Black Ransom Blu-ray Review
PictureBlack Ransom comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution, encoded using the AVC codec and framed within a theatrically correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is locked to region A.
Vicol Entertainment seems to have done as similarly good a job as they accomplished with their release of Future X Cops. Thankfully there are no obvious signs of damage, something that cannot be taken for granted, even with the most recent Honk Kong releases. As with any production that seems to rely fairly heavily on natural light sources, colour fidelity can be a little wavering, but for the most part the palette remains consistent. Skin tones are mostly stable, with just the occasional pinkish blush, but don't stray too far from naturalistic, even when under strong street lights or bright interior bulbs. Blacks are pleasingly deep and seem all the better when compared to the muted palette. Primaries, particularly the red (as used for blood) come through well and are certainly rich, helping to add a much needed sense of depth to the frame.
Detail is good if not comparable to the best and the slight softness that many fans of Hong Kong films will know oh so well does creep in occasionally, but when it is overly noticeable I tend to assume this to be more of a consequence of camera mis-focus than an indication of a poor transfer. This certainly ranks as one of the best I've seen, in terms of sharpness, from the region. There is some slight crushing and blooming and one instance that looked like strangely applied edge enhancement but these are minor in comparison to the benefits this Blu-ray offers the viewer.
Point of note - for those with constant-image-height set-ups, the subtitles are inside the frame.
SoundThere are three audio options available - Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1. I opted for the lossless track.
This isn't exactly a complex orchestration. The dialogue is perhaps a little on the hushed side and rises and dips slightly in a few places, but speech still seemed fairly clear (though obviously I cannot vouch for intonation etc not speaking the language) if a little lacking in terms of warmth. The front soundstage is reasonably wide and handles the score nicely, but surprisingly the sub doesn't do a great deal to lend a hand and underpin it. I say surprisingly because there are a couple of occasions where the LFE proves itself to be not only powerful but extremely tight, which makes the fact that it isn't more central to the musical arrangement all the more perplexing.
Gunshots have decent variation and all sound pretty sharp, be they close and punchy or distant cracks, they are crisp and snappy. There isn't much use of the surrounds to the action sequences, other than to pipe in parts of the score, but they are occasionally called upon. Discreet effects aren't the order of the day and when there is an attempt to pull off a convincing pan it is usually somewhat clouded and muddy rather than incisive. The sporadic explosive nature of the lower frequencies and the tight score should be enough for fans of HK crime fiction, but others may turn their noses up at this mix which lacks a certain refinement.
ExtrasMaking of - 10:30
Unfortunately there are no English subtitles so I am unable to rate this.
Two trailers for the film, lasting 1:33 and 1:29.
VerdictBlack Ransom is a run-of-the-mill crime thriller that never strays significantly from the well trodden path of numerous similar films that have gone before it. Logic sometimes eludes the characterisations and the cat-and-mouse nature of a cop going after a brilliant and ruthless criminal is all too brief and lacks depth. Simon Yam manages to put in yet another decent performance, even when handed little to work with, but he remains perhaps the only truly worthwhile reason to watch what is essentially a clichéd narrative.
The disc is locked to region A which will likely disappoint those keen on importing who rely on their UK machines. The fact that the extras are without English subs isn't the worst news though as they appear to be minimal at best. Picture quality is strong and, other than a couple of slips, ranks as one of the better examples of disc coming out of Hong Kong. Audio wise the lossless track is not exactly nuanced but it does at least offer a few pleasingly powerful moments of bass which should appease action fans.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.49
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