• Shadow (Well Go USA) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: August 13th, 2019.
    Director: Yimou Zhang
    Cast: Chao Deng, Li Sun, Ryan Zheng, Qianyuan Wang, Jingchun Wang
    Year: 2018
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    Shadow – Movie Review:

    From the Yimou Zhang, the director of Hero and House Of Flying Daggers, comes 2018’s Shadow, which is set during China's Three Kingdom's era. The film introduces us to the King Of Pei (Zheng Kai) and his sister Qing Ping (Xiaotong Guan). They, along with his Commander Yu (Deng Chao) and the commander’s wife Madam (Li Sun), hope to reclaim the nearby city of Jingzhou that was once their territory but which no belongs to Yang (Hu Jun), who won it in a duel. To do this, the King offers up Qing Ping to be the wife of Xiao Ai’s son. This offer is rejected, and Yang makes it clear that Qing Ping is only worthy of being his son’s concubine. The alliance between the King and Yu splits when the Commander heads out to see Yang and challenges him to a duel without the King’s permission. It does not sit well with the King when Yu returns.

    Except that the Commander isn’t Yu, he’s Jing (Deng Chao again), a ‘shadow’ trained since birth to take Yu’s place if necessary. With Yu having been injured in the duel, he’s now in hiding, leaving Jing to fill in for him. All of this has happened without the King’s knowledge, but Madam knows, and maybe not so surprisingly, starts to fall for her husband’s doppelganger.

    While all of this is going on, the Commander schemes, hoping, after the appropriate training, to launch an attack on Yang that will reclaim Jingzhou. Yu and Jing practice moves using a staff and a specially designed umbrella made with metal blades in hopes of finding Yang’s potential weakness…

    What starts as a complicated and talking work of palace intrigue definitely takes its time getting started, but Shadow pays off quite nicely by the time it’s all over. Shadow is a gorgeous looking film from start to finish. If it weren’t for the faces and skin of the cast and the blood that flows in the fight scenes, this movie would basically be black and white, making the use of color in the film even more powerful than it would have been otherwise. The film toys with symbolism quite often, Yu and Jing training over a massive yin-yang symbol, making it clear the duality of certain characters, good versus evil of course.

    The action scenes are damned impressive. The use of the umbrella as a weapon in the film opens up a lot of doors for interesting fight choreography and the film takes advantage of all of them. Without wanting to spoil some of the more interesting set pieces (warning – some of the screen caps below will do that), let it suffice to say that they are impressive. Even when CGI is used, which is often, it works surprisingly well, rarely standing out as artificial but blending into the more tactile elements of the production very effectively.

    Performances are also very strong. Zheng Kai is great as the King, a spoiled man child of a ruler prone to tempestuous outbursts and egotistically motivated maneuvering. The part is played very well. Deng Chao is truly excellent in his dual role. But it’s the scope of the picture and the look of the world where all this takes place that really impresses. There are times where the melodrama is piled on a little high and the pacing in the first half can try your patience at times, but overall, this is quite a striking work of art.

    Shadow – Blu-ray Review:

    Well Go USA brings Shadow to Blu-ray in a beautiful AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen, which would seem to be its original aspect ratio. The transfer brings the black and white heavy color scheme to life wonderfully and detail is very, very strong. Black levels are nice and deep, there area no problems with any crush, and shadow detail is impressive too. There’s a lot of great depth and texture to the image and, as this was shot digitally, the picture is free of any noticeable grain or print damage. The transfer is pretty much flawless.

    A Dolby Atmos 7.1 track is provided in Mandarin and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track in English with optional subtitles offered up in Chinese and English. The Mandarin track is excellent. Dialogue is crystal clear and the score, which isn’t nearly as over the top as you might expect (and all the better for it) strong and relayed with precision. When the action scenes occur the mix comes to life very nicely, using all of the surround channels to pull you into the action in a big way.

    Extras are made up of a series of short featurettes: the two-minute About The Double, the three-minute The Director, the three-minute The Unknown Side Of Zhang Yimou, the three-minute Behind The Scenes, the four-minute Heroes, the three-minute Deng Chao and the two-minute Zheng Kai. The titles are pretty self-explanatory here but as brief as these are, they’re worth checking out to glean some insight into Yimou’s creative process, what some of the cast members went through and for the behind the scenes footage.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are two trailers for the feature, bonus trailers for IP Man 4, The Legend Of The Demon Cat, Better Days and Freaks. Menus and chapter selection are also provided.

    As this is a combo pack release, the keepcase also contains a DVD version of the movie inside.

    Shadow – The Final Word:

    Shadow takes a while to get going, playing out as more of a historical drama than an action picture, but once that last act kicks in, the pay off is worth it and the movie comes together in some pretty impressive ways. This is definitely a case where the visuals make this worth seeing, but the performances are quite good as well and if the story is slow, at least it’s interesting! Well Go USA’s Blu-ray is a little light on extra features but the presentation is excellent, offering the film with a reference quality transfer and fantastic audio. Recommended.

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