Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 1st, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1994
Director: Ringo Lam
Cast: John Ching, Willie Chi, Chun Lam, Carman Lee, Kam-Kong Wong, Sheng Yang
DVD Released: June 29th, 2010
Approximate Running Time: 104 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Cantonese, Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Discotek
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Synopsis: The Manchurian government sets out to exterminate all the disciples of Shaolin.
Burning Paradise was directed by Ringo Lam, who rose to prominence in Hong Kong cinema in the latter part of the 1980’s after directing films like City on Fire, Prison on Fire and School on Fire. Even though he has made a trio film’s in Hollywood with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Unlike most of his contemporaries he has also manage to stay active in Hong Kong cinema. Burning Paradise was produced by Tsui Hark (We’re Going to Eat You, Once Upon a Time in China), who was offered a chance to direct this film. Even though he turned the producers down. He was the one responsible for bringing Ringo Lam to the project.
The plot primarily revolves around a Shaolin disciple named Fong Sai-Yuk. This character which is rooted in Chinese folklore has had several film’s made about his exploits. With the most notable being Heroes Two, Disciples of the 36th Chamber, The Legend, The Legend II. The plot also features another character that is rooted in Chinese folklore, Hung Hei-Kwun. This character was portrayed by Jet Li in The New Legend of Shaolin. The same year that Burning Paradise was released.
While some viewers who are not as familiar with Ringo Lam’s cinematic output. Will find this film overly brutal and gory. Tone wise, Burning Paradise is in line with the film’s that Ringo Lam had directed up to that point in his career. When compared to other martial arts film’s that were being released around the time this film made. This film really stands in a class all of its own. In the way it shift’s away from what was trendy at the time. Sure there are some funny moments, like a scene where Fong Sai-Yuk, his master and a young woman are all piled on top of each other as they hide from Manchurian soldiers under hay. When they finally leave their hiding place each of the character’s have hand print’s on their more intimate areas.
From the opening moments when the Manchurian soldiers are chasing Fong Sai-Yuk and his master. The story moves along at a break neck pace. Also the carnage occurs early on and often. There are soldiers who are cut in half, decapitated horse and hand maidens who have their throats slit with nothing more than someone’s finger tips, before their heads are ripped off their shoulders. Like every story about good verse evil, this one features a few nihilistic characters who are hell bent on just causing pain and suffering. To soften up some of the film’s rougher edges. A love interest for Fong Sai-Yuk is thrown in for good measure.
Plot wise the story like many martial arts is kept simple. With the emphasizes kept more on the explosive action set pieces and copious amount of carnage. The most surprising aspect of this film are the performances from the entire cast. Many of which this was one of their first films. The film’s standout performance comes from Kam-Kong Wong (The Defender), in the role of Elder Kung, the diabolical man in charge of the Red Lotus prison which the bulk of the movie takes place in.
Discotek presents Burning Paradise in a anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. When compared to previous home video release of Burning Paradise. The transfer for this DVD release will come as a revelation for anyone who has seen any of those sub par presentations. Flesh tones look healthy, colors look vibrant and nicely saturated. The biggest improvement for many viewers will be the amount of detail present in the film’s dimly lit scenes which on previous home video releases looked murky. There are no problems with compression or combing and edge enhancement is kept in check.
This release comes with two audio options. The film’s original Cantonese language which is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo and a English dubbed audio mix which is also presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The Cantonese audio mix is by far and away the better of the audio mixes. As it sounds clear and balanced throughout. The English audio mix has noticeable background noise that varies in degree throughout. And it also sounds flat, especially compared to the Cantonese audio mix. It should also be noted that the English audio mix has some sections where the dialog is in Cantonese and these instances are subtitled in English. Also the Cantonese audio mix comes with English subtitles that are error free and easy to follow.
Extras for this release include trailers for Burning Paradise (2 minutes 46 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Cantonese with English subtitles), The Storm Riders (2 minutes 12 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, English language trailer), Ebola Syndrome (2 minutes 23 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Cantonese with English subtitles), a Chinese Torture Chamber Story (2 minutes 1 second – letterboxed widescreen, in Cantonese with English subtitles) and a interview with producer Tsui Hark (4 minutes 25 seconds – in English with brunt in French subtitles), who discusses how he got involved in the project, director Ringo Lam and his thoughts on the film. Overall Burning Paradise gets a solid audio / video presentation from Discotek.