Toronto After Dark 2012 - Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning - Featured

This Week in DVD: 1/15/13

Taken 2 (Olivier Megatron, 2012) – The surprise smash hit action film Taken might have elevated Liam Neeson into his new career as an all purpose badass, but few probably thought that a sequel to the worldwide smash would have ever been warranted. With Taken 2, both doubters and those enthusiastic to see Neeson get back to using his “specific set of skills” will be proven absolutely right. There isn’t a real valid reason for the existence of Taken 2, but those on the lookout for a gleefully implausible and ludicrously silly action thriller will find an undeniable amount of entertainment in this surprisingly entertaining follow-up that doesn’t out do the original as much as it amps up the threadbare premise.

Set only a year after the first film, semi-retired CIA operatie Bryan Mills (Neeson) has almost completely reconciled with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), but his now overbearing relationship to his daughter (Maggie Grace) has become strained thanks to his now constant paranoia. He invites the two of them to meet him in Istanbul as soon as he’s finished some “business” to enjoy a relaxing vacation, but the father of one of the men he killed in the first film (Rade Serbedzija) wants to kidnap all three members of the family and bring them to the mass gravesite where all of Bryan’s victims now reside.

Right off the bat, director Olivier Megatron (returning from his duties on the first film) almost goes the full Michael Bay. There’s enormous sweeping shots, crazy and almost incoherent editing that leads to no shots lasting more than a few seconds, and a European electro score beating with the urgency of wires being struck together. The viewer will know by the end of the opening sequence where Serbedzija explains his nefarious and almost Bond villain-esque plans if this is the kind of journey they want to take or not, and it might help to temper expectations accordingly. Two sequences that very obviously utilize the soundtrack to Drive and a fight sequence in an empty room that comes almost straight out of The Raid: Redemption only serve to underline the point that the film exists out of a sense of pure escapism. There are some heavy handed attempts to include some sort of socio-political subtext, but it’s all drowned out and discredited within seconds.

There’s absolutely no room in Megatron and co-writer/producer Luc Besson’s vision for anything approaching subtlety or characterization. Why dwell on such things when there are so many necks to snap and fruit carts to plow through during highs peed chases? The one interesting aspect of the film comes from the fact that Bryan gets captured relatively early on in the film (but don’t worry, it’s not for long and Neeson still opens up cans of whoop-ass on a wholesale level), leaving Grace’s daughter to save her parents. The fifteen minutes or so of the film where this all happens contains some of the most dubious logic and most improbably set of steps that a film has attempted in quite some time. It’s impossible to keep a straight face while all of this happens, but a smile during a film like this at least means the film works on its own brain dead level.

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Taken 2 isn’t a great movie by any stretch, but for those looking for 90 minutes of nearly pointless action with a continued excellent performance from Neeson, it’s exactly what you would want and expect. It’s the first film all over again, in a new location, with everything taken to the limit. It’s exciting and silly all in the same breath, and it never outstays its welcome. The fact that the ending even hints at another film in the franchise, however, might be just a bit too much of a good thing

The Blu-Ray release of Taken 2 looks okay (there’s some pixilation and blurriness during scenes with a lot of fast editing), but the sound quality is top notch. Included is an unrated cut of the film that simply amps up the gore one couldn’t get in the somewhat heavily sanitized theatrical version (the original film had this same quality, too). There’s also a small handful of unnecessary deleted and extended scenes and an alternate ending that’s pretty strange tonally, but doesn’t change very much. Add to that a couple of basic featurettes and DVD and digital copies of the film, and the package amounts to what the movie ends up being for better or worse: exactly what you probably expected it would be. (Andrew Parker)

 

Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (John Hyams, 2012) – As a general rule, barely released sequels several movies into a franchise that was never that good to begin with should be accepted for review assignment with absolute dread. But somehow Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning proves there are in fact exceptions to every rule. I have to confess to quite enjoying the original Universal Soldier when it first hit VHS, but in my defense I was nine years old at the time and can’t admit I feel the same way towards it these days. Back in the day I even tried out the direct-to-video sequels and Van Damme’s 1999 “comeback” that was the first official sequel. They were garbage, so much so that even when I heard that John Hyams’ (son of Peter “Outland/Time Cop” Hyams) 2009 offering Universal Soldier Regeneration was surprisingly decent, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. However, Hyams’ follow up Day of Reckoning got such good notices from trust worthy genre enthusiasts, I figured I’d give it a shot. Worst case scenario, it had to be good for a laugh. Holy. Crap. Universal Solider: Day of Reckoning isn’t just a pleasant surprise or the best entry in this franchise, it has some of the best hard R action sequences I’ve seen in decades. We’re talking bloody beat em’ ups on par with The Raid here. No I’m not exaggerating. Pick up a copy and don’t just wait for the YouTube clips with OMFG in the title and see for yourself.

While the script isn’t exactly Shakespeare, Hyams and his two writing collaborators spun up a story worth watching. Rising bad-guy basher Scott Adkins stars as John, a guy who awakens from a coma with no memory of his past beyond seeing his wife and child shot in the face by Jean Claude Van Damme’s supersoldier. The film opens with this sequence in POV and it’s a hell of a way of announcing that the B-movie time waster you just picked up is actually worth the efforts of your dwindling attention span. From there Adkins sets out on a hunt to find out what’s going on. Unsurprisingly, it’s all tied to the Universal Solider mythology, in which the government re-animates the corpses of dead soldiers to fight without fear and remorse, along with some super-strength to facilitate extra ass-kickery. Adkins suddenly finds himself in the middle of this conspiracy, relentless pursued by a particularly ugly super soldier, and with an underground army that also needs to be dealt with along with the series’ original stars Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren.

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Now, following the rules of a direct-to-DVD sequel, Van Damme and Lundgren are barely in the movie. They essentially appear early on as plot instigators and then return as last bosses during the final fight. Also in keeping with the genre, a pretty girl with big boobs and no acting ability must show up. Yet in both cases, Hyams actually ties these potentially distracting elements into the story well and the whole thing actually works.

The key, of course, is the action and there is plenty of that to go around. Scott Adkins is actually a decent enough actor who carries off the dazed eyed “who am I?” drama well, but what really makes him a potential future genre star are the action sequences that he does entirely himself. The show-stopper comes half-way through with metal-crunching car chase that morphs into the finest sporting goods fight out since Gremlins and concludes with the most brutal/fucking awesome baseball bat death I’ve ever scene. Even better, Hyams is a smart enough action director to know he can’t blow his wad that early and tops it with an insane super-soldier massacre that Adkins and the director appear to nail in one long take thanks to clever editing (and then he fights both Van Damme and Dolph after that as icing on the blood and guts cake). Holy Moses, are those scenes expertly staged with a merciful lack of digital manipulation to distract from the physical ass kicking. The movie itself has a pretty interesting tone, as well, departing from the slam-bang nature of the Ronald Emmerich original and the crappy follow ups for more of a paranoid thriller with ultra-violent interludes. Sure, there are some rough storytelling patches and even worse acting peppered throughout, but by direct-to-DVD standards it’s nothing. In fact, you could probably say it’s the best made-for-home action sequel ever made. Not saying much? Maybe, but this thing makes a case for the existence of that whole sorry industry.

The film debuts on Blu-ray with a nice disc that transcends its low budget origins. The transfer is slick and the sound mix eardrum-bursting. In fact, during the climatic scenes, you’d never guess the film wasn’t a full on Hollywood blockbuster. When it comes to special features, there are only a handful of short interviews with Hyams and the main stars. Admittedly Hyams has some interesting things to say, but all the interviews combined are maybe 15 minutes long. The bummer there is that the American Blu-Ray apparently comes with a feature length documentary and an audio commentary from Hyams and Lundgren that us lowly Canuks will never get to see without importing. It’s a shame that stuff didn’t make the cut, but then again these types of productions don’t tend to come with an overwhelming array of special features anyways. So I guess we should be grateful for anything.

Regardless, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is a must see for anyone with a sweet tooth for bone-crunching action. It’s about a million and a half times better than it has any right to be and hopefully enough of the right people will see it to get John Hyams out of the direct-to-DVD-despot. He’s clearly an action director with some serious skills. (Phil Brown)

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Won’t Back Down (Daniel Barnz , 2012) – Look, I get it. I know exactly where you’re coming from Won’t Back Down. I don’t know how some teachers have their jobs still, either, but man are you going about this the wrong way.

When I was in grade six, I was a troubled student, not because I was stuck in a public school that was going down the crapper, but because I hated my math teacher more than any other authority figure I had previously encountered. A man who drove a red Pontiac Fiero with ridiculously incongruous white fins on the back and a vanity plate that escapes me, he wandered into class everyday reeking like cheap, musky cologne dressed like James “Sonny” Crockett’s overcompensating younger brother and sporting the bad additude to match. If you didn’t hand in your homework under his intensely anal retentive formatting (a piece of blank paper, in pencil, measured out into a perfectly even number of sections marked by perfectly ruler drawn lines), you got kicked out of class. Accidentally say “one hundred AND fifty” instead of “one hundred fifty”? Kicked out of class. Ask for extra help? Get laughed at and mocked in front of the whole class.

His was the only class I ever purposely threw. He made me hate math for the rest of my life. Having him talk to my mother at a parent teacher conference the following year when he had the guts to ask if I was “still alive” was the icing on the cake. But of course, no one was going to fire of discipline him because he was terrifying to some people and he was already tenured and pretty much untouchable.

So yeah. I get it. But even as someone who still very clearly remembers one of the main issues at play in co-writer and director Daniel Barnz over the top, Oscar baiting, but undeniably compelling and almost bizarrely entertaining school reform drama, I would be hard pressed to find a more aggressively manipulative piece of anti-union propaganda out there. It’s about as right wing, unsubtle, and imbalanced as Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra was about the criminal justice system, just without people getting shot in the skull at point blank range. But that still doesn’t mean that it’s an awful movie. It’s almost as exciting to watch as an action film, but that probably wasn’t the intended effect.

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In the gun metal blue filtered world of inner city Pittsburgh, Barnz shoots Adams Elementary Public School as a special kind of lackadaisical hell where some teachers would prefer texting in class than actually teaching. The few teachers that do care seem to have given up trying to change anything when a lone single mother (Maggie Gyllenhaal) decides to take action when her dyslexic daughter continues to be tormented by a system that doesn’t understand her. She tries to get her daughter into the local charter school “that NPR won’t stop buzzing about” via a lottery system, but they don’t get in despite the principal (Ving Rhames, so far over the top you couldn’t see the Earth from space) presenting his school as a Patrick Stump bumping model of efficiency and excellence. He’s all show and no heart.

Her cause is strengthened by a burgeoning friendship with a teacher at Adams who herself has a son with a learning disability who isn’t finding his needs are being met. This teacher is played by Viola Davis who flat out proves that she can sell just about anything someone puts in front of her. While Gyllenhaal tends to go a bit too far over the top in the idealist category (which really is just how the character’s written as a bit of an idealist), Davis grounds the movie with a layered performance of a women who isn’t so much fed up, but tired of being frustrated all the time. She knows she could be teaching in a better location and her marriage is failing, but helping to turn their school around becomes more than just a project for her. Davis alone makes the film worth seeing despite anything else I really say about it. She’s really just that good.

The dynamic duo propose to overthrow the school’s current administration by way of a legal loophole that states that parents can “take back the school” if enough people agree that there’s a problem and there needs to be a change. The problem arises, however, that such challenges to the status quo means throwing regulations put in place by the teacher’s union out the window. Regardless of tenure or standing, people can be fired at will, but the union and the school board have ensured that no one crazy enough to take this course of action would ever be able to make it through all the bureaucratic and procedural loopholes necessary to even get what will most likely be a fruitless hearing in front of a group of union stooges.

When the film sticks to the facts for the first hour and fifteen minutes or so, Won’t Back Down works quite nicely as an inspirational drama, but when the union becomes the biggest villain in the film things get problematic, one sided, needlessly cartoonish, and as it goes on, depressingly exploitative. The film teases that it’s going to talk about how unions can protect awful workers as much as they help the good ones, but there’s really only one awful teacher, sneering bureaucrats who should all have handlebar moustaches they can twirl constantly while tying kids to railroad tracks, and Barnz never once gives them a reason for acting like jerks aside from greed. There isn’t even an attempt to mediate on the part of the union – something that would almost absolutely happen in any sane and rational world – before they resort to character attacks, threats, and scare tactics against our heroes.

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At one point, the head of the union flat out exclaims that he’ll start “giving a damn about the kids” when they start paying union dues. The teacher of Gyllenhaal’s daughter humiliates her in front of her classmates in one of the cruellest and ickiest ways possible. They even dredge up something from Davis’ past to discredit her at the last minute that would kill the character entirely if it had been played by a lesser actress. It doesn’t matter that only 2% of Adams graduates go to college or that 7 out of 10 of them can’t read at an appropriate level. THE UNION COMES FIRST YOU GUYS! But it’s okay that they all act like horror movie villains because they have Holly Hunter on hand as a union rep who remembers “how the unions used to be” when her parents implemented one at their factory jobs in North Carolina back in the day.

If there was any balance at all to what was being said, it would be much easier to take Won’t Back Down as a serious vehicle for change. Lottery systems in the states really are destroying the chances some kids get for an education. Resources are being cut to schools with little rhyme or reason, and yes, some unions including those with teachers do protect jobs that shouldn’t be protected. I would never position myself as an expert on the subject, but there’s no way that any rational thinking human being could actually buy the hard line being sold here. The problems are much deeper than “Unions are really greedy, you guys.” Barnz wallows in baseline misery set to a string section heavy score simply because it’s cinematic and wholly manipulative. The goal of the film is to do nothing more than to forward an extremely narrow point of view from only one side of the argument.

And in that respect, the film works as an almost unqualified success. It’s hard not to get caught up in the theatricality of it all. Barnz has crafted a great looking, stylish, and well paced bit of entertainment within the propaganda behind it. As a film, the film builds to a conclusion that feels like it has actual stakes regardless of what side of the political equation the viewer might come down on. It really does suck you in by the time the school board finale rolls around with the union dressed all in red (because, you know, Communism) and the school rights people dressed in green (save for Oscar Issac, playing Gyllenhaal’s love interest, a wavering yet beloved teacher, who wear a red flannel over his green tee), the film becomes a form of classical entertainment devoid of any manner of subtlety or nuance. It sure doesn’t hold back, living up to it’s confrontational title, and in that there’s something undeniably admirable and cathartic to watch.

The Blu-Ray comes with an appropriately and expectedly over the top audio commentary from Barnz who seems insistent to say that his movie only scratches the surface of the educational system, and in a backhanded way he isn’t wrong. A pair of featurettes about showing appreciation for teachers do a far better job of conveying his ham-fisted points. There’s also some deleted scenes (with optional commentary) that I skipped because I honestly didn’t want to know what they cut from this based on what I just watched. (Andrew Parker)

 

To Rome with Love (Woody Allen, 2012) – Hey everybody, Woody Allen’s back! Okay, I guess that isn’t much of a surprise. The Woodster has made at least one movie per year since someone first gave him and camera, and I dare you to try and stop him now. Thanks to Midnight in Paris providing viewers with the finest Woody Allen yarn in years, his new flick faces lofty expectations for the first time in quite a while. Unfortunately new Woody fans are about to feel the sense of mild disappointment that anyone who has followed the director for years knows all too well. Hey, when you make one movie a year, they won’t all be classics and a great deal of what this guy in particular puts out are merely mediocre larks. To Rome with Love is clearly a collection of half-finished ideas that Allen has been sitting on for a while and they’ve been strung together in an Italian setting simply because he had an opportunity to shoot a movie there. Some laughs and nice performances emerge, but ultimately this is one of those Woody Allen movies that will disappear into obscurity almost instantly.

This is an ensemble Woody Allen picture that intertwines a variety of plots. The best one stars Roberto Benigni as an average Italian man who suddenly becomes a celebrity for no reason and has to deal with being hounded by paparazzi and pursued by beautiful women. Woody Allen stars in the next plot as a failed opera director who flies to Rome with his wife (the long-missed Judy Davis) to meet their daughter’s (Alison Pill) new fiancé (Flavio Parenti). Woody quickly discovers his son-in-law’s father (Fabio Armiliato) is a talented singer, but only in the shower, requiring some creative staging to show off his talents.

Next, there’s the tale of two newlyweds (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi) who arrive in Rome for their honeymoon and end up comically separated, spending the vacation pursuing accidental new relationships with a prostitute (Penelope Cruz) and a movie star (Antonio Albanese). Finally, there’s a story starring Jesse Eisenberg as a “young Woody in love” who is forced to choose between a safe long-term girlfriend (Greta Gerwig) and her fascinatingly flaky actress friend (Ellen Page). He gets advice on the matter from Alec Baldwin who plays either an older version of the character looking back or a once spurned aging lover offering advice (that’s never clear and was probably muddled by Allen’s usual re-shoots). Either way he walks in and out of Eisenberg’s story in an inexplicably magic manner for what is essentially a remake of Woody’s underrated 2003 comedy Anything Else.

That’s a lot of stories for 112 minutes and it feels like it. None of the stories are interesting enough to play on their own and are essentially little larks for Woody. Combining them together is more confusing than anything else given that they all have drastically different timelines. One story takes place over a couple of months is intercut with another that happens over a few days with no explanation for the gaps in time. There probably should have been a rewrite or a re-edit that played the stories separately, but the perpetual just filmmaker couldn’t be bothered. That about sums up how lazy Woody’s approach was on this movie as a whole. He’s clearly just having fun shooting a movie in Italy, working with a fresh collection of actors who might become new collaborators, and hopefully spending time daydreaming about his next fully thought out project. If you’ve followed much of Woody Allen’s career, you’ll know what to expect from his forgettable endeavors. Nothing really resonates in the movie, but there are at least a few genuine laughs (particularly out of the Roberto Benigni plot) and a handful of enjoyable performances (especially from Eisenberg, Pill, Baldwin, and Paige, who will undoubtedly be asked to come back and play with Woody again). So that’s something.

To Rome with Love arrives on Blu-ray in one of the typical Allen packages. You get quite a pretty transfer given that the guy always works with a genius cinematographer (in this case Darius Khondji). His movies might just be comprised of people talking, but they sure look pretty. Woody despises special features, so don’t expect to hear anything from him. Instead. you get a little featurette with Alec Baldwin and one of the producers that’s fairly interesting, but only 9 minutes long. Unlike Midnight in Paris, this flick is for hardcore Woody Allen fans only and even they shouldn’t expect much. Ah well, at least it’ll only be a few months before he gets a chance to redeem himself with the next movie (Louis CK is in it, so that’s a plus). This is Woody’s process after all. If you’re going to follow his career, you’ve got to expect the forgettable films like this and let them slip away without much fuss. (Phil Brown)

Samsara (Rob Fricke, 2012) – Ron Fricke’s latest documentary/art project will seem awfully familiar to anyone who has seen his previous projects Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka. The guy helped create a genre with those movies, and the trouble is that genre has become so dictated by form that it’s kind of impossible for the latest chapter to feel much different than the predecessors. It’s called Samsara, which can be roughly defined as the constant repeating cycle of death and rebirth to which the physical world is eternally bound. However, it may as well be called Baraka 2, because it’s essentially a sequel/remake to the director’s beloved 1992 image collage. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Filming in 70mm and touring 25 countries around the world, Fricke has created another epic work of visual poetry. You may have seen this stuff before, but it’s been a while and since no imitators popped up in the last few decades, there’s still nothing else like it.

Devoid of anything resembling a narrative, Samsara is a difficult movie to summarize or describe. The film starts in nature and tribal/religious societies that feel unstuck stuck in time. Slow and thoughtful, this section has somewhat of a spiritual feeling difficult to pin down. Eventually Fricke moves onto America and Japan, filming vast urban spaces overflowing with people and technology. Time-lapse photography of factory workers has a dehumanizing quality to make people feel more like cogs in a machine, while disturbing footage of meat processing plants reduces animals to products. There are more people in this movie as well, shot in haunting portraits of folks of all sizes and colors staring down the camera as well as one twisted piece of performance art that visualizes Fricke’s themes well. Technology is also a major subject this time (fitting given the influx of computer cultures since Baraka), which is depicted through grand images of computers being constructed along with disturbing images of real doll bodies without heads that turn the human form into a commodity. Towards the end Fricke brings the film back to nature and his presentation of that world feels more like the natural order than any of the imposing man made structures.

Form is as much the content of the movie as any of the specific subjects. The cinematographer-turned-director’s 70mm frames are filled with details designed to get lost in. By removing all context for these images aside from how they reflect or interact with each other, there’s a peculiar beauty to be found in a tree stump or horror to be found in a sprawling metropolis. Rhythm comes through editing and music, with lingering slow motion photography combined with slow lyrical scores and high-speed time-lapse imagery backed by pounding modern compositions. The effect of both techniques is visceral and can feel like something between a Busby-Berkeley musical or a Michel Gondry music video.

All that makes the movie sound somewhat pretentious and a bit off-puttingly New Age hippy-dippy but these elements aren’t as distracting as they sound. Yes, the movie is designed as a tone poem about the interconnectedness of life and with enough coffee, soft drugs, or undergrad philosophy textbooks under your belt, there’s material here to spark like totally deep discussions. The beauty of Fricke’s movies is that they can either be about everything or simply play as purely aesthetic experiences devoid of meaning. It’s all down to what you bring to it as a viewer and either way there’s no denying the beauty of what Fricke’s team accomplished.

That beauty is elegantly represented on Blu-ray. While the film was shot on 70mm like Baraka, it was processed, developed, edited, color-timed, and eventually projected digitally. In theaters, the film was still remarkable visually, but had a digital sheen some cinephiles find off putting. Weirdly, it’s almost ideally suited to an HDTV, where the images appear exactly as designed. It’s frankly, the finest HD transfer I’ve ever seen, topping even Baraka, which was my previous benchmark for how good a Blu-ray can look. This is the showpiece Blu-ray now and really should be on floor models in electronics stores if retailers need to shift some units. There’s only one special feature, but it’s pretty fantastic: an hour long documentary in which Fricke and co. discuss the origins, production, and post of Samsara. It’s fascinating to hear just how few people were involved and the physical difficulty of the shoot as well as how the film changed, grew, and expanded while editing and scoring. Given what a unique style the film has, hearing about the goals and nature of the production is far more interesting than the usual making of fluff piece. However, no matter how good the featurette, you’re buying this disc for Samarsa and the good news is that on a technical level alone the Blu-ray is worth it. The film might not quite live up to the legacy of either Koyaanisqatsi or Baraka, but the fact that it’s even comparable is an achievement. If Fricke wants to dip back into this brand of filmmaking once a decade, that’s just fine by me. (Phil Brown)

Flying Swords of Dragons Gate (Tsui Hark, 2012) – It’s not often you get deal with a first when taking a look at feature films and home entertainment releases, but lightning has struck and we have one today.  Let’s dive into the first ever wuxia films to ever be shot entirely in 3D.  Get ready for Flying Swords of Dragons Gate.

As one of the iconic wuxia stories, the saga of Dragons Gate has been mined twice before in different films that are martial arts classics in their own right.  Director Tsui Hark revisits and reimagines these classic legends in eye popping 3D.  Vigilante general Zhao (Jet Li) is determined to restore order to the Royal throne by tracking down every corrupt official that stands in his way including an incredibly determined eunuch named Yu.  Yu and his soldiers are on their way to the newly rebuilt Dragon Inn where they hope to find a runaway pregnant palace concubine and the swordsman protecting her.  As a legendary sandstorm lays waste to the region a large collection of treasure hunters, fighters and cold blooded assassins find themselves locked in a showdown for good and evil as mother nature bears down on them all.

While being a little overblown and bloated at times, and seeing as how writer/director Tsui Hark is essentially remaking or reimagining one of his own films (Dragon Inn from 1992), this is still a great deal of fun to watch.  By their very nature wuxia films aren’t meant to be taken all that seriously and given that Flying Swords has more than a few moments of pure incomprehensibility, any plot or dialogue in congruencies are over looked in favor of eye popping visuals and elaborate fight scenes.  The story is fairly overloaded with characters and that could’ve been easily trimmed to a shorter run time then its existing 122 minutes in order to make the narrative a little smoother.  That being said, Tsui Hark is obviously highly skilled at creating and filming a variety of different action set pieces and I can only imagine that filmed directly in 3D these action sequences would have been amazing on the big screen in spite of some visual effects and obvious green screen shots that didn’t look all that great.

Jet Li leads the ensemble cast well enough as he flies through the air, sword fighting anyone in his way, and fans of Chinese action films will catch a few familiar faces in the cast including up and coming star Xun Zhou (who appeared most recently in Cloud Atlas) and film icon Chia Hui Liu (otherwise known as Gordon). The fight scene between Gordon and Jet Li is quite honestly worth the price of admission alone.

The sound and picture quality on the Blu-Ray are good, although high definition didn’t do some of the visual effects any real favors.  The special features on this Blu-Ray include a making of featurette, Interviews with the cast and filmmakers a behind the scenes look at the film as well as a Blu-Ray 3D version of the film for anyone with the proper home setup.

When all is said and done, Flying Swords of Dragon Gate is a fun film but if you’re not entirely familiar with the wuxia style of storytelling, especially here in more of an action movie motif, you might want to let this one slide away. (Dave Voigt)

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