about her looks and dreaming with her school friends about the perfect husband. In fact, Phoenix has her sights set on Second Prince Tian Yang (Andy On) and the feeling is mutual. Chicken Feathers (Francis Ng) is a blind assassin for hire trying to earn enough money to have surgery on his eyes. On his trail is the elderly White Dragon (Nei Suet), but one night she is badly injured and passes on her fighting powers to the nearest person. This just happens to be Phoenix, who becomes the White Dragon Jr., robbing the rich to give to the poor. When Phoenix discovers that Chicken Feathers has been hired to kill Prince Tian, she sets out to kill Chicken Feathers before he can fulfil his contract.

     Things do not go according to plan. Phoenix is injured by Chicken Feathers, who takes her to his home and looks after her as she recovers. Initially antagonistic, Phoenix gradually comes to recognise Chicken Feather’s qualities; in contrast, he is totally in love with her. When Phoenix finally escapes and is reunited with her family, Prince Tian proposes marriage. But treachery is afoot and it seems that Tian is still a target. When Chicken Feathers is captured and sentenced to be executed, Phoenix must decide who she truly loves.

     The White Dragon (Fei hap siu baak lung) is an interesting mix of comedy and martial arts. The time period in which the film is set is not specified, but except for the costumes and swords it is thoroughly modern, with a rock music concert with the smashing of instruments and crowd surfing, shopping trips and a take away from McD’s complete with a cute toy! The first third of the film is an absolute hoot and it does include some good martial arts action with exaggerated wire work that, in this case, is perfectly in keeping with the over the top tone of the film. The middle of the film while Chicken Feathers is caring for Phoenix is a bit slow and goes on too long; the film here becoming more a romantic comedy, although there are still some funny moments. Then in the last 20 minutes the film becomes more serious as it moves towards its climax and the reveal of just who is targeting Prince Tian.

     These tone changes make The White Dragon feel uneven. At its most bizarre in the first third of the film it is very funny indeed, with decent action sequences. But while the pace then slows considerably, the film is held together by a wonderful performance by Francis Ng as the blind assassin. His face is all expression and he shows he is no slouch at deadpan comic timing. Cecilia Cheung is also great fun as the b****y, spoiled brat although she is not as convincing in the more serious aspects of the role. However, she always looks beautiful and, interestingly, she was far more convincing the next year in Chen Kaige’s spectacular The Promise (2005). Director Wilson Yip went on to make some well received straight action films, such as the Donnie Yen vehicles Ip Man (2008) and Ip Man 2 (2010); with the earlier The White Dragon he shows that he can have some fun with the genre and, even in the later sections, The White Dragon never takes itself too seriously and is mostly good clean fun.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     White Dragon is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     The print is fine although a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the picture can be quite soft, while other sequences are crisp and finely detailed. Blacks are fine and shadow detail good, colours also vary from dull to quite vibrant depending upon the scene, but skin tones are fine and brightness is consistent. There are also occasional small artefacts and evident grain but nothing distracting.

     Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Dutch, Arabic, French and Hindi. The English subtitles are in a clear white font and contain a few minor grammatical errors.

    The layer change occurred at 71:48. On my Sony Blu-ray player it created a problem, first freezing up then jumping forward about 3 minutes to the start of the next scene. However, when I played the disc on my LG Blu-ray player it worked fine.

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

Audio

     Audio is choice between Chinese, English and French, all Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps. I listened to the Chinese track and sampled the English dub. The audio is not particularly vibrant or enveloping. Dialogue was clear and centred and the surrounds used for some effects and music. The sub woofer was little used. The English dub is poor.

     Lip synchronisation for the Chinese version was very good. Not surprisingly, in the English dub the lips often did not match the dialogue.

     The original music is credited to Tommy Wai although the score seems to use a number of familiar library tunes. It actually works pretty well, supporting the moods of the film.

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

Extras

Trailers

     Stealth (1:58), Zathura (1:44) and MirrorMask (1:07).

R4 vs R1

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

     Our release is coded Region 2 / 4 / 5. It has the same language dubs as the Region 1 US and Region 2 UK releases; subtitles differ slightly, but none have any extras other than trailers. The Region 3 Chinese version has a Cantonese DTS 5.1 audio, a 19 minute “Making of” and a 12 page photo gallery. The extra has no English subtitles, so is of limited use for English speakers. A draw.

Summary

     The White Dragon is an uneven film; the first third is an absolute hoot, the middle a bit slow, then the last 20 minutes become more serious as the film moves towards its climax. But The White Dragon is held together by a wonderful performance by Francis Ng and never takes itself too seriously.

     The video and audio are nothing special, but acceptable, three trailers for other films are the only extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, September 12, 2011
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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