Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 11th, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: Taiwan / China / Hong Kong / France, 2015
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Writers: Cheng Ah, T’ien-wen Chu, Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Hai-Meng Hsieh, Xing Pei
Cast: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Satoshi Tsumabuki
BluRay released: January 26th, 2016
Approximate running time: 106 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Stereo Mandarin
Subtitles: English, French, Chinese
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
The Assassin was co-written and directed by Hsiao-Hsien Hou whose other notable films include, Millennium Mambo and Three Times. Key collaborators on The Assassin include, cinematographer Ping Bin Lee (In the Mood for Love) and composer Giong Lim (A Touch of Sin).
Right from the get go is it crystal clear that The Assassin is a different kind of a martial arts film. Where the majority of the martial arts films have two primary objectives. When it comes to action set pieces they must be bigger and better then what has already been done. The other main object revolves this genres staples and maintaining them.
For too often the term ‘slow’ is presented as a negative connotation and while there is no dying that this film has deliberate pacing that most viewers are sure to find challenging. Fortunate this is not the case here as this film’s deliberate pacing allows for deeply rewarding cinematic experience that resonates long after its final moments.
From a production stand point there are so many areas where this film excels. First and foremost are its striking visuals which give the story at hand a tremendous amount of atmosphere. Another strength of this film is its meticulously constructed narrative and its well-defined characters. And when it comes to this film’s action set pieces they are in direct contrast with what one expects from a martial arts films. With that being said, what these action set pieces’ lack is visual excesses. They more than make up for by grounding these action moments in reality.
Everything with this film begins and ends with Qi Shu’s (The Storm Riders, So Close) performance in the role of this film’s protagonist Nie Yinniang. This is a character who sparsely uses words and instead she uses her emotions to convey what she wants to get across. Other performance of note includes, Chen Chang (Happy Together, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) in the role of Tian Ji’an, the man Nie is sent to assassinate.
The Assassin comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This is a well authored disc that does a superb job retaining this film’s very distinctive look. Details look crisp, grain looks natural and there are no issues with DNR or compression. It should be noted that there is a scene in this film where the film’s aspect ratio changes from 1.37:1 to 1:78:1 to emphasize said scene and these changes in aspect ratio is intended.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Mandarin and a Dolby Digital stereo mix in Mandarin. Both audio mixes sound clear, balanced and robust when they need too. Range and depth wise the DTS-HD 5.1 mix does an exceptional good ensuring every sound is heard at their correct pitch. And though there is fullness to this audio mix that is evident throughout and not just during action oriented moments. This mix truly shines the most in its replication of ambient noises. Included with this release are three subtitles options, English, French and Chinese.
‘Nie Yinniang’ (3 minutes 11 seconds, in Mandarin with English, French and Chinese subtitles).
The origins of the film, martial arts and wanting to create something new, wanting to maintain a sense of reality and letting the visuals speak for themselves.
‘The Actors: No Rehearsals’ (3 minutes 45 seconds, in Mandarin with English, French and Chinese subtitles).
The cast and crew discuss their performances and working with Hsiao-Hsien Hou.
The cast & director discuss the fight sequences.
‘A Time Machine to the Tang Dynasty’ (3 minutes 1 second, in Mandarin with English, French and Chinese subtitles).
This extra discusses set and customer design and creating an authentic look.
Rounding out the extras are trailers for other titles also available from Well Go USA. Overall The Assassin gets a solid release from Well Go USA, highly recommended.
Note: This film is also being released by Well Go USA on DVD.