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Unique ID Code: 0000084663
Added by: DVD Reviewer
Added on: 23/6/2006 15:16
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Better Tomorrow, A (Special Edition) (UK)

5 / 10
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The movie that began it all...
Certificate: 18
Running Time: 92 mins
Retail Price: £19.99
Release Date:

A Better Tomorrow is John Woo`s compelling tale of two brothers - Ho Tse Sung (Ti Lung), a successful counterfeiter, and Kit Sung (Leslie Cheung), a rookie graduate of the Hong Kong Police Academy. Incarcerated after a deal goes wrong, on his release from prison Ho decides it is time to go straight. However, he is coerced back into a life of crime by his former associates and his need to help his best friend and former right-hand man Mark (Chow Yun Fat), who has fallen on hard times.
Ho is also attempting to reconcile his relationship with his policeman brother, who blames him for the death of their father and is coming under increasing pressure from his superiors because of his familial links to organised crime. A series of heists, double-crosses and shoot-outs lead to a climactic battle in which two men find themselves fighting for their lives and their honour! The film is taken from a restored, Hi-Def master.

Special Features:
Disc One: Commentary by Hong Kong film expert Bey Logan. Trailers.
Disc Two: Crossings: John Woo - a new John Woo documentary (48 mins). Interview with Chow Yun-Fat and interview with John Woo.

Video Tracks:
Widescreen Letterbox 1.85:1

Audio Tracks:
Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 Cantonese

Subtitle Tracks:

Directed By:
John Woo

Written By:

Lung Ti
Leslie Cheung
Yun-Fat Chow
Emily Chu
Waise Lee

Soundtrack By:
Joseph Koo
Ka-Fai Koo

Director of Photography:
Wing-Hung Wong

Ma Kam
David Wu

Production Designer:
Chi Leung Lui

Hark Tsui
John Woo


Your Opinions and Comments

5 / 10
Intro- The one which started it all....the dual guns, the male bonding, the evil protagonist who can`t be killed until the end, the ballet like violence, the blood spurting and of course...the melodrama. All of these elements form the Heroic Bloodshed genre as coined by a film critic who named it after the Chinese title of action director John Woo`s later film, The Killer.

The film is a tale about two brothers, Sung Tse-Ho is a successful counterfeiter who is friends with Mark (played by a highly charasmatic Chow Yun-Fat) and his younger brother Sung Tse-Kit is a rookie policeman who`s just graduating from police academy. Ho is double crossed during a set up in Taiwan and is forced to turn himself to the police and Mark is shot in a firefight with rival gangs. 3 years have passed, Sung Tse-Ho was released from jail. From there, he wants to start with a clean slate, free of crime but his past haunts him as the crime bosses leaning on him and Mark encouraging him to return to his old ways. To complicate further things, Ho`s younger brother Kit hasn`t forgiven him for the death of their father. Queue the melodramatic scenes.

This is considered to be John Woo`s break-through film, despite having a limited budget and recieving almost no advertising, it proved to be a huge success in Hong Kong and it was the top grossing film in Hong Kong film history it remain in that spot for several years. The film became so popular, that the sunglasses worn by Chow Yun-Fat was sold out within minutes! Also many kids who watched it also wore trench coats. It made a profound change in Hong Kong action cinema and later, Hollywood. Woo managed to make gun play very appealing (previously Hong Kong action films were mostly sword play) by tightly choreographing this violence and relying heavily on slow motion during action scenes. Despite all the positive points, Woo was under fire from several Hong Kong officials for glamourising the triad lifestyle and this criticism carried on for his subsequent films.

Optimum Asia gives us this 2 disc UE of the classic film.

Video- The film is present in 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen and I must say, this isn`t a particulary good transfer. The good news is that this is the first time that the film has been presented in anamorphic in the UK. Now, here`s the bad news. Despite claims of digital remastering, it`s about as remastered as a severly damaged 1940 film. I see no attempt of the print restored in any way. There are heavy instances of grain and flecks can be seen everywhere almost every second. In addition to all that, THEY`VE SCREWED UP THE ASPECT RATIO!!!! IT`S SUPPOSED TO BE IN 1.85:1 FOR GOODNESS SAKE! I`m rather disappointed with the handling of the transfer. The action in the film is well chorepgraphed although it feels rather flawed in places, Woo gave himself enough time to polish up the action by the time he made The Killer.

Sound- Optimum Asia made a wise choice by keeping the original mono. Your choice, the original Cantonese or the awful English dub, if I were you, stick with the former and switch on the subtitles. The original track is good enough, don`t expect a lot of oomph on these sound mixes as this is film was made 20 years old. The subtitles follow very closely to the Cantonese dialogue, so there`s some good news.

Extras- The DVD is packaged in some steel-tin with an advertisement for other releases. The extra which saves the day is the commentary by Asian Cinema Expert Bey Logan! If you haven`t listened to any of his commentaries then here`s your chance. That man doesn`t give himself a break when it comes to commentaries. Let me give you a sample interesting anecdotes in the commentary. In the beginning, when Mark buys food, the vender has to run away from the coppers is because he doesn`t have a licence to sell foods on the steet. Other anecdotes include Taiwan being actually Hong Kong somewhere else!

The 2nd disc comprises of 3 featurettes. The first one is Crossings - John Woo, a 50 minute documentary which just talks about Woo`s films in general how his films have influenced Hollywood and stuff. It`s a typical EPK type featurette and offers no real insight into Woo`s life. Somewhat disappointing.

The lasts two are interviews with John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat, both interviews are rather filmed amateurishly and again hardly offer any insight to the film. A typical talking head featurette with the two saying: "I`m did this before I did that"

Overall- A Better Tomorrow is probably the Citizen Kane of action cinema, the action is amazing as well as the performance of Chow Yun Fat who transformed from a carefree gangster to a homeless man. Interestingly, he was cast because he did not resemble an action hero. Despite being tagged Ultimate Edition, I was expecting a lot more than a bunch of featurettes which hardly give any insight to the film save the Logan commentary which I find the only worthy feature. I wonder why the "I`m not bothered to commission good featurettes" attitude? Of course £££.
posted by alias-rf2 on 3/8/2006 03:58