Well Go Usa // 2011 // 138 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // September 7th, 2012
Not an exploitation movie from the '70s.
Time for another big-budget Chinese historical epic! Up to bat this time: White Vengeance, a sprawling, handsome production that delves into events leading up to the Red Cliff rebellion and the fall of the Qin Dynasty. The central historical event powering things is a monster battle known as the Feast at Hong Gate.
Director Daniel Lee (Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of The Dragon, Black Mask) drills down past the epic battle scenes to tease out compelling human drama, by focusing on two heavy-hitters vying for military supremacy among the wreckage of the Qin Dynasty. They're Liu Ban (Leon Lai) and Xiang FU (Feng Shaofeng), both masterful at their jobs commanding impressive armies that are pining to beat each other senseless. But political betrayal, power plays, and the affections of a woman muddy the waters. Still, when you get right down to it, it's who spears the other guy first.
Full disclosure: I am currently suffering from a rare disorder called Chinesehistoricalepicacia. When confronted with yet another large-scale, history-heavy period piece from our friendly debt-holders on the other side of the world, I enter a state of sever fatigue and disinterest.
The only cure is to solder on for the benefit of those with a burning passion for Chinese history, because let me tell you, if you don't, I have a hard time seeing something like White Vengeance landing in your wheelhouse.
Not that it's a bad movie. At all. It is marvelous to look at, beautifully photographed, and features big-time battles which are shot and choreographed spectacularly. In fact, as opposed to most of the Chinese epics I've seen, there is a lot of action. It's of the big army vs. big army strain of course, but Lee knows what he's doing, so you'll actually be able to track the mayhem. Once in a while, you'll get zooms into more personal, one-on-one battles, and those are excellent as well.
As for the copious plot, you're going to have to really be into this stuff to get the fullest satisfaction. On the surface level, the politicking is interesting and a good love story is a good love story -- but if you're not terribly compelled by how the Feast at Hong Gate fits into the rest of Chinese history, you're probably going to be engaged only so much. At least I was.
Anyway, White Vengeance (Blu-ray) is positively astonishing. Well Go USA tends to deliver on the technical front and this one continues that tradition. It is a gorgeous film and the 1.78:1/1080p high definition transfer serves Lee's vision well. I don't care what the scene was -- an intimate person-to-person encounter, or a gigantic sweep of thousands of warriors doing battle -- it will radiate. The visuals are clean, vibrant, and richly detailed; this is HD of the highest order and should be considered as reference disc material. Likewise, the DST-HD 5.1 Master Audio track in the original Mandarin serves up some pleasing audio, particularly during the war scenes, which will pound your living room walls. Ninety minutes of bonus material is split into an extended behind-the-scenes reel, and cast and crew interviews.
Not Guilty. Good movie, but I'm about ready for a Chinese action movie that at least features gunpowder in some form.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Well Go Usa
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Mandarin)
Running Time: 138 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated