Let the Bullets Fly - Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review
Certainly nobody can fault the stunning video presentation that Well Go USA have provided for this Region Free US Blu-ray release, which offers up a 1080p High Definition rendition in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen. Detail is very impressive, particularly on facial close-ups, where every pore, bead of sweat and strand of hair is seemingly given its own share of respect; with fine object detail and also captivating broader vistas that showcase seamless CG tinkering (a whole lot better than the CG stunts). The colour scheme is packed to the hilt with stunning, vibrant, bright and vivid colours, with a high contrast that makes whites almost blindingly bright. Contrast is superb too, with excellent black levels that allow for superior shadowing and impressive night-set sequences. Overall, however much the changing temperament of the main feature may not gel with you, the video is hard to fault and easily remains a high-end demo quality presentation.
Although you may not have thought it were possible, the accompanying primary soundtrack on offer is even more impressive than the video, offering up the original Mandarin dialogue and score complete with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix which excels in every regard. There are other options – a Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0 track, and English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 dubs – but they’re far inferior to the main audio offering. Dialogue comes across at lightning speed, so you often have to be quite on-the-ball when it comes to following the English subtitles, but it is still the much preferred option to the cheap dubs. Effects offer up an aural windstorm which will sweep you up and place you right in the thick of things, the soundstage positively coming alive at even the least expected moments: riding through the countryside; having clandestine meetings; or simply communicating across terrain using the whistling code – we get hooves, creaking wood, unsheathed swords, cocked guns and footsteps in the mud all allowing for excellent dynamics and separation. The louder, more action-driven set-pieces, however disappointing in terms of satisfying content, sound yet better through this track, with bullets whizzing around and the occasional thunderous explosion to ignite your living room and rock your sofa. A decent undercurrent of rumbling bass further adds potency to this exceptional offering which is hard to fault in any regard.
In a rather strange move – although it’s not the first time for this Studio – Well Go USA offer up Let the Bullets Fly in two flavours, a standard edition and a “Collector’s Edition”. Now, oddly, both versions come with a second DVD disc, but for the standard edition this contains just a DVD copy of the film, whereas the Collector’s Edition sacrifices the DVD copy for two extras. I have no idea why they couldn’t have compiled both together, or, better yet, included the extras on the Blu-ray disc instead.
On the Blu-ray itself we get just a trio of Trailers for the main feature as well as a series of Preview Trailers for other titles which play on disc startup.
The Collector’s Edition DVD further provides a 16-minute Making-Of which offers up a healthy dose of on-set cast and crew interview snippets as well as a suitable amount of behind the scenes footage of the film being shot, expectedly padded out by some clips from the finished product. There’s also a 24-minute Interview with the Writers, which has input from the three main writers involved in the piece, who detail the extensive number of rewrites done to the script to perfect it.
It’s certainly nice to have these couple of extras, but there’s no real reason why they couldn’t have been included on the Blu-ray – and in HD.
Breaking all manner of Box Office records in China, and already pipped for a Hollywood remake, the period-action-comedy-drama Let the Bullets Fly has plenty of stylish flourishes – paying homage to all the greatest action directors/stars/films – and several moments of comic genius, but its odd cross-blend of a whole bunch of different genres results in a dish which may not quite suit the sensibilities of broader international audiences. For every dramatic moment or poignant death-scene, there a witty interlude or comic moment there to draw away any impact, and for every amusing sequence there’s a hint of bloody horror evisceration on offer to prevent you from actually reaching the point of laughter. For those who are in on the joke, who pick up on all the subtle socio-political references, and who appreciate dishes that are exotically different (think Singapore noodle-flavoured stuffed crust pizza with chocolate sprinkles) this may well go down a treat. Just don’t expect the Chinese Box Office success to mean it is a globally accessible film.
On Region Free US Blu-ray this Collector’s Edition offers up stunning video and audio but nothing that would truly justify the CE moniker, just a couple of extras which are included on a second DVD and thus not even in HD (where the Standard Edition has just a DVD Copy instead as a second disc). Still, fans will still lap it up as a worthy investment, whilst newcomers who like the sound of this wacky, alternative mish-mash should consider a rental before committing themselves to a purchase. Just don’t be fooled by the title, the presence of Chow Yun-Fat, or the unprecedented Box Office success in China, as the end result simply may not be as accessible for Western audiences.
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