Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 5th, 2014
BluRay released: May 27th, 2014
Approximate running time: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Stereo Mandarin
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
Of late when ti comes to Chinese cinema the majority of films have been taking on a serious tone and are often rooted in Chinese historical events. And though many of these films are well done and entertaining to watch. There is a part of me that misses a more lighthearted, no holds barred cinema that emerged from Hong Kong during the 1980’s and early 1990’s.
Content wise though Eastern Bandits places itself in World War II during the Japanese occupation of Japan. It is far removed from those aforementioned historical films that are far too often too serious in tone. Instead the tone of the film takes on an anything goes mentally that at times is reminiscent of those by gone days of Hong Kong cinema.
The premise is simple a group of thieves who rob from the wealthy are infiltrated by a young man who has higher principles then they do. He convinces them that it is their civic duty to kidnap the emperors’ brother because of what Japan has done to their country. Only they have other thoughts like how much ransom can they get for the emperors’ brother? On the other side of the spectrum are the Japanese characters who are always portrayed as one dimensional and brutal in regards to the Chinese. Then there are the bandits in this film are all well flesh out personas who are all very likable not matter what they do?
From a production stand point there are not any areas where this film does not hold up well or excel. The film’s visuals are consistently strong, especially the fight sequences which are all well executed and inventive in design. Pacing is never an issues since this film dives in head first at a break neck pace that steam rolls onto this film’s satisfying finale. Also it is crystal clear from the get go that this film main objective it too has some fun.
Performance wise the entire cats are all very enjoyable in their respectable roles. With this film’s stand out performance coming from Xiaoming Huang (The Last Tycoon) in the role of Fang the charismatic leader of the bandits. Another performance of note is Yi Zhang in the role of Gao, the young man who infiltrates the bandits and convinces them to let him join. Overall though Eastern Bandits brings nothing new to the table, it ultimately succeeds as a film because it achieves everything it set out to do.
Eastern Bandits comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, details generally look crisp and black and contrast levels look very good. There are no issues with compression and DNR is kept in check.
This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Mandarin and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Mandarin. The DTS-HD 5.1 mix is a robust track, where dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. And when it comes to the sound effects this track does a superb job with these more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. The audio track sounds clean, clear and balanced throughout. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include trailer for the film and trailers for other films also available from Well Go USA. Overall Eastern Bandits gets a strong audio / video presentation from Well Go USA.
Note: This film is also being released by Well Go USA on DVD.