Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 8th, 2013
BluRay released: January 8th, 2012
Approximate running time: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Stereo Mandarin, DTS-HD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
In modern Chinese cinema just the bulk of films that are finding their way to western audiences are historical based dramas. So it should not come as a surprise that the latest Chow Yun Fat film to western audiences is rooted in a historical period from China. The plot for The Assassins takes place during the Three Kingdom era in which Han dynasty founded the state of Wei and their eventually conquest at the hand of Jing dynasty, who established the state of Wu. That enough about the more historical aspect from which this film plot loosely draws from.
The plot for The Assassins primarily revolves around an ambitious prime minister named Cao Cao, who through his cruelty and ability to crush his foes is appointed as the king of Wei. Things turn for the worse when rumors get out that Cao Cao has plans to usurp the emperor. Will these rumors finally end Cao Cao reign of tyranny or will his quest for power finally be realized.
Where far too many of the historical drama’s immerging out of Chinese cinema come off as bloated and more concerned with the spectacle. Along comes a film like The Assassins that reigns itself in by keeping things simple and to the point. At just over 100 minutes not a moment is wasted and no character is underused or underdeveloped.
Besides the aforementioned back story and character development. The film also gets things right and then some with its well designed action set pieces. With that being said, one of this films greatest strengths is how the action set pieces further bolster the story at hand and try to overshadow it.
Performance wise it would hard to find any faults in any of the performances in this film. in fact I would go so far to say that this is one of best acted Chinese drama’s that I have seen in a very long time. With this most memorable and dominating performance coming from Chow Yun Fat (The Killer, Hard Boiled) in the role of Cao Cao. Another performance of note is Yifei Liu (White Vengeance) in the role of a female assassin named Gong Ling Ju.
The Assassins comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Colors and flesh tones look accurate and black and contrast levels generally fare well. Details at times tend to look soft, there are no problems and DNR is kept to a minimum.
This release comes with four audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Mandarin, a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Mandarin, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in English. All four audio mixes are in great shape. with the two DTS-HD 5.1 mixes being the obvious winners of the lot. The more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are superbly realized and the audio mixes always sounds robust when it needs. Dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 40 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and a ‘Behind the Scenes’ featurette (13 minutes 45 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Mandarin with English subtitles). The main extra a ‘Behind the Scenes’ featurette is a satisfying mix of onset footage and comments from the cast and crew. Rounding out the extras are trailers for other titles also available from Well Go USA. Overall The Assassins gets a first rate release from Well Go USA.
Note: This film is also being released by Well Go USA on DVD.