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The Assassins (2012) Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), English Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Subtitles: English, Chinese
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Digital Copies: N/A
  • Run Time: 103 Mins.
  • Studio: Well Go USA Entertainment
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 8, 2013
  • List Price: $29.98

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

Chow Yun-fat’s latest role The Assassins continues his transition and maturation from full-on action badass to thoughtful, contemplative star of the period epic. This film finds him portraying historical figure Cao Cao King of Wei, but director Zhao Linshan and writer Wang Bin stay away from the usual story of Wei the tyrant, opting for a humanizing portrayal this latter Han Dynasty figure.

It’s story of intrigue, suspicion, love, and war set during the 190s and 200s during China’s Han Dynasty against with ornate backdrop and magnificent cinematography. Wei has been protecting the Han emperor for years against threats to throne and been granted the title of King of Wei. Now, Emperor Xian (Alec Su) has grown suspicious and threatened by his display of wealth power, mainly the Bronze Sparrow Platform that has built. Emperor Xian and the Han thus begin numerous attempts to assassinate Cao Cao, the biggest plot of all involving orphaned children of those slain by Cao Cao himself. Among those are the beautiful Lingju (Liu Yifei) and a young man named Mu Shun (Tamaki Hiroshi). Lingju and Mu Shun were raised as children in a rigid training camp to become assassins, the purpose being to grow up and kill Cao Cao. In the camp they met and fell in love, but were never able to consummate that love. When they came of age, Lingju was sent to be Cao Cao’s mistress, and Mu Shun was forcibly made a eunuch and inserted into Cao Cao’s entourage. Secret rendezvous would be all they would have left until the time came, but a hitch in the plan arises when Lingju begins to question whether Cao Cao really deserves to be killed and Mu Shun laments the fact that there is no place in the world they could ever escape from the King of Wei.

It is true that the power of love, or so it seems, has a humanizing effect on the myth of Cao Cao in this sweeping epic, yet for all of its beauty and romanticism, The Assassins does falter at times. It becomes a little bit too heavy-handed with the melodrama and the perfectly choreographed set pieces, such as one with Lingju doing a rather graceful, and mournful dance in a vermillion red gown right before the outbreak of bloody battle. The obvious symbolism of the shocking, blood-red dress and the melancholic mood in preparation for war are just one example of some of the moments that keep this film from being able to stay out of its own way. That said, the complexity and often nuanced tale being weaved in this film is still a fine one, and the performances from the protagonists, particularly Chow and Liu are on the money.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The Super 35mm source looks about as natural and filmic as can be with strong detail and vibrant color saturation. The primary colors really leap from the screen, particularly reds and blues, but the metallic golds do as well. Shadowy scenes have plenty of detail in them and brighter scenes are crisp. Grain looks sharp, fine and consistent throughout.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The audio for this release is a superb, reference quality mix, even if it is only 16-bit. Offered in Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) the mix is well balanced, with sounds placed around the room during the many fight sequences, and robust low frequencies. The atmospherics are lush, while dialogue is clear. The high frequencies sound natural and airy, not tweaked at all, which is good considering the abundance of clashing metal-on-metal sound from the sword fights. Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), and English Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are also included.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1.5/5]

A run-of-the-mill behind the scenes featurette in standard definition and a theatrical trailer in HD are all that are included.

The supplements:

  • Behind the Scenes (1.78:1; SD; 00:13:45)
  • Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Even with some minor missteps, the undeniable beauty of The Assassins and the powerful performances from Chow Yun-fat and Liu Yifei make the whole greater than its individual parts. I like this new Chow Yun-fat, even if this is not the strongest role he has had in this latter-career renaissance. He still manages to rise above the limitations and make it a valiant, worthy effort. Recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase The Assassins on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1.5/5]


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