The Warlords

 

The Warlords

(Tau ming chong)

Written by Chun Tin Nam & Guo Jun Li

Directed by Peter Chan

2007


Cast:

Jet Li

Andy Lau

Takeshi Kaneshiro

Xu Jing Lei


Studio:

Theatrical:  Morgan & Chan Films

Video: MegaStar (Media Asia)


Video:

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Codec: AVC/MPEG-4

Disc Size: 42.48 GB

Feature Size: 37.72 GB

Bit Rate: 30.00 Mbps

Runtime: 126 minutes

Chapters: 20

Region: A


Audio:

Mandarin DTS-HD MA 7.1

Mandarin Dolby TrueHD 7.1

Cantonese Dolby Digital EX 5.1

Chinese Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles:

English & Chinese


Extras:

• Audio Commentary with Director Peter Chan and Production Designer Yee Chung Man

• 117 Days: Production Journal (35:23)

  1. 20 Deleted Scenes with optional subtitled commentary in Chinese & English (30:00)

  2. Trailer


Presentation:

Blu-ray Amaray case w/slipcover. 1 disc

Release Date: July 18, 2008

YesAsia: 1011211470

The Movie: 8

The time is the middle nineteenth century during what is known as the Taiping Rebellion – a period of catastrophic loss of life from war and famine.  Three men on different paths come together as blood brothers, sworn to protect each other, even from each other, in their mission to right the wrongs presented by their government. 


The first of these is General Pang (Jet Li), whose army has just been obliterated in a single battle – he, by feigning death, the only survivor.  Pang wanders aimlessly for a time until he is found and nursed back to health and life by Lian (Xu Jing Lei), a woman who happens upon him when he collapses.


     


Pang wakens to find Lian gone.  He continues his wanderings until he finds himself in the company of bandits, led by Er-Hu (Andy Lau) and his second, Wu-Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro).  Lian, it turns out, is Er-Hu's wife, and has attempted several times to leave the life, but always returns.  It is not that she is mistreated in any way – far from it – but that she feels homeless, as do most all the people under Er-Hu's protection and, for that matter, everyone in China.


With the arrival of Pang, their bandit village is imbued with a fresh sense of dedication, courage and strength.  The men of the village, now led by Pang, go off to join the army to fight the good fight, where they score victories while facing overwhelming odds.  Such success comes at a cost, however – among them, the heartbreaking massacre of POWs at Suzhou.  While the powers that be plot to use Pang and Er-Hu for their nefarious ends, betrayal lies in wait from an unexpected source.


     


Like Peter Chan's Perhaps Love before it, The Warlords is filled with passion and wisdom, but the narrative does not always support them – at least I felt not.  This said, the power of the images and story and the performances by all the principals, especially Jet Li in a non martial arts role that will have you scratching your skin, are totally worth of the price of admission.


     


Image : 8/9

With its desaturated color of alternating hues and foggy sharpness, Arthur Wong's cinematography suggests the antique look of musty nineteenth century photographs. Close-ups, on the other hand, have a reach out and touch it translucence to complexions.  It's as if the director wants us to be involved in the act of bringing his characters to life in these close-ups after so many dreary-looking, though intensely dramatic action shots.  For all its emphasis on war and brutality, if we fail to make a connection to the characters, all is lost.  This is probably why the riveting (and relatively unknown to Western audiences) Xu Jinglei - a face that seems to express all of China's sadness, determination and checked passion - is always in sharp focus, as her character is intended to be the fulcrum between the three male leads.


     


Audio & Music : 9/8

Noise and more noise, then reflective dialogue, wandering, marching, imploring, and more noise: the noise of battle in every conceivable dimension that the nineteenth century could muster.  Surrounds are used to good effect in some of the interiors, as when the three brothers meet with the elders and during the archery attack in one of the later battle scenes, though I can't say that I heard nearly the difference between DTS-HD & Dolby True as I did with the new reissue of Ghost in the Shell: Innocence.  Bass is very powerful. Watch your LFE levels.  Dialogue is clear in the uncompressed audio, which once again declares why I prefer the expressive musicality of Mandarin to the clipped rhythms of Cantonese.


     


Operations : 10

Media Asia's edition of The Warlords is one of the first Blu-rays to earn a full 10 points in this category. It's quick to load, with just a couple of logos to assure us of MegaStar/Media Asia's participation but no promotional theatrical or video previews.  The chapter menu has expanding thumbnails to the right of the row of scenes.  But what really nails it for this video is that there are selectable subtitles for the running commentary as well as for the various languages for the feature.  The choices for audio and all the subtitles are accessible from the remote without having to return to the pop-up menu.  The main bonus feature has subtitles as well.  The English translation had no glaring grammatical or spelling mistakes.  The subtitles remain within the frame.


     


Extras : 8

There are three principle extra features:  The first is the feature film audio commentary in Mandarin (subtitled) by Director Peter Chan who discusses his vision of the movie, and the challenges to that realization.  Then there is the 35-minute 117 Days Production Journal in DD 2.0 @ 480i which is filled with interesting and funny bits about the 4 months of production.  (It still amazes me that, even taking into account the months of pre- and post-production, that a movie of such breadth can be shot in only 4 months.)  One of my favorite segments is where the principle actors each confront the director with their ideas about how their character would and should behave.  The other bonus feature, in less than superb 480i, though 5.1 DD, are the half hour's worth of 20 Deleted Scenes (Mandarin) with optional subtitled commentary in Chinese & English.  Kaneshiro's final scene is to die for.  Definitely worth checking out.


     


Recommendation : 9

As usual for Peter Chan, this is a movie with all stops wide open.  It's beautifully photographed, magnificently scored, and compellingly acted. The Blu-ray is first rate, given its somewhat desaturated look.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

September 5, 2008



     







          
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