A Better Tomorrow arrives on Hong Kong Blu-ray courtesy of Kam and Ronson with a 1080p resolution, encoded using the
The films have already been released in Japan via Paramount and it appears as if the same master (possibly the old Fortune Star one that has been used before on
Proceedings are soft, I wouldn’t like to say on par with
Contrast wavers, with some shots being washed out and others excessively bouncing to the opposite end of the spectrum, with less than desirable results. The aforementioned dark suit and coat ensemble picks this shift out and indicates that sometimes it’s better to have wan than the other (apologies for the pun). The boosted reds are even more eye popping than they have been on
There might be a smidge more depth to a few frames, but generally anything with complexity, such as the office shots or other interior scenes, blur and fuzz in all the subtle niches. The greatest disappointment is the subtitles, which unfortunately are poorly timed (requiring a few pauses to read) and range from the grammatically unsound to potentially plot spoiling. If you know the film you’ll get on fine, if not there’ll be more than a few “what?” moments.
Interestingly for those looking to compare this to the UK Optimum
Two tracks to choose from: Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital EX 5.1. I focussed on the lossless option.
Key to the film’s success, and its lasting appeal, was the score by Joseph Koo. Whilst it is not ruined by this track, it is certainly not shown off in an entirely complimentary manner. The high frequencies are crisp, but not in a nuanced fashion, sounding somewhat forced. There’s a nice pop to the music and drums have a more mellow, vaguely organic tone to them, but that only lasts so long. The main problem is the imbalance of the centre channel. It is too low in comparison to the score, meaning if you have everything set to normal levels the dialogue will come across as muddy and poor. If you choose to crank the volume, then the inadequacy of the track’s handling of the music will come to the fore: clipping and distortion.
The surrounds are imprecise and lack a sense of a virtual soundscape, with gunshots placed at the rear speakers in an almost timed fashion with little in the way of consideration for the viewer’s perspective. They are also too loud in comparison to the fronts; a healthy crack is expected from behind the listener’s ear, but when it is a bang that outweighs to some degree what is emanating from the fronts then it is less than agreeable. This haphazard use of surround sound extends to the point where a phone on the left of the screen will come distinctly from the left rear speakers.
Some effects work quite well, the glass shattering is quite piercing and is reasonably well layered over the rest of the track, but it is one or two instances that display subtlety rather than it being the rule. When the final scenes roll, the LFE will pitch and the fronts will grunt, but it has all the imperfections of either a low bit-rate offering or one taken from poor material that hasn’t been aided in the transition to a home format. The cardinal sin is the distinct lack of a good multilayered “crack” to go with the breaking of Mark’s leg, which even on
Some of the synth may be passable, but the rest of this track underperforms in terms of polish in all areas.
Trailer 1 – 1080p – 4:33
Less a trailer and more a vignette coming in at four and a half minutes. No English subtitles, but the LPCM 2.0 sound gives an indication of how the film should sound
Trailer 2 – 1:53
Again, 2.0 LPCM, no subs and standard definition this time.
Tsang Kong Interview – 8:33
KentTsang, who plays Ken, gives Chinese speakers an interview. No English subtitles.
Waise Lee Interview – 8:33
Waise, who plays Shing, gives his thoughts on the film. No English subtitles.
Codes of Bullets – 9:10
A featurette showcasing the veritable arsenal that was used in the film. No English subtitles.
A Better Tomorrow remains one of the original and best of the heroic bloodshed genre. Chow Yun Fat is as effervescently iconic as Mark as he was when he first strode onto the screen twenty five years ago; matchstick in mouth, trenchcoat on and a gun in each hand, he epitomised “cool” in every way. Ti Lung is the perfect foil for this debonair uber-gangster who falls from grace, exuding pathos and a sense of regret through his every pore. Woo’s direction may never have been subtle but he takes what could have been a clichéd tale of brotherhood and honour and freshens it with the lure of hyper-stlyised action galore.
The disc is unfortunately not worthy of the jump from
Woo aficionados eager to don their eighties shades and trenchcoats will have to wait a little longer for the Blu-ray release this film truly deserves.
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