Connected Blu-ray Review
'Connected' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC coding.
The transfer for this movie is strange in that it has a washed out appearance and can seem over saturated at times, which should not be the case on such a recent release. Some of the long shots (such as the city-scape shots) can look soft on occasion and are nowhere near the levels of pin sharp detail that Blu-ray can produce. Shadow detail can at times appear somewhat synthetic and unnatural, with unusual lighting choices playing a detrimental factor. The colouring in this presentation also varies and it seems that Chan (or the mastering technicians) have actually changed the colour temperature from warm to cool in some of the scenes. For example, the colour of Tong's hair varies from grey/black to silver/purple throughout. I'm not too sure of the reasoning behind this choice but the result is a rather disjointed video (and colour) presentation. I also noticed some edge enhancement in some of the scenes (although I did have to move closer to the screen to confirm EE presence). A lot of the scenes did display some grain but this granular presence was always organic and unobtrusive.
Aside from the observations above, the presentation as a whole is relatively well defined and has a very acceptable level of detail. Facial close-ups can be very impressive at times, with the pock marked scarring on Tong's face standing out with sharp definition, as do the beads of sweat which gather on Grace's chest and face. The rusted supports and general decrepit nature of Grace's shed/prison and the red markings on her wrist from being handcuffed are also clearly visible. There were one or two instances of depth such as the scene where Bob teeter-totters at the edge of a cliff but there are few other examples which spring to mind.
Overall this is somewhat of a mixed bag, with some of the shots appearing well defined and others soft in comparison. Some of the presentation is firmly two dimensional and lacks the depth and “3D Pop” factor which other Blu-ray releases have produced. In contrast some of the facial close-ups are very well defined and there is plenty of detail on show. Despite its shortcomings this transfer makes it into the recommended rating........barely, I'm giving Chan “artistic leeway” on the colour temperature choices.
'Connected' comes packed with an impressive 5.1 LPCM surround track.
There is plenty of activity on this track, as is to be expected from such an action laden piece. The Ka chase sequence is aurally impressive with beeping horns and motorists whizzing past the listening position, with an immense creaking groan (with the clatter of falling bamboo from the surround channels) as Bob takes out an entire building following a collision with scaffolding. There are also a couple of nice surround effects such as multiple mobile phones ringing around the soundstage at the opening of the movie and some nice bustle from the surrounds during the hospital scene. All of impact scenes, such as the various car crashes involving Bob and his Ka and especially the impact with Grace's car at the beginning of the movie, have a resounding “whump” from the subwoofer, which is deeply satisfying (the impact following the ram on Grace's car really caused me to jump!). The numerous gunshots fired throughout all have a beautiful “crack” with accompanying mid-range punch, with the surround channels coming into play as the bullets ricochet around the soundstage with nice directionality (a prime example being the bathroom shootout near the end of the movie). Dialogue is also clear throughout with Grace's high pitched screams and the deeper growl of Tong perfectly represented.
The score is also impressive with some nice bass presence and surround bleed. It creeps into the mix providing sinister overtones during Grace's initial capture which seep from every speaker. At other points it takes up a steadier beat and really injects pace during the action sequences, such as the James Bond styled theme during the car chase sequence. It's also capable of some tenderness with a much softer presence during the more subdued moments. The score always sits perfectly in the mix (sometimes appearing to come directly from above the listening position) and never drowns out the on screen action.
Overall this is an impressive mix, which has been well engineered and comes recommended.
'Connected' comes with a second DVD disc (region free) which contains all the extra features (in standard definition). The exception is the commentary track featuring Chan, which can be found on the Blu-ray disc. Once again we find that English speaking Asian movie fans are not catered for completely on Asian BD releases, with English subtitles only available on the “Making Of” feature.
Deleted Scenes - Here we have a collection of seventeen deleted scenes, all of which are in unfinished quality. This collection seems to comprise mainly of extended scenes from the movie. The first reaffirms the love that Grace has for Tinker. The second seems identical to the scene from the finished product where Grace first explores her makeshift prison. The third features Joe as he interacts with the debt collecting gang (not too sure what was going on here). The fourth again features Joe as he shows his kinder side during the debt collection scene from the beginning of the movie. The fifth shows Fai at the burnt drug dealers car (there could be different dialogue here but I couldn't tell). The sixth features Joe as he takes a call from Grace (this also seems to feature alternative dialogue). The seventh shows Grace being questioned by her captors. The eight is an alternative take on the Ford Ka chase sequence. The ninth features Joe as he searches for a taxi. The tenth is an alternative take on the Mercedes stealing scene. The eleventh features Joe as he speaks to Grace about something! The twelfth is an expansion of the scene where Kai shops at the market with his wife. The thirteenth features Joe at the remote control airplane flying spot. Again this seems to be an extension of the scene from the movie. The fourteenth is an alternative take on the scene where Joe flees with the camera before realising that his phone is broken. The fifteenth is an alternative take on the scene where Kai breaks into Grace's home. The sixteenth features Tinker as she cries as she and Grace are held hostage by the gang. The seventeenth features Kit as he gets through to his Dad's voicemail at the airport (with accompanying extension of the airport scene).
Alternative Scenes - Here we have a collection of eight alternative scenes. The first features Joe as he escapes from the gang at the remote controlled airplane flying spot. The second and third are alternative takes on the car phone charger scene involving the difficult sales man. The fourth features Joe as he hides from the gang in a warehouse. The fifth is a different take on the scene where Joe and the gang leader fight in the warehouse. The sixth features Kai as he speaks with his old supervisor (who is the worst for wear). The seventh features Grace as she fights with her captors at the end of the movie. The eight is a brief dialogue between Kai and Joe. All seem more or less the same as scenes included in the finished product but there could be alternative dialogue.
Making Of (SD 4:3 20mins) - A making of feature including plenty of behind the scenes footage (including all the stunt sequences) and interviews with Benny Chan and the cast. They expand on all the action sequences from the movie as well as commenting on the characters they play and the plot. The last five minutes of this feature is a montage from the movie and some concept drawings. This feature is presented is in same stylised manner as the movie itself.
Behind the Scenes (SD 38mins) - A huge collection of behind the scenes footage. Included are the actors relaxing off camera (and praying with incense!) with revealing insight into all the stunt sequences (including a look at the onset storyboards). An interesting feature, although it could have done with some editing to ease the repetitive nature of the material.
Trailers - Four trailers for the feature presentation.
Based on 'Cellular', which was released in 2004, 'Connected' was released four years later by HK director Benny Chan. The story involves a debt collector named Bob as he sets out to save a damsel in distress (Grace) following her abduction by a ruthless gang of drug dealers. 'Connected' is a frantic chase through the vast open space of Hong Kong as Bob rushes from the desolate highlands surrounding the sprawling city to the bustle of Hong Kong International Airport in an effort to rescue Grace. As is to be expected from Chan the action levels are pushed to their limits although some suspension of belief is required. Overall this is a highly entertaining piece of action fodder.
The video presentation is somewhat of a mixed bag with some of the scenes appearing soft and washed out in comparison to others. The level of detail is impressive but this is definitely not demo material. The audio presentation is much stronger and features a powerful 5.1 LPCM surround track. With this action laden movie there's plenty of surround and subwoofer activity throughout.
Unfortunately the extras do not have any English subtitles, aside from the “Making Of” feature. The additional supplements do seem to contain some interesting material but with the lack of subtitles (or a translator!) the content was difficult to decipher. Overall this is a must for all Benny Chan fans.
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