The Warlords


The Warlords

(Tau ming chong)

Written by Chun Tin Nam & Guo Jun Li

Directed by Peter Chan



Jet Li

Andy Lau

Takeshi Kaneshiro

Xu Jing Lei


Theatrical: Morgan & Chan and Media Asia Films

Video: Magnolia Home Entertainment


Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Codec: AVC/MPEG-4

Disc Size: 42.98 GB

Feature Size: 28.07 GB

Bit Rate: 27.49 Mbps

Runtime: 113 minutes

Chapters: 16

Region: All


English DTS-HD MA 5.1

Chinese DTS-HD MA 5.1


English & Spanish


• 15 Making-of The Warlords Featurettes (38:40)

• The Warlords 117 Days: Production Journal (35:15)

• The Warlords: Behind the Scenes (17:40)

• 18 Deleted & Extended Scenes (27:15 + 29:25)

• HDNet Feature: (3:36)


Blu-ray Amaray case. 1 disc

Release Date: June 29, 2010

(cf: review of the MegaStar Blu-ray release).


The Movie: 7

The Magnolia release is cut by some 13 minutes as compared to the MegaStar.  It deletes some of the more aggressive violence, including flashes where child soldiers fall victim, and reorders a couple of the early scenes. Also cut from the original version is brief material that allows for more emotional reactions by the protagonists. Perhaps the American distributor felt this was a drag on the movie and wanted to get on with the action.  My feeling is that these fragments help us feel the inner struggle of the characters.


The first large battle set piece (at about 30 minutes into the movie) is of particular interest: The death of a minor character is entirely excised from the action in the Magnolia, as are the reactions by the “warlords” during the battle.  In this version, the battle moves quickly from the attack by foot soldiers, to the charge on horse, to the response by floods of arrows and canon.  In the MegaStar version, many of the deaths are registered more intensely.  In some cases, where in the American cut we see a lance only enter the body, in the original cut we might also see it come out the other side.  Soldiers catch their breath before the next charge and react to the deaths of others more poignantly.  Violence and death spurs on more of the same.  We see how this unfolds in the MegaStar while the Magnolia contents itself with a rush of images, only their repeated shock affects the viewer.


Image: 7/9

While the disc size is almost exactly the same as the Megastar (42.98 vs. 42.48 GB) the feature film itself takes up considerably less space (28.07 vs. 37.72).  The bit rate, curiously enough, is roughly the same (27.49 vs. 30.00 Mbps).

The most obvious differences between the two Blu-rays are color and contrast.  The Magnolia image has cyan filtration while the MegaStar is somewhat ruddy.  The contrast on the Magnolia is much more pumped up with more prominent highlights and strong, crushing blacks. The effect makes for a grittier, harder edged movie.  The MegaStar, while more natural and permitting a wider tonal scale, sometimes appears flat by comparison.  I have no way to confidently point at which is correct, however, while I find Magnolia’s green filtration artistic and eye-catching, it lacks consistency.





Audio & Music: 7/7

Since certain scenes are drastically cut, so, too, is the music score: the MegaStar strongly supports the emotional drama, while the Magnolia’s generic percussive music responds to little more than the action of a battle.  It is in that first long battle sequence where the differences between the Magnolia 5.1 audio mix and the MegaStar 7.1 are most telling – even if, like myself, you are limited to 5.1 playback.  Frankly, I was surprised that the two mixes are as different as they are, not so much in terms of what goes where, but with what level of dynamic shading.  The louds are louder and the softs softer on the MegaStar.  Except for the canon fire, where the Magnolia offers a shade more impact, the Magnolia is positively tepid by comparison in so many way it’s hard to sift through them: overlapping dialogue and shouting, gunfire effects, the swoosh of flying arrows, the power of the music and the degree to which we are utterly enveloped by the sound field.  Compared to the MegaStar, Takeshi Kaneshiro’s narration has an engaging, robust warmth that is lacking on the Magnolia.


Which leads us to the default, audio track: the English dub in DTS-HD MA 5.1. While a dub in one’s own language is useful, even necessary for many viewers, it is customary to dismiss such efforts out of hand on aesthetic grounds.  But this dub has a unique quality that makes listening to it, at least for a time, mandatory: As usual, the vocalizing is performed by actors, nearly all of whom graduated from the same gangster class that such enterprises generally demand.  But there is one (the dub for Andy Lau) that stands out, not only because he has a respectable performance voice, absent the usual gristle, but because he doesn’t speak English, so much as Australian!  If you thought Harvey Keitel as Judas was a little out of place, just wait till you hear this.  It should not be missed.


Operations: 8

Menu functions are in English and easy to access.  The many deleted and extended scenes and making-of featurettes have Play All capability.  Subtitles, are in clear white font with what appears to be the same translation as on the Megastar but not always placed under the same frame.


Extras: 6

The important difference between the Extra Features on the Magnolia and the MegaStar is that the American release substitutes a number of behind the scenes features and promos for the audio commentary (for which the Chinese edition supplied English subtitles.)  The best of these are the seventeen segments of about two and a half minutes each that make up the 38-minute Making-of Featurettes.  In a letterboxed format of decent SD quality, a variety of brief bits, bordering on the promotional, touches on matters of production, story, casting, and background.  The 117 Day Production Journal is carried over from the MegaStar and is much the better feature.  The only segment in HD is the three and a half minute HDNet promotional piece hosted by Director Peter Chan.


I can sympathize with the decision to nix the commentary for what is expected to be primarily an English speaking audience.  There can be no question that reading subtitles while watching a movie in a language one doesn’t understand is inconvenient.  However, once having seen the movie, the action is clear enough, and it isn’t all that necessary to have the dialogue running at the same time.  That said, Peter Chan’s commentary is far more revealing about the process of his movie making than all the new features put together.


Recommendation: 5

If you don’t mind subtitles and can handle Region A discs, then the MegaStar is the edition you should have.  The image is more natural (though it’s hard to tell which is correct), the audio is more vigorous, nuanced and more enveloping, and it includes the director’s commentary.  If you require an English dub or a region free edition of the movie, then the Magnolia is for you.

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

June 22, 2010


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