Divergence (US - DVD R1)
DVDActive's first ever cover quote! But does Gabe diverge from that quote?
Suen (Aaron Kwok) is a depressed and rundown cop still obsessing over his girlfriend’s sudden disappearance ten years ago. While extraditing a witness from Canada, his bounty is murdered by an oddly principled assassin who may to possess information about Suen missing love. The witness’ death is welcome news for a crooked businessman whose assets were frozen by the police—until his only son (a pop star) is kidnapped. Enter To, a lawyer who has always successfully protected his shady clients, and who coincidentally happens to be married to a woman who looks exactly like Suen’s missing girlfriend. Ultimately, each of these men will be drawn together.
In a twist of heavy-handed irony, I'm forced into an inter-website divergence of my own here. Anyone who's seen the box art for Tartan Asia Extreme's release of the film Divergence will notice that DVDActive.com has been positively quoted on the cover. That quote seems to be the result of some detective work over at Tartan, because it refers to this review of the HK special edition release, written by Cas Harlow. Cas liked the film quite a bit, and I'm sure there are a lot of other folks out there that will agree with him. Lord knows I don't want to undermine his DVD critiquing authority, but I thought this was a pretty average thriller.
The plot is one of these same old, same old generic Hong Kong cop thrillers I've seen about a million of. The gang's all here: the cop tortured by his past, complete with a scene of him loudly arguing with the chief and turning in his badge to pursue his own brand of justice (street justice), the mournful assassin, a character pretty much covered by John Woo in the '90s, and his journey to redemption, and the wicked business man seeing the error of his ways. There's some rather foreseeable double crossing, and the last act 'treason' is pretty guessable just by simply knowing one's popular Hong Kong actors (or looking at the DVD's cover). So, Infernal Affairs meets The Killer. If you liked those movies enough to watch them again, then I'm sure you'll be happy here.
I really, really disliked the last film I reviewed from director Benny Chan, Heroic Duo. It was more of the same, and the action was pretty anaemic. Divergence is a positive step up from Heroic Duo, if not in story then in cinematic action. The assassin's first hit is expertly crafted, and when the target is shot I really felt the bullet, and peppered throughout are some chaotic shoot-outs, complete with a bit of basic martial arts action. The showstopper is the epic foot chase through the busy streets of Hong Kong, ending in a rather brutal hand to hand beat down. It's too bad for Chan that the recent Parkour foot chases in District 13 and Casino Royale blow his honestly great scene away, and I give him a lot of credit, but it's not enough to save the film from being entirely unmemorable.
The final revelation is actually more confusing and convoluted than shocking, but there is a hint of originality to it, which like everything else counts as both a positive and a negative when scoring the film overall. This is no bad film, it has quite a bit going for it, but the story is tired and clichéd. Chan's control is not up for argument, but his camera placement and overall pallet is lacking. The acting is solid, but I didn't find myself moved at any point. I'm not going to argue with those who enjoy the film, because it has its merits, I was just left particularly lukewarm on the whole thing. Honestly I find it difficult to say anything about the film at all.
Tartan USA's releases have always varied in image quality, but are overall rather solid releases. The last two discs I've received, including this one, have been a definitive step down in quality control. The image is anamorphically enhanced without any stretching (both past issues), and colours are reasonable. The pallet is the usual Hong Kong cool blue, and isn't exactly eye-popping, so noise is pretty even. Most of the disc's grain seems to be related to film stock.
The problem here is that this is not a progressive transfer. Quite often I'm easily fooled by a decent interlaced transfer (Tartan did it with Lady Vengeance), but this disc's got more combing than a busy barber shop (like that? I've been saving that one for some time now). In fact, I had trouble getting screen caps without any interlacing and/or combing effects. Detail level varies, but during motion tends to blur. All in all, not up to standards, especially not when we know there are better transfers on the market.
As per the norm, out DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are pretty much the same, with the DTS track simply being the louder. I've got no complaints here; the track is reasonably well balanced, and features a few fun surround effects. The bass track is super-punchy, and rarely rumbles out of control.
The dialogue, very occasionally seems to differ from the characters lips, but really not enough to notice. The dialogue track is clear and doesn't distort, but I still found the film hard to follow because as it progressed the subtitles got further and further away from the Chinese words I couldn't understand. At some points there is a solid five-to-ten second break between spoken word and subtitle.
If the sub par video presentation was strike one, and the delayed subtitles are strike two, then the extras are strike three. This is a two-disc set, and there is absolutely no reason for it. I'm fine with little to no extras on a DVD, especially when I'm not all that fond of the film, but releasing this as a two-disc set verges on false advertising.
Disc one features Chan's feature commentary, which is fine, but like the film not all that compelling. Chan's got information to share, but isn't very personable, and comes off as a tiny bit conceited. Also featured on the track is the lead actor, Aaron Kwok, who has only a little to offer. Sometimes, due to what I'm guessing is a problem with the translation, the commentary makes little sense, and is better read as a tone poem or haiku. This commentary completes the disc one extras.
Disc two features a 'Making of' which amounts to about fifteen minutes of the cast and crew musing over the purpose of the film's title. Needless to say, this is a PR piece, and not really a documentary look at the film at all. There's another featurette featuring raw footage of the film's premiere, which runs a scant few minutes. There's an image gallery, only for some reason the folks at Tartan have decided to make it a slide show, which kind of looks like a computer screen saver featuring images from the film. Each image wanders aimlessly across the screen and the viewer has no control but to skip the show entirely. Disc two ends with a series of trailers, one of which is mislabelled as the original Korean trailer. The film and trailer both originated in Hong Kong, and there is no Korean text to be seen.
My overall disappointment with the film is almost immaterial here. It really comes down to taste, as I didn't really even like Infernal Affairs, a movie this film is generally similar to. The film is well made; it just didn't move me to excitement, save one solid foot chase. The reason I can't recommend this DVD is its sloppy construction. I've been rough on Tartan USA's transfers in the past, but this one was often appalling, and the delayed subtitles and lack of extras, despite the fact that this is a two disc set, makes me sad. Tartan has some great looking releases coming down the line soon, here's to hoping they get it together in time.
"We recently learned of a synchronization issue with the subtitle track on Disc 1 of the Divergence Two Disc Set. We are concerned that some people may have unknowingly purchased this disc before it was removed from stores and replaced. Tartan takes extreme pride in the quality of our product and we are asking anyone who may have purchased a compromised disc to visit our website, www.tartanvideousa.com for information on how to obtain a replacement disc for free. We value our audience tremendously and look forward to the opportunity to correct this matter. As always, thank you for your continuing support."
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 30th January 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: DTS 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Director/Actor Commentary, 'Making of Divergence' Featurette, Gala Premiere, Photo Gallery, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Benny Chan
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Ekin Cheng, Daniel Wu, Gallen Law, Angelica Lee
Length: 101 minutes
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