Released by: Well Go USA
Released on: September 4, 2012.
Director: Daniel Lee
Cast: Shaofeng Feng, Leon Lai, Yifei Liu, Anthony Wong
Year: 2011 Purchase From Amazon
Written and directed by Daniel Lee in 2011, White Vengeance is, at its core at least, a period story of two soldiers - Liu Bang (Leon Lai) and Xiang Yu (Shaofeng Feng) – who have teamed up to take a city, the caveat being that whoever makes it into the city first gets to be the emperor. Though both men appear to be honest about their intentions, as they mount their campaigns to win the coveted spot, things obviously do not go as planned and before you know it Liu winds up the victor – Xiang isn’t happy about it but he’s got his advisor on hand, Fan Zeng (Anthony Wong), to help. Complicating matters further is the presence of Xiang’s girlfriend, Yuji (Yifei Liu).
As their respect for one another quickly dissipates, tensions mount and violence begins to escalate…
Based on a historical incident known as the ‘Banquet at Hong Gate’ this film is massive and upon first viewing might be difficult to completely grasp. There’s a LOT going on here, and while that’s not a bad thing in the least, it can get a little complicated as, just like so many films made in so many other cultures are wont to do, the picture assumes we know a bit about the basic history of the situation going in. This is probably not a big deal to Chinese audiences but to western audiences, it can make things a little tricky to understand – it’s maybe not a bad idea to spend some time reading up on the events before watching the movie, it does help to explain a few things here and there.
That issue aside, and it’s not at all a fault of the film so much as it is a simple cultural difference, White Vengeance is impressive. The cinematography is nearly flawless, and while it occasionally relies a little too heavily on some unnecessary shaky cam techniques in the fight scenes, it does a remarkable job of showing off the beauty of the locations chosen for the film and all of the detail seen in the props and costumes. Swooping camera movements help to pull us into a few key scenes while tight shots and close ups assist in accentuating the drama inherent in the storyline. The film seems to use a lot of heavy blue colors throughout the movie but outside of that the use of color is also impressive.
As far as the performances are concerned, the four principal players do excellent work here. Anthony Wong is rock solid in his supporting role here, proving to those not already convinced that there’s more to his ability than the shock value his Cat III performances are known for. Yifei Liu is beautiful and intriguing in her part and she adds some welcome feminine charm to a very male-centric cast. The two leads, Shaofeng Feng and Leon Lai, are both brooding and intense in every way you’d want them to be but also capable of showing strong emotional range here. The movie is just really well put together on every level. It’s not the most accessible picture for the ‘Average Joe’ but if you’re into broadening your horizons a bit and doing a bit of research beforehand, it’s a rewarding enough picture to be sure.
The AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition picture on this disc is excellent. Detail is strong, colors are reproduced naturally and without having been artificially pumped up and black levels are nice and deep throughout the presentation. Some questionable use of CGI looks a little off, but that’s an issue with the effect itself and not the transfer. There are no issues at all with dirt, debris or visual detriments of any kind and the disc is well authored, showing no noise reduction or heavy edge enhancement. Outside of some slight shimmer here and there, the movie looks excellent in high definition.
Chinese language audio options are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with removable subtitles available in English only. An optional English language dubbed track is also provided, but really, the only way to watch this movie is the lossless option, as it’s an impressive one from start to finish that does a remarkable job of putting you right in the middle of the action. The score is spread around perfectly with some nice pans thrown in for dramatic effect while bass response is consistent in its power but never to the point where it buries anything that it shouldn’t. It’s hard to think of anything negative to say here, this is pretty much a reference quality mix.
There are two pretty substantial supplements included on this disc, the first of which is a fifty-four minute standard definition Behind The Scenes featurette that is more or less a collection of fly on the wall footage but which will be of interest to those who enjoy seeing and learning how martial arts stunt work is done. There is a lot of emphasis on putting together the fight scenes here and we see how much of the wire work was done in addition to how the actors prepare for their roles. The other main extra is a collection of thirty-six minutes of interviews with the principal cast members and with director Daniel Lee, each of whom offers up some interesting stories about their work on the picture and what it was like collaborating with one another on the project. Maybe more importantly, they also discuss some of the historical events that inspired this film.
Rounding out the extras are a domestic trailer, an international trailer, animated menus and chapter selection.
The Final Word:
An epic and sprawling film of fairly massive proportions, White Vengeance isn’t lacking for action, drama or majesty to the point where it borders on the overwhelming. With that said, it’s an impressive picture, a beautifully shot movie with some amazing production values and some excellent performances. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray is also very strong, offering the film in near reference quality shape and with a couple of notable extras as well. Recommended.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!