A Better Tomorrow comes to Hong Kong Blu-ray via Intercontinental Video with a 1080p resolution, encoded using the
AVCcodec, and framed within a theatrically correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is locked to Region A.
The image generally falls towards the artificially stylistic, this is only partially down to the cinematography which does tend to rely on overexposure to heighten the sense of a hot and sultry environment, flush with somewhat gaudy colours in the bright sunshine. However the disc seems to take this base and further emphasise the fact by artificial means. Contrast can waver from shot to shot, with blacks boosted at times to the point of eroding detail, yet at other times the frame can appear washed out. The intentional blooming is hard to judge but whilst it is handled quite well I dare say a smidge more of the detail has been lost here than would be ideal from the source.
Delineation is fairly good, with no overly soft shots or real inconsistency, but again this appears to have had a helping hand through artificial means. All of this trickery adds depth, but it is more akin to a simple foreground and background distinction than any kind of graded step into the frame.
Shadow detail is fairly good, the occasionally heavy grain has a hint of noise in there but it is minimal and not a frequent occurrence. Fine detail is a bit on the low side though, considering how many textured suits are on display it is hard to distinguish the weave of material beyond the extreme close-ups in a manner one would associate with the best transfers.
The colour palette is pushed towards the gaudier end of the spectrum, with a sepia/yellow tinge skewing a few primaries such as reds, but skin tones remain pretty steady with only a very minor fluctuation that is well within all but the most nitpicking tolerance levels.
Overall this is a reasonable depiction of a quite gaudy image, the colour intensity is there, which seems to have been prioritised, but the artificial boosting pushes it slightly beyond the mere flashy and towards inconsistency at times.
Subtitles appear within the frame and are, grammatically, near perfect.
Two lossless tracks to choose from; Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Korean Dolby TrueHD 5.1.
The difference between the tracks appears to be merely a question of level, the DTS-HD Master Audio offering seems to be the slightly less potent. The centre channel on both is a bit on the flat side but takes on a hint of depth and a rounded quality on the TrueHD track, but this doesn’t entirely alleviate the problem. Both are front heavy and the rears are not exactly overworked but the high frequencies from the piano arrangement of the familiar score is pretty crisp, however any ability to swell and raise above the centre is more to do with the latter’s flatness than any true dynamic range.
The action proves to be the real test and if you wanted it loud then you’re in luck as they’ve cranked it up to 11. If you’ve turned the dial on your receiver up until the dialogue is acceptably loud then when the gunfire breaks out your ears may pop! There isn’t much in the way of true directionality but the LFE hits home with the explosions and the rears at least come alive.
Like the picture, the inherent problems aren’t lamentably bad but just highlight a certain lack of polish. If the levels were evened out these could have been a raucous pair of tracks, as it is they are flawed but arguably just about acceptably so.
Zip. Zilch. Nada.
A Better Tomorrow could be judged harshly as a remake; no one could step into Chow Yun Fat’s shoes, Joo Jin-mo struggles to replicate the true hangdog pathos of Ti Lung and the Korean-centric twist of a family split by the conflict slips steadily away from themes of loyalty into out-and-out melodrama. However, if viewed as a new experience, by someone unaware of the roots of the material, it manages to punctuate a solid story (even if the best scenes are still those most closely replicated from the original) with some ripping action.
The Region A locked disc is flawed in both picture and audio, with both displaying problems with boosted or low levels. Neither struggle so much as to warrant a black mark, but let themselves down with some less than considered balance overall. The lack of extras is disappointing, especially considering Woo’s involvement as executive producer, one would have assumed he would pop up with an interview or two for his quick payday.
If you’ve never seen the 1986 John Woo film upon which this is based then A Better Tomorrow will suffice as one of many more than adequate Korean crime thrillers currently out there. If you’re a fan, well just temper your expectations and you may be pleasantly surprised, think of it as a cover version made with admiration for the heroic bloodshed milestone and enjoy the affectionately replicated iconic moments.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.