• Big Brother (Well Go USA) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: May 21st, 2019.
    Director: Kam Ka-Wai
    Cast: Donnie Yen, Joe Chen, Jess Liaudin
    Year: 2018
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    Big Brother – Movie Review:

    Like Jackie Chan before him, Donnie Yen is no longer a young man. As such, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him shift from less action-intensive pictures to more dramatic roles such as the one he was awarded in director Kam Ka-Wai’s 2018 picture, Big Brother.

    In this film, Yen stars as Henry Chen. He’s a former military man recruited by the head teacher (Lam Ka-Wah) of a failing inner city Hong Kong high school to come onboard and turn things around. The students are demoralized and the building is underfunded and falling apart, but Chen accepts the offer, resilient in his belief that he’ll be able to make a difference in the lives of the students.

    At first, and rather predictably, the students aren’t impressed. They give him a hard time, talk back to him and generally seem more interested in screwing around than in getting a proper education. Of course, and again rather predictably, this changes over time as the students being to admire his commitment and his conviction and, soon enough, their grades and attitudes both start to improve. You half way expect a ‘Captain, my captain’ line or two.

    Of course, just around the time that this happens and things start looking up, greedy property developers move in complete with some hired thugs intent on keeping things bad enough that they can swoop in, tear down and build their own project.

    First things first – the two major fight scenes in Big Brother are the film’s highlights. Yes, Yen does just fine with the dramatic side of his character. He’s become a decent actor over the years and he handles this aspect of Big Brother without any obvious missteps. His character is likeable and his performance just fine. It’s the ass kicking, however, where he shines. Even if he was in his mid-fifties when this movie was made, the guy still manages to move like a cat. The scene where he uses every day, ordinary classroom accessories to weaponize himself against the bad guys is genuinely impressive and a real sight to see.

    It’s also completely unnecessary. As a drama, Big Brother is decent. It’s corny, sure, and predictable, absolutely. But it has some charm and it is well-paced and more than competently directed. It’s because of this that the fight scenes are jarring. We actually manage to get involved enough with the story and the characters, as hokey as it might all be, that the fight scenes, as impressive as they are, take us out of that.

    Clearly constructed from day one as a crowd pleaser, the film is overly sentimental and riddled with one cliché after another, but it’s unrelenting positivity is, if nothing, else, marginally infectious.

    Big Brother – Blu-ray Review:

    Shot on high grade professional digital video cameras, the transfer on this AVC encoded 1080p high definition release frames Big Brother at 2.39.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. As you’d expect, there’s no dirt or debris here (one of the benefits of a digital to digital transfer) and detail is generally outstanding. Colors are nicely reproduced and look quite natural most of the time even if they are a little on the bleak side in terms of style. Black levels are strong throughout and contrast is solid. Some of the CGI used in certain scenes looks kind of silly (the car chase scene across the bridge is a big one here) and are obviously computer generated but outside of that the image is strong. This is an excellent looking transfer from Well Go USA.

    The Chinese (Cantonese) language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is also very strong. There are some impressive moments of intense surround activity throughout this movie that really take advantage of the lossless mix. Depth is impressive and the score sounds quite nice. Dialogue stays clean and clear and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion. The fight scenes really benefit from the rear channels in this mix, with plenty of audible foley effects filling in the mix. Of course, during the more subdued moments in the movie, and there are a few, things settle down but the action scenes sound really good here. The disc also includes a Chinese DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track. Optional English and Cantonese subtitles are available.

    We get three separate trailers for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Trailers a for a few other Well Go USA properties play before the menus load.

    Big Brother – The Final Word:

    Big Brother is unashamed of its blatant corniness, but it’s entertaining enough in a disposable sort of way. Yen does a decent job with the dramatic side of the picture and, not surprisingly, handles himself very well in the film’s few action scenes. If this isn’t a classic, it’s a fine diversion and Well Go USA’s Blu-ray, while light on extra features, looks and sounds very good.

    Click on the images below for full sized Big Brother Blu-ray screen caps!