Written by: Michael Den Boer on September 2nd, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: China, 2012
Director: Wai-keung Lau (Andrew Lau)
Writers: Oi Wah Lam, Joyce Chan, Yuet-Jan Hui, Peter Tsi, Junli Guo, Koon-nam Lui
Cast: Xiaoming Huang, Ethan Juan, Purba Rgyal, Tian Gao, Yi Wei Zhou, Boran Jing, Peng Guo, Yuchun Li, Yu Wang, Vivien Li
BluRay released: August 13th, 2013
Approximate running time: 113 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: DTS-HD 7.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Stereo Mandarin, DTS-HD 7.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: An elite squad of assassins find themselves at odds with the new emperor when he decides to favor more modern ways of warfare.
The Guillotines is the latest wall to wall action film from Andrew Lau who’s other notable films include Storm Riders, the Infernal Affairs trilogy and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. Other key collaborators on The Guillotines include cinematographer Yuen Man Fung (Dog Bite Dog, Accident) and composer Kwong Wing Chan (The Twins Effect, Three …. Extremes).
Though The Guillotines has all ingredients one would expect and want from a Chinese action film. There was something about this film that always keep me just at bay and never fully embracing the pomp and circumstance that unfolds onscreen. And that elephant is the room is very crudely designed CGI that is such an eye sore you would have to be blind not to notice it or be cringe at its presence.
Qualms about the CGI aside, since it is what it is. What else can one say about this film. The premise of having a secret assassin squad is actually very cool idea that is ripe with countless possibilities. Unfortunately somewhere in this film’s middle act this film looses focus and abruptly changes direction into a film about two childhood friends who now find themselves at odds with each other.
And though it is understandable that this film could not depict this elite group of assassins as invincible as they are portrayed in the opening moments. Because in the end it is these characters vulnerability that ultimately drives this films narrative. Especially in the case of this films protagonist a young man named Leng. And in many ways this film is all about his journey. His past and present colliding thus creating his future.
From a visual stand point the film is beautifully shoot as every inch of screen is milked for all its worth. Pacing is never an issue as things open with break neck action set piece that sets the tone for what follows. The action oriented moments fare better when CGI is not the focal point of the sequence. With this film most memorable moments involves an ambush sequences where the most wanted criminal in all of the land is rescued by his loyal followers.
Performance wise, this is one area that impressed me the most about this production as each and every cast member deliver very good performances. Especially Xiaoming Huang (Ip Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster) in the role of a ‘Jesus Christ like character’ named Wolf. Overall though The Guillotines makes a frail attempt at throwing sum subtext into the mix. The end result is yet another classic example of how modern Chinese action cinema sacrifices substance in favor of style.
The Guillotines comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. Overall this is a strong transfer that does a very good job retaining the intended look of this film.
This release comes with four audio options, a DTS-HD 7.1 mix in Mandarin, a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Mandarin, a DTS-HD 7.1 mix in English and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in English. As you can see there is a wide array of audio options, all of which sound clear and balanced throughout. With of course the DTS-HD 7.1 mixes being the most impressive of the lot. Range wise the two DTS-HD 7.1 mixes sound appropriately robust when they need too and they also do a great job with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 59 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a ‘Making of’ segment (17 minutes 15 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Mandarin with English subtitles) and interviews with director Andrew Lau, customer designer Dora Ng, actors Huang Xiaoming, Ethan Juan, Shawn Yue, Boran Jing and actress Li Yuchan (37 minutes and 43 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Mandarin with English subtitles). Though not all encompassing in content the interviews and ‘making of’ segment still offer up a lot of information about this film production. Rounding out the extras are trailers for other titles also available from Well Go USA. Overall The Guillotines gets a first rate release from Well Go USA.
Note: This film is also being released by Well Go USA on DVD.