Lai Xi (Nakai Kiichi) must complete one last mission for the Emperor before he can returnto Japan: track down and execute mutinous Butcher Li (Jiang Wen), who refused to kill femaleand children prisoners, and is now an outlaw. Li and Lai Xi’s first encounter ends in a draw, andLai Xi agrees to wait for a rematch until Li has completed his current mission: escorting acaravan through bandit country. Lai Xi is soon caught up in the effort to protect the caravan, andthe battles…grow more desperate once it is discovered that the caravan is transporting somethingof enormous value and crucial political importance.
The opening credits include a crawl which obviously situations the film in its historicalperiod, but there are no subtitles. If the filmmakers felt that Chinese audiences needed a littleextra help here, isn’t that all the more true of North American viewers, and couldn’t Sony havehelped out a little here? The film is thus a little hard to follow for about the first half-hour, butonce the central quest has begun (the journey with the caravan), everything is suitably clear. Thebattle scenes are exciting, and the cinematography is gorgeous. There is yet another CGsandstorm here, of the kind already used in The Mummy and Hidalgo, but theeffect is much more painterly and beautiful here. A find adventure tale.
Here are there one encounters some inappropriately placed sound effects (horses’ hoovesemerging from the rear speakers before the horses get there) but by and large the placement isvery good. The environmental effects are pretty consistent and impressive, and the same is truefor the room-filling, majestic score by A.R. Rahman (though on at least one occasion the balanceshifted rather abruptly from front to rear). The left-right separation is excellent, and the volumelevel is powerful.
This is a very eye-pleasing 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The colours are extemelyrich, the blacks are deep, and the image is very sharp. There is no grain, and I saw no edgeenhancement halos. This is a real pleasure to watch, and the transfer does full justice, one feels,to the theatrical experience.
The making-of featurette is a fairly standard promotional piece, but given how few extrasthese films are usually have on disc, it’s welcome. Jolin Tsai’s music video “Warriors of Peace”is here two, as well as the trailers for the feature and seven other releases. The menu is basic.
Another stirring, pictorially magnificent adventure with two honourable heroes on oppositesides of the law. Great stuff.
Special Features List
- Making-of Featurette
- “Warriors of Peace” Music Video