PictureVengeance comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p resolution encoded using the AVC codec and framed within a 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is locked to region A.
Having the same director of photography as Exiled, it will come as no surprise that there is more than a passing similarity between the two films' visual styles. Once again, haziness and gunsmoke surround the characters' activities. This can have a knock on effect regarding the sharpness but generally things are kept in focus. The few lapses into a slightly softer image occur when there is an absence of a strong light source or the camera is moving freely to follow the action.
Contrast fluctuates a little as well but the colour palette remains strong with primaries, such as those displayed on the neon signs of Macau or the bright redness of the blood, showing a real intensity against the duller more muted tones that make up the majority of the film. Unfortunately blacks lack the depth that we know the medium is capable of and also show some crushing and blocking. Thankfully decent shadow detail balances against this misstep nicely, as does the finer detail witnessed on close-ups. Hallyday's face is particularly noteworthy, with his pores and abnormally dyed beard all drawing the eye due to their presentation.
Dirt and scratches often plague even the most recent of Hong Kong titles making the transition to a home format, but here they are rare. There are no strikingly visible hairs befouling the frame and other than a few telltale specks this is a consistently clean transfer. It may not be the sharpest example of Blu-ray, but for a Hong Kong title it is certainly more than adequate at showing off To's balletic gunfights and the inventive cinematography.
SoundSound options for the film are threefold; English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1. I opted to concentrate on the lossless track for the purpose of this review.
Now before anyone complains that there is no original Cantonese track, I should point out that the English TrueHD track is not actually dubbed. Instead it is merely all three languages used in the making of the film (English, French and Cantonese) in an untampered form. One minor drawback of this is that unless you speak all three, you'll have to plump for subtitles which will overlay even the language you are familiar with. A touch annoying but certainly better than a complete dub in any one tongue.
Having found myself suitably moved by the powerful sounds offered up by the Exiled Blu-ray, I was all prepared for a similarly robust aural display here. Unfortunately I was disappointed. For a 7.1 track there is a distinct lack of depth to proceedings, with the surrounds being criminally underused even at some of the most hectic moments. The vast majority of noises emanate from the front speakers, which isn't necessarily always a bad thing, so long as it is done with a degree of consistency; another feature that is sorely lacking at times.
Gunfights were begging for a more thunderous response from the LFE but instead got (admittedly tight) booms or firecracker pops. One or the other would have been fine, but once you are shaken by the shotguns blasting through the door in the early moments of the film, some of the latter exchanges can feel more like capgun skirmishes. This though pales in comparison to the manner in which the score is let down. I immensely enjoyed the subtle strings of the guitar that reverberated throughout Exiled, but that is sadly gone. Instead we have high frequencies that feel too light and lower frequencies that diffuse all too quickly into the background as opposed to swelling with any great clarity. Turning the volume knob a bit helps somewhat, but the inconsistency just started to grate on me, particularly in light of previous examples of To's work receiving better mixes. The one silver lining is for those with CIA set-ups who'll be pleased to see the subtitles held within the frame.
ExtrasTrailer - 1080p - 1:41
Self explanatory. Strangely it has far punchier audio qualities than the film itself.
VerdictVengeance is a classic lesson of “if it ain't broke, don't fix it”, with To throwing all his usual canon of stars and tricks into the mix and coming up with something just as palatable. Johnny Hallyday is a novel addition to this standard routine, but I dare say you'll spend more time interested in the activities and downright coolness of Anthony Wong and co. going about their nefarious business with style.
The disc is a little bewildering, given the excellent sound mix given to us by Mega Star with Exiled, but at least the visual presentation shows no obvious flaws that will detract from your viewing experience. A few extras would have been nice, however I'm sure the lure of completing a Johnnie To Blu-ray collection will be too great to put some off getting this title even in an imperfect form, and you can count me amongst them.
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