Assassins, The (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus takes a technical pass on the lackluster 'The Assassins' DVD...
In the year 198 BC, Cao Cao (Chow Yun Fat), The Prime Minister of Han Dynasty, ventured to the east and savagely defeated China’s greatest warrior Lv Bu, terrifying every warlord across the country before crowning himself the King of Wei. Meanwhile, young lovers Mu Shun (Tamaki Hiroshi) and Ling Jv (Crystal Liu Yi Fei) were taken from a prison camp to a hidden tomb where they spent five cruel years being trained as assassins for a secret mission. Over twenty years later, in the year 220 BC, astronomical signs began to predict dramatic change and as a result, Cao’s son Cao Pi (Qiu Xin Zhi) and his followers urged Cao to become the new Emperor, unaware that opposing forces were plotting against him....
The stylised image here feels let down by its standard definition softness. The film’s green and blue tones doesn't ever really get the chance to pop because of the underwhelming presentation and there’s a real sense that the digital manipulation used in the making of the film would have more hope of showing off in 1080p. Grain is always apparent, lighting never really feels all that natural and while the film is indeed visually striking in places the colours always feel a bit bathed in darkness and never really leap off of the screen.
The algae green colour to the film never really lifts and can make for quite a grubby looking image at times. Shadows on faces are never all that solid and black levels are always slightly off of being pure black. The fog/mist filled battles suffer a fair bit from the presentations softness, never really selling the depth of the shots and really only hinting at the epic nature of some of the scenes. Also the fine detail in the army's armour designs feel under-appreciated in this rather disappointing DVD presentation.
The audio track here is precise, layered and when it wants to be thunderous. The opening scene with scurrying ants cutting to horses chasing down kids fills the speakers well and comes backed up with a solid bit of bass. Dialogue is always crisp and clear (luckily, because there’s tons of it) and the score sits strongly in both the front and rear speakers, creating an all encompassing feeling as it generates the films mood. This track really is the discs/film’s only real highlight, offering a lot of well placed audio tricks and firing on all cylinders when it really needs to.
There’s nothing to see here, move along.
The Assassins isn't all that fun to watch. It’s extremely dialogue heavy and with a DVD video presentation that is best described as ‘murky’ there’s not a lot to draw you into events. Sure the disc comes loaded with a punchy audio presentation but with no features this one is hard to recommend to anyone outside of the genre’s fanbase.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 9th September 2013
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Manderin
Subtitles: English, French, German, Dutch
Easter Egg: No
Director: Linshan Zhao
Cast: Yun-Fat Chow, Yifei Liu, Hiroshi Tamaki, Alec Su
Length: 103 minutes
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