Seven Warriors Blu-ray Review
Directed by Terry Tong and Sammo Hung
Written by Kan-Cheung Tsang
1989, Region A, 96 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on April 22nd, 2014
Adam Cheng as Commander Chi
Jacky Cheung as Ching
Tony Leung as Wong Way-Wu
Wu Ma as Ghost
Jing Chen as Hang
Philip Kwok as Au
Shing Fui-On as Karl
Lo Lieh as Piu
Sammo Hung as Hung
An evil warlord backed by an army of dishonorable soldiers is terrorizing the poverty-stricken residents of nearby villages. When a recent widow guilts her community into seeking outside help, a group of seven warriors is hired to defend the locals. Anticipating the wrath of the evil Commander Piu, these fine men teach the villagers how to stand up for themselves and fight alongside their protectors. The plot of Seven Warriors is pretty textbook at this point and while the story is familiar, the presentation brings a fresh spin on the finer points.
Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai is a cinematic masterpiece that is thoughtful and philosophical in nature and gorgeous in presentation. Lesser filmmakers have attempted to tell the story in a new way, adjusting the tone or time period, some more successfully than others. The Magnificent Seven, The Three Amigos! and A Bug's Life are just a few examples of how widely the material can be adapted. In the case of Seven Warriors, director Terry Tong (Gigolo and Whore) and screenwriter Kan-Cheung Tsang (Kung Fu Hustle) set the tale in 1930s China and build a new story using the Kurosawa plot as a rough outline. While they make the poor decision to up the comedy quotient with a series of bumbling misadventures, all is forgiven with the addition of several genuinely impressive action sequences directed by the legendary Sammo Hung (Dragons Forever).
The title characters are a collection of archetypes, including the expert marksman, the gentle giant, the lovesick hero and the villain that is little more than a bully, terrorizing because he can. These are matched with the put-upon villagers, the defiant widow, the beautiful lady determined to fight, and so on. The cast handles the material nicely, particularly Jacky Cheung (as Ching), Tony Leung (as Wong Way-Wu) and the always welcome Wu Ma (as Ghost). Ma is the only one really given much to do during the down time, but the others are given ample opportunity to shine during the frequent fight scenes.
Tong is most successful when he forgets he is standing in Kurosawa's shadow and is free to tell his own adventure story. Seven Warriors delivers the fun of 1980s Hong Kong cinema, complete with a surprising level of action and violence that is at times reminiscent of films like The Wild Bunch. Those familiar with the genre will no doubt be prepared to endure the awkward music cues and forced comedy that plague so many titles of this time period. While the story origins are obvious, it is Hung's creative staging of the battles that elevates the material into something fun. Fans of retro Chinese martial arts flicks will most likely enjoy Seven Warriors and it is an easy title to recommend. Audiences more in tune with Kurosawa's classic may turn up their noses at this romp, but it really deserves a look if for no other reason than it is fun to see the story presented in a new dynamic.
Video and Audio:
Seven Warriors receives an impressive video transfer that while not perfect, is the best the title is likely going to look. Presented in a solid 1.78:1 aspect ratio, colors are quite strong and black levels are rich. There are some compression issues in the darker scenes and minor print damage here and there, but this transfer is a vast improvement over the original video presentations.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix is a bit front heavy, but the rear channels receive the occasional isolated sound effect or music cue. Earlier releases were tinny and contained audio hiss, both of which have been corrected here. The original stereo mix is presented in a 2.0 Dolby Digital track that remains a bit thin by comparison, but is a nice inclusion for purists in need of some hiss. English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
A collection of trailers for films including Seven Warriors and other Well Go USA releases are the only special features offered.
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