Eastern Bandits Blu-ray Review
Directed by Shu-peng Yang
Written by Lao Huang, Shu-peng Yang
2012, Region A, 107 minutes, Not rated
Blu-ray released on May 27, 2014
Xiaoming Huang as Fang
Yi Zhang as Gao
Xinyi Zhang as Jen
Jingyang Ni as Lady Dagger
Tino Bao as Chalatan
Qunshu Gao as Captain
With Hitchcockian intentions of having the audience determine who is the best bad guy to cheer for, Eastern Bandits is a fun watch for anyone who wishes to escape from normality and jump into a world of capable killers and established thieves. Although initially a little unfocussed in its purpose due to some extraneous subplots that could have been cut from the film altogether, it eventually redeems itself by handling humour and poignancy simultaneously. Featuring gruff and surly men alongside beautiful and deadly women, this is an enjoyable revenge flick that is perfect for fans of violence with a point.
Although Eastern Bandits appears as though it would be an amalgamation of a Western and a martial arts film, it is primarily a war story set during the Japanese invasion of China. A former soldier named Gao has a chance encounter with a band of criminals lead by the enigmatic and handsome Fang. The film later explains the lifelong bond between the bandits, as Fang had saved them from a multitude of dangers and put himself into compromising positions with mafia members in order to gain their loyalty. After being tortured and kidnapped by the group initially, Gao proves his worth by saving them from a bank robbery that went horribly awry after they lost several men and were almost systematically killed by surrounding police officers. With a new motley crew of killers on his side, Gao then seeks their help and puts forth his plan to assassinate a Japanese commander and gain revenge from the forces that have wronged him and his people. Although packed with serious overtones of loss and violence, this film is also laden with numerous moments of clever dark humour that makes it palatable and fun to watch.
Very reminiscent to some of Tarantino's films in regards to its wittiness and underdog criminal plot line, this movie also falters in ways that Tarantino's tend to do. Although it has a compelling story about a group of Robin Hood-esque criminals who steal from the rich and help the poor, it would benefit from some choice editing to remove side-stories that make the movie initially a little difficult to gather the point of. After a somewhat muddled beginning, the plot with Gao is firmly established and that is when the film begins to shine; latching onto themes of brotherhood and friendship while allowing the audience to root for the bad guys. This is also a very funny movie due to its occasional absurdity, such as during the seminal moment for Gao when he saves the bandits from the bank robbery massacre by insisting to the surrounding officers that the robbers are all his distant relatives, and if they are not all freed, then he will kill the officer's nagging wife. With much to offer for fans of revenge stories with witty undertones, I would gladly place a copy of Eastern Bandits into the hands of anyone who is a fan of Tarantino's recent films, such as Inglorious Basterds or Django Unchained.
Video and Audio:
Presented in 1:85:1, this film's geographically dependent cinematography is rendered wonderfully onto Blu-ray. With sandy terrains and underground hideouts being the two locations the story is primarily set, it remains sharp instead of grainy, and in the darker scenes it is striking instead of muted or dull.
The DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack capably handles the transitions between calm dialogue and loud action without being too heavy or booming.
This Mandarin Chinese film has English subtitles.
There are no special features available on this disc.