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The Warlords: Collectors Edition (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000113533
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 23/2/2009 13:32
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    The Warlords: Collectors Edition

    7 / 10


    The Warlords is a story of three 'blood brothers': Jiang Wu-Yang (Takeshi Kaneshiro), Zhao Er-Hu (Andy Lau) and Pang Qing-Yun (Jet Li). Pang was a general in the Ching army whose battalion was wiped out by the Taiping rebels and, emerging from beneath a corpse, he seeks refuge in a bandit village where Zhao and Jiang are in charge. When the Ho army turns up and shoots an old woman, Zhao grabs a rifle and points it at a soldier triggering a standoff and General Ho says they should join his army so the village will be at peace. Although he is a deserter, Pang suggests that the three join the Imperial Army, where they will be fed and paid for doing what they do now as bandits. The villagers see this as a reasonable proposition but Jiang and Zhao make Pang take the blood oath before they can trust him and join up.

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    The Imperial army is split into two factions - Ching and Ho - and Pang considers the Ho army as big a threat as the rebels as the Ho army stood by and watched as his men were slaughtered by the rebels. Pang says that Lord Chen wants to increase his part of the Ching army so that General Ho won't be able to look down on him and will therefore accept anyone, even bandits and deserters.

    Under Pang's leadership their regiment proves to be extremely effective, defeating much bigger armies and Pang sets his sights on destroying the Taiping rebels by taking their capital cities: Nanking and Suzhou. With Pang becoming increasingly power-hungry, ruthless and obsessed with revenge, rifts form within the group which leads to a dramatic and devastating climax.

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    This is a beautifully shot film, with phenomenally savage battle scenes. The key battles differ in style and were shot with hundreds of extras, both on foot and horseback. The film takes place as swords and horses were on their way out and guns and cannons were replacing them so you get the savagery of blades and the destructive nature of explosives. The picture is very clear though with enough dirt, blood and smoke to keep it from becoming too shiny and unrealistic.

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    Of the options available, the DTS-HD Master Audio track is the one to pick with tremendous clarity and 'oomph' during the battle scenes. The subtitles are very good and easy to follow though I did see "closes your eyes" that was missed by the translator.

    Extra Features
    Despite the fact there is over an hour of supplementary material, there's not a great deal here to show the process behind making such a huge and expensive film though The 117 Days production diary and Reflections on 'The Warlords' shows how hard the cast and crew worked. The text only 'Truth Behind the Warlords" is interesting and actively contradicts the on-screen text at the end of the film which says that Pang's assassin was never found.

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    There have been some fine historical epics that have come out of East Asia in recent years, Mongol, Battle of Wits and the films of Yimou Zhang spring to mind and this first foray into action by Thai director Peter Chan is an impressive effort.

    With the talented triumvirate of Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jet Li in the main roles, he has some of the most bankable male leads in China. None of them disappoint with Kaneshiro's narration and nuanced performance acting as the gel between Lau's more 'fire and brimstone' character and Li's Pang, a man who's lost all sense of humanity and is hell-bent on revenge. However, this isn't the best of the previously mentioned historical epics but is very close.

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    None of the characters are particularly likeable and the plot requires a lot of concentration if you are to follow people and events properly and get the most out of the film. This had a budget of $40 million and looks like every penny was spent well and it's unsurprising that it swept the boards at the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards winning eight awards including Best Film, Director and Actor (Jet Li). If you give the film the attention it deserves, it is one that repays you with a powerful, rich and textured viewing experience. I preferred this to Battle of Wits, the film that it reminded me the most of, but it doesn't have the depth or beauty of Yimou Zhang's best work.

    Whilst this Blu-ray Disc looks fantastic with the extra pixels and the higher bitrate sound used to great effect in the battle scenes, the extras are a bit of a letdown, being a direct port from the DVD, I'm not convinced the film justifies the extra expense of buying the BD. The DVD is sufficiently good but, if your equipment can handle 1080p and DTS-HD MA and you like this type of film then the BD is the way to go.

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