PicturePTU comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution encoded using the AVC coded and framed within a theatrically correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is region free.
The first thing many will note, as with numerous of the first Eastern Blu-ray onto the market, Hong Kong distributor Mei Ah placed a watermark on this. It appears in the top left of the screen, but is held within the top border so those with constant image height set-ups will be pleased to avoid it. It is only every fifteen minutes or so and lasts a brief few seconds. What those favouring CIA will view with less pleasure is the subtitles which unfortunately are contained within the bottom border.
What is remarkable is that this print, admittedly of a very recent film, is free from any obvious signs of damage - all too often a rarity for Hong Kong. Grain is even but pushes towards the heavy side and becomes more noticeable in certain conditions. Shadow detail is good, which was a prerequisite for this disc as otherwise the many shadowy street scenes would have been painful to watch. Texture detail is reasonable and certainly above many other discs from the region.
Colours are generally muted, with a few exceptions, notably some primaries, in particular red, which show a rich quality as one would expect blood to do in any To film. Delineation is also of a good standard, but there are the usual soft scenes which have always punctuated the director's work and are more likely to do with cinematography than a flaw of the disc. In total this is a solid image that has good dimensionality, shows great detail in bright light and close-ups but also manages to hold its own when in low level, diffused lighting and middle distance.
SoundThere are three tracks to choose from - Cantonese LPCM 7.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital EX 5.1. I opted for the lossless Cantonese.
I was thoroughly impressed by the image quality, but unfortunately slightly less so with the audio side of the presentation. I'd heard (no pun intended) good things and perhaps had got my hopes up unreasonably. The centre channel wavers slightly and seems just an ounce too sharp in various instances, though not bordering on the tinny. It is certainly clear, though I can't attest too vehemently to that as I don't speak Cantonese, but it did lack a little warmth.
This tilt towards the higher frequencies also seeps slightly into the front soundstage, whereby some effects just lack a certain roundedness to them. Thankfully the LFE makes up for that to a good degree and in particular brings Chung Chi Wing's score to life. Music is vigorous, but the use of surrounds works well within, helping to add atmosphere with subtle pans and discreet ambient noises even when the music is the central feature.
The only problems I had with the track was a slight imbalance when shifting from scenes, as certain elements felt less faded but dulled. This doesn't detract significantly from an encompassing and vibrant mix, but it just stops it being top drawer.
ExtrasTrailer - 480p - 2:08
Making of - 480p - 17:30
I'm afraid there are no English subtitles so quite how informative this is/isn't will be lost on most, including me.
VerdictPTU is a vastly under appreciated film both in Johnnie To's canon as well as the genre of Eastern crime films in general. What some see as slow I would call methodical and thoughtful. It lacks (nearly) all the over-the-top stylised violence of To's other works and concentrates on the characters and situations that unravel out of control. It is arguably his most mature piece and, if for no other reason than that, deserves your attention.
The disc is region free so can be enjoyed by all and comes with an image and sound quality that are hard to seriously fault considering the roots of the film. The extras are impenetrable to all but those able to speak Cantonese, but the rest of the package more than compensates.
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