Infernal Affairs: The Complete Trilogy Mini Review (UK - BD RB)
Chris takes a post-Christmas look at the BD release of the Hong Kong flicks...
It's pretty rare that a BD release slips under my radar, but I had absolutely no idea that Palisades Tartan had brought the Infernal Affairs trilogy to these shores in high-definition until I received an email from the distributor offering the chance to review the release. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to look at the set until recently because of the Christmas break, so I've opted to go for yet another one of my patented 'mini reviews', which will focus more on the technical side of things than the films themselves (reviews for those are available on many other sites if you're so inclined). Anyway, let's get on with the business at hand.
The three films in the trilogy sport 2.35:1 widescreen transfers (1080/24p AVC). Each is presented on a BD25 disc with fairly low file sizes for the main features, and even though they look pretty good for the most part one can't help but wonder if higher bitrate encodes on BD50 discs might have yielded better results given that blocking is occasionally visible. Visually the films are probably best described as a mixed bag, with the original looking the worst overall. That's not to say it's a complete wash out, just that it suffers more from the apparent application of DNR than the sequels. The biggest problem is that image quality is highly variable throughout, with some fantastic looking scenes bookended by some less than impressive shots. It's disheartening when you see a detailed, gritty close-up, complete with great facial textures, turn soft and mushy before reverting to the sort of quality you'd expect from an HD release. I wouldn't say the image quality ever dips to SD levels, but it is disappointing at times. Colour rendition is pretty good, and although flesh tones appear a little off the bright neon of the night-time scenes looks great, as do the prominent steely blues. Black levels are also decent and I was pleasantly surprised by the absence of film artefacts and the natural film grain whenever DNR was absent. As previously stated the sequels are more consistent across the board, although they still suffer from the negative effects of too much filtering. All in all the films don't look too bad, but there's definite room for improvement.
The first feature is accompanied by Cantonese LPCM 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, while the two prequels/sequels come with Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 (the specs erroneously list Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks as well). All three films include optional English subtitles, although annoyingly you have to manually select them. The quality of the soundtracks is pretty solid, with plenty of surround action (lots of sweeping pans and spot-effects) and well-prioritised dialogue. Music is also well-represented on all of the tracks, although I personally found it a little incongruous with the on-screen action, sounding either too aggressive or overtly mawkish. I actually found the first film the most aurally impressive of the bunch, probably because it has the most action, but all three should satisfy, if not amaze.
I mentioned the English subtitles earlier, well they seems to be reasonably well-translated (not that I understand Cantonese), although I spotted a few rudimentary grammatical errors. They weren't enough to spoil my enjoyment of the films though, and it was pretty easy to work out what the words/meanings should have been. Even so, it's a pity that one has to go to the trouble.
The set also includes a pretty healthy collection of bonus material. The first film is supported by a a making of featurette, outtakes, an alternate ending, theatrical and English dubbed trailers, and a subtitled commentary track. The second film doesn't fare quite as well, but it does include a 'making of, 'Confidential Files' (raw on-set footage), deleted scenes and a trailer. The third film comes off worst, including only a making of and a trailer. Although the bonus material gets progressively 'worse', I was actually pleasantly surprised by the amount of extras included in the set. It's a pity that the alternate ending isn't available seamlessly branched into the film as with the old Media Asia DVD release, even if it's not my preferred ending.
Although I had previously watched the original film on DVD, this marked the fist time I'd seen the sequels. I'd be lying if I said that they rank among my favourite Asian movies, but they are solid, entertaining films that are definitely worth checking out. Having read some reviews of the Mega Star set (with accompanying screen captures) it would seem that Palisades Tartan's release is taken from the same source, and as such we're unlikely to see a better version in the near future. Obviously fans of the series won't need an excuse to pick them up in high-definition, but even so they should be fairly happy with the step up in audio-visual quality over the DVD releases and the extras.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 27th December 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 5.1 Cantonese, DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 Cantonese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese
Extras: Audio Commentary, Alternate Ending, Outtakes, Making ofs, Confidential Files, Deleted Scenes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen, Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Sammi Cheng, Leon Lai, Chen Dao Ming, Carina Lau,
Genre: Crime and Drama
Length: 338 minutes
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