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Storm Riders, The 
Written by: on September 23rd, 2009

Theatrical Release Date:
Hong Kong, 1998
Director: Andrew Lau
Writer: Manfred Wong
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Ekin Cheng, Sonny Chiba, Kristy Yang, Qi Shu, Michael Tse, Rongguang Yu, Alex Fong, Anthony Wong

DVD Released: September 29th, 2009
Approximate Running Time: 90 minutes (International Version), 128 minutes (Uncut Version)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English (International Version), DTS Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese (Uncut Version)
Subtitles: English
DVD Release: Discotek
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95

Synopsis: A power hungry martial arts master named Lord Conquer slaughters the families of Cloud and Wind, two young boys with whom his destiny is intertwined. After Lord Conquer murdered their families, he then raises the two young boys who are believed to have special powers. Ten years later, after years of being natured by Lord Conquer, Cloud and Wind uncover the truth about their master.

The Storm Riders was directed by Andrew Lau, whose other notable films include the Infernal Affairs trilogy. Andrew Lau was also the cinematographer on The Storm Riders. Some other films he also worked as cinematographer include City on Fire, As Tears Go By, Wild Search, Once Upon a Time in China III, New Police Story and Chungking Express. The screenplay for The Storm Riders was based on (Manhua) comic created by Wing-Shing Ma a Chinese illustrator / writer. This DVD release includes two versions of the much shorter International theatrical cut of The Storm Riders drastically cuts back on character development / back-story and the superior director’s cut which clocks in at nearly forty minutes longer then the aforementioned International theatrical cut.

The plot takes the necessary time to develop all the main players and lay the foundation for where the story is heading. The opening twenty four minutes are extremely crucial to the overall flow of this magical adventure and the International cut of the film drastically removes the bulk of this opening set up. The general tenor of this film is a rather bleak tale about a megalomaniac martial arts master who leaves a trail of bloodshed everywhere he ventures. The plot does inject from time to time some comedic moments and romance via a love triangle that gives some balance to the film’s overriding darker subject matter. The fight scenes are all well done with a few standouts like a scene where Lord Conquer and Whispering Prince (Wind’s father) fight with bamboo. The special effects which for their time where some of the most advance to appear in a Hong Kong film production still look good even if they do at times look their age. Performance wise all of the cast are very satisfying in their respective roles. The most impressive performance to emerge out of this film is Sonny Chiba who flawlessly captures the essence of Lord Conquer the embodiment of pure evil. Two other performances of note are the two female leads Kristy Yang in the role of Charity, Lord Conquers daughter and Qi Shu (So Close, The Transporter), in the role of Muse a tom boy peasant girl. Ultimately The Storm Riders is the type of film that you either love or hate. Fans of comic book film adaptations and Hong Kong fantasy / action cinema are sure to get the most mileage out this film, while on the opposite end of the spectrum just about everyone else might be turned off by more whimsical aspects of this film.

The DVD:

Discotek presents both versions (International and director’s cuts), in an anamorphic widescreen. The International cut has been flagged for progressive playback, while the director’s cut is interlaced. Both versions look very similar in quality as colors look nicely saturated, flesh tones look accurate and details look generally sharp throughout. Even though the director’s cut is interlaced the image remains stable with no excessive ghosting / blurring issues.

The International cut comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital stereo mix in English. The director’s cut comes with two audio options DTS Cantonese and Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese and removable English subtitles have been included. All three audio mixes are in good shape with the Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese having a slight edge over the other two audio mixes as it sounds the most robust of the three audio mixes.

Extras on disc one include character profiles, an interview with director Andrew Lau (12 minutes 10 seconds – in English), a “Special Effects” featurette (20 minutes 51 seconds) and a “Making of” featurette (22 minutes and 34 seconds).  For the two featurette’s “Special Effects” and “Making of” all the participants speak in their native languages and English subtitles have been provided. Some of the topics they discuss include the comic from which the films I based, the characters in the film and the actor who portray them. The only thing that these featurette’s are missing is comments from Sonny Chiba, at least his participation is covered by the many comments from cast & crew about him. Rounding out the extras on disc one are trailers for Ebola Syndrome, Chinese Torture Chamber Story, Sex and Zen, Burning Paradise and Taxi Hunter. Extras on disc two include the International trailer (2 minutes 12 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 32 seconds anamorphic widescreen), cast bios and a production stills gallery. Overall Discotek gives The Storm Riders a strong DVD release that is loaded with a wealth of extra content.

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