Magnolia Pictures // 2007 // 113 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 22nd, 2010
Whatever happened to the whole "Jet Li retiring from period martial arts epics" thing?
Add another entry into the gold rush of History of China Battlethons, Warlords recounts the adventures of three bad-asses from way-back-when: General Pang (Jet Li) and his two bandit pals, Er Hu (Andy Lau) and Wu Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro). Pang is disgraced after his battalion gets wiped out and he plays dead. Teaming up with the two bandits grants him an avenue towards redemption, which will ultimately lead through a wasteland of dead extras and dried blood.
It's official. I am now bored of the Epic Battle Scene. I'm sure I have made this statement before. Lord knows there has been no shortage of movies featuring Epic Battle Scenes since Braveheart helped throw open the floodgates. The set-pieces in The Lord of the Rings trilogy were the last large-stage battle sequences that grabbed my attention. Now, the sight of a legion of extras, supplemented by some computer animation, charging towards each other, screaming and hacking and shooting at each other leaves me cold. And even with the added bonus of cascades of blood, the big action moments in Warlords simply did nothing for me. The sporadic wirework was even more disappointing.
If you find yourself still enamored with this particular mayhem, then Warlords might be a solid pick. The story is fine and the performances are effective. Jet Li does a lot of grimacing and in some scenes he looks shockingly old, but when called upon, he still has the hand-to-hand moves. Another plus: the film only runs 113 minutes, eschewing a bloated three-hour "epic" length. I just didn't have my boat officially floated.
The Blu-ray is a mixed offering as well. The 2.35:1 transfer has its moments, especially when the camera pulls back to drink up the massive China vistas, but overall the visual fidelity doesn't belong in the top-tier. Details get murkier that I would like and the more kinetic scenes jumble together and produce an under-performing resolution. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks (English dubbed and Mandarin) are active enough, though you'd be wise to stick with the Chinese track and English subtitles; the dubbing is distracting, made worse by the fact that Jet Li is a big enough American star that everyone knows what his English sounds like. And the dude they got to dub his lines does not sound like Jet Li.
A bounty of solid extras: deleted scenes, making-of featurettes, a production diary, a behind-the-scenes special and an HDNET feature.
What's between "Guilty" and "Not Guilty"? S'okay?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Mandarin)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes