Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 8th, 2015
BluRay released: July 7th, 2015
Approximate running time: 105 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Korean, Dolby Digital Stereo Korean
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: A pitching prospect is banned for baseball when it is discovered has been throwing games for a loan shark. Unable to resume his career as a baseball player and needing an income to live off of the disgraced pitcher accepts a job with the loan shark he had been throwing baseball games for.
Right now in world cinema no country handles violent content better then South Korean cinema. And over the last two decades has produce films like, I Saw the Devil, The Man from Nowhere, Mother, The Chaser and Park Chan-Wook’s Violence Trilogy. With that being said, For the Emperor is yet another in a long line of revenge themed films from South Korea.
Content wise, For the Emperor is your standard rise and fall gangster film, where an aging gangster takes a younger protegee under his wing and transforms him into a force to be reckoned with. Of course like any story about gangsters there are bound to power struggles and it is how said power struggle plays out that ultimately elevates this film beyond its aforementioned familiarly.
Structurally the film follows an unconventional narrative that opens with a key fight sequence that happens much later on in the film. And for many viewers this chaotic opening melee of blood soaked carnage might be a tad too confusing, since no characters have yet to be established. Also it does help that the majority of the fight scenes in this movie are shot with minimal lighting.
Once the main players are finally established this film hits its stride and it continues to build momentum as everything builds up to one final showdown. And though this film has an ample amount of action oriented set pieces, its bread and butter are the more dramatic interactions between its characters =, most notably scenes that feature the disgraced baseball player and his loan shark who has become his mentor.
Beside this mentor character the film does feature another interesting character. This other character a young woman who works as a prostitute is caught up in a trap that bears a strong resemblance to the one that this film’s protagonist finds himself in. Unfortunately when it comes this character she is woefully underdeveloped with the majority of her screen time involving sexual acts or she is being brutalized by those she owes a debt too.
From a performance standpoint the entire cast are all very good in their respective roles with this film’s standout performance coming from Sung Woong Park (Shadowless Sword, The Shameless) in the role of Jung Sang Ha, the long shark / gangster who becomes Lee Hwan the disgraced baseball players mentor. Other performances of note include Min-ki Lee (Monster) in the role of Lee Hwan and Tae-im Lee in the role of Cha Yeon Soo, the young woman that Lee Hwan falls in love with. Overall despite its short comings the end result is a very satisfying melodrama that works as well as it does because of the strength of its main characters.
For the Emperor comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This transfer has to polar sides to it, one on side are scenes that take place during daylight / well lit moments which look consistently sharp. Then there is the other side which makes up the bulk of the moments which take place at night / are in dimly lit places and these moments don’t exhibit the same image clarity. With that being said, this film does feature a far amount post production color adjustments and some of this may have to do with the aforementioned lack of crispness of the image. Also 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 Korean and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Korean. The audio mix sound great throughout as dialog is always clear, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. This mix shines the most during fight scenes as sound is well represented for maximum effect. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film and trailers for other films also available from Well Go USA. Overall Well Go USA gives For the Emperor a strong audio / presentation.
Note: This film is also being released by Well Go USA on DVD.