War of the Arrows (aka Choi-jong-byeong-gi Hwal) Blu-ray Review
Written by TGM
Blu-ray released by Well Go USA
Written & Directed by Han-min Kim
2011, Region A (NTSC), 122 mins, Rated R
Blu-ray released on February 21st, 2012
Park Hae-il as Nam-Yi
Ryu Seung-ryong Ryoo as Jyu Shin-Ta
If you are a self-proclaimed shallow Americocentric like me, you felt betrayed by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Everyone who was anyone gushed about how amazing it was, as if it tasted like deep fried ice cream served on the ass cheek of a supermodel. While stunning to look at, its dearth of action sequences made it play out like a slow-paced chick-flick disguised as a kick-ass historical martial arts epic. It didn’t work and I was tremendously bored with the whole affair. So when War of the Arrows came across my desk, I was hesitant to watch fearing the age-old adage of fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!
Fortunately my reservations were unfounded as I was rewarded with a blisteringly entertaining action movie peppered with jaw-dropping visuals and a compelling vengeance tale that would put Taken to shame. Here’s a general rule to live by: don’t piss off auto mechanics, plumbers, and 17th Century Koreans adept with bow & arrow, because if you do, it’s going to cost you plenty. Nam-Yi, a man who is as skilled a marksman as he is a drunkard, finds out that his younger sister was just kidnapped by a ruthless warlord. He takes it upon himself to nearly single-handedly take on an army with only his trusty bow at his side. He’s overmatched and hopelessly outnumbered, but his unrelenting thirst for vengeance might just be enough to save the day.
The pace of War of the Arrows is frenetic, rarely stopping to allow one to catch a breath. This will come at the expense of some character development, but that’s just fine in my book. I don’t always need to know a characters full motivation or favorite color. Sometimes you just need to open up the throttle, step on the gas, and go full speed into an oncoming train. The cinematography in War of the Arrows is simply outstanding, with nearly every frame a piece of art in and of itself. The battle sequences occur in so many visually different arenas; a desert, a cliff, a village, a dense forest, that you’d think George Lucas had a hand in location scouting (uh, at least back when he actually did scout locations rather than setting up his green screen).
As with most foreign films, you really need to watch War of the Arrows in its original language soundtrack with English subtitles. I went back and watched the first half-hour with the English dub, and while not completely offensive, it comes pretty damned close. The English voice acting is universally flat and stiff, full of miscast voice-over talent that sound like Malibu frat boys looking to find the next raging kegger. Look, I hate to read at the movies as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil. Suck it up, buttercup.
War of the Arrows is a relentless chase movie, full of violence, action, and beautiful scenery. This is not a slow-churning pot-boiler full of diplomacy and tradition. It’s a kick-ass revenge tale that will satiate your desire for historical carnage.
Video and Audio:
The 2.35:1 (not 1.78:1 as stated on the cover) 1080p video is fantastic. There are some scenes that contain such depth and clarity, that you’d swear it’s in 3D. The only gripe is that at times the CGI arrows, spears, and blood splatter do look marginally out of place, but that won’t take you completely out of the experience. Some high-def aficionados will also likely squawk about the occasional presence of banding (i.e.: that distinct demarcation that happens due to compression when transitioning from one color to another, usually noticed when a darker color doesn’t fade into a lighter color seamlessly).
The DTS-HD 5.1 audio is outstanding, and would be an impressive demo disc to show off your surrounds. Tens of thousands of arrows whiz past you from all directions while the dialogue remains crisp and clear regardless of how many warhorses charge, armor clank, or victims groan.
The weak link here is the features. We are only privy to a paltry four minute behind the scenes featurette, an extended trailer for the movie you just watched, and trailers for other Well Go USA productions. The Blu-ray does come with a DVD version of the movie, which isn’t too shabby, but other than giving it away to that cheap relative without a Blu-ray player, when are you ever going to find use for that?
*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*