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|Category||Action - Hong Kong style||Dolby Digital Trailer - City
Theatrical Trailer - 1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:09)
Featurette - The Making Of (20:40)
|Running Time||96:08 minutes|
Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment
|Case||Transparent Soft Brackley|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Cantonese (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1?||
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Okay, so times have changed a little and the budgets have gotten a little larger and the production values have risen a tad. But at the end of the film, they are so unashamedly Hong Kong action films that you cannot help but love them. No need to worry about searing depth to the plots as there was rarely a plot. No need to worry about quality of acting as it was usually pretty ropey, since the main aim of the film was as much ludicrous action as could be reasonably packed into 90 minutes using the minimum amount of money as possible. And to be blunt, lots of extremely attractive women. Guess what? You just got a description of Tokyo Raiders, Hong Kong action of the (almost) new millennium!
This incarnation of the Hong Kong action film is a tad unusual - it is shot predominately in Japan and includes a fair chunk of Japanese unless my ears deceive me (although I will admit that my knowledge of Cantonese is very ropey despite residing in the former colony for four months). The prologue to the film is a nifty bit of martial arts fighting featuring Len (Tony Leung) doing a whole bunch of ridiculous stuff. The basic story of the film, though, is of beautiful Macy (Kelly Chen), left standing at the altar of one of those cheap quickie wedding chapels in Las Vegas. Her fiancé Takahashi (Toru Nakamura) simply did not turn up. Returning to Hong Kong, she is wandering around their apartment when their interior decorator Yung (Ekin Cheng) turns up looking for payment. Macy decides to head off to Japan to find her fiancé and lo and behold but who joins her at the airport? Yep, her interior decorator. Cue their arrival in Tokyo and the pair head to Takahashi's apartment only to find it empty - apart from some rather nasty men from a Yakuza headed by Ito (Hiroshi Abe). They want to find Takahashi too, but probably for a different reason than Macy and Yung. After some more action, the pair are rescued by the even more stunningly gorgeous Saori (Cecilia Cheung - I promise to stop drooling in a minute), who then delivers them to - Len. Things are of course not all that they seem. It turns out that Takahashi is a very popular fellow, as everyone seems to want to get him. The chase is on to find the gentleman - hopefully with the love-struck Macy leading the way. Oh, Len has a nice little collection of beauties as his assistants (Kumiko Endo, Minami Shirakawa and Majyu Ozawa) to keep the male interest level high - I mean who watches these films for the unbelievable action scenes?
On the meter reading for quality screenplays, this would hardly rate above average, but that at least makes it more interesting than The Matrix (a blatant Hong Kong film rip-off with Hollywood money excesses thrown at it). You also would not be watching this for the terrific acting, of which there is sadly very little. I mean, Kelly Chen might be a very good looking woman, but most of her role is so annoying that you feel like wringing a teddy bear's neck (well you would not want to wring Kelly's neck, she is too good looking). In other words, pretty much your prototypical leading lady in a Hong Kong film. The male cast are not much better acting-wise, but at least they get to strut their stuff in the action sequences, and these are worth the price of admission alone. Whilst most of the stuff is fairly typically way-over-the-top stuff, for pure mindless entertainment it is brilliant stuff. Good looking women, great action sequences, corny lines, hackneyed chase sequences, pointless and inexplicable explosions (just how often has a chase ended with the car/truck/motorbike/boat/whatever running slap bang into a huge pile of petrol or other flammable material stored in the most inexplicable place possible?) - hey, this film has it all. What more could you want? Directing? Well, don't look here. Cinematography? Let that one pass through to the keeper.
It is certainly not classic cinema, but this sort of stuff you can watch for hours. Ninety minutes of pure, unadulterated mindless entertainment - you have got to love it!
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced. I am presuming that this is the correct theatrical ratio even though the Internet Movie Database lists it as being 2.35:1. However, conclusive evidence at this time is a bit difficult to track down.
Whilst I would like to be able to rave about a typical Columbia TriStar transfer job here, I simply cannot. The main issue for me is that the transfer is just a little on the diffuse side at times and never really demonstrates any great sharpness to the image. Whilst I certainly would have expected this from a Hong Kong film from twenty years ago, I am a bit surprised to see it now. With the overall look of the transfer being on the diffuse side, the detail also suffers a little. Shadow detail is generally acceptable although there is one sequence around the 17:00 mark which really is quite poor. Clarity is generally pretty good, but not as good as we would expect in a one year old film. There appears to be some light graininess through some portions of the film. There did not appear to be any low level noise problems in the transfer.
Colours are not especially vibrant and are in general on the softer side of the palette. The big disappointment for me is the fact that the night-time scenes of (presumably) Tokyo, which have plenty of neon advertising signs, just lack sparkle. Overall the palette is quite natural, it is just that the lack of vibrancy and sparkle at times does detract. There is generally nothing in the way of oversaturation here, although the red opening credits display the trademark Hong Kong oversaturation and slight bleed that I have seen so many times. Blacks are not especially terrific and it would perhaps have aided the whole film if there was a bit more depth to the colours throughout. There did not appear to be any colour bleed issues in the transfer other than in the opening credits.
There were some hints of MPEG artefacts during some panning sequences, with a loss of resolution being quite common. It is nothing outrageous, and is probably a reflection of source material limitations. There was not much in the way of film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, with just a few instances of aliasing making their presence felt at times (around the 40:00 and 62:00 minute marks are the sort of stuff to expect). Somewhat surprisingly, there were some rather obvious white film artefacts making their presence felt during the transfer, but nothing really distracting.
The DVD is an RSDL formatted effort with the layer change coming at 69:29. This is quite a well-handled effort as it occurs during an upward pan through a black scene fade, and so is barely noticeable at all and certainly does not disrupt the film at all.
Since this is one of those still relatively rare
efforts of a foreign language film with English subtitles (which do default
to on), it is very amusing to watch the dub soundtrack with the subtitles
on. Sometimes very close to the mark, they also wander almost completely
away from each other at times.
The dialogue was all over the shop in the film, with some being quite difficult to hear and understand (term used loosely of course), but in general was passably clear and relatively easy to understand. There did not appear to be any significant audio sync issues in the transfer. The English dub soundtrack obviously suffers horrendously from audio sync problems, but more than makes up for that with an utterly clear and completely understandable dialogue. A pity that the dialogue does not warrant such clarity. The dub really does suck.
The music score is credited to Peter Kam, although it really does sound like the Hong Kong Action Film Soundtrack No.29©, with just a few odd bits of the Hong Kong Action Film Soundtrack No.13© thrown in just for some variety. There really is not much here that I would consider much above average at best and it really does sound like a whole bunch of other clichéd action film soundtracks. I suppose that it does its job well enough though, as you really don't notice it that much.
The only major issue I have with the Cantonese soundtrack,
apart from it highlighting the decidedly average foley work (I am being
very polite), is the fact that the bass channel has been ridiculously mixed
into the overall soundtrack and comes thundering into action in a completely
unnatural and completely unbelievable way. In other words, it suits the
film well! No, all kidding aside, it is very poor at times and a mild kung-fu
kick that barely connects gets a bass support equivalent to an Armageddon-sized
asteroid hitting the Earth. Yet at other times the bass channel seems to
go mysteriously silent when you would have expected huge bass support.
Even funnier is the fact that the English dub soundtrack does not seem
to suffer the same way and the bass channel is overall more natural and
believable. Surround channel use, especially through the rear channels,
is not terrific but it does the job that is asked of it without too much
hassle. It does lack a degree of sparkle overall in both soundtracks and
needs a lot more air in the sound to be believable, despite the high bit
rate of the transfer. However, I seriously doubt that anyone would be approaching
this film expecting an audio demonstration anyway, and so I doubt that
too many would really be disappointed with what we have got here.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
13th April, 2001
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|