The Assassins (BLU-RAY)

The Assassins

On Blu-Ray: 
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Running Time: 
106 minutes
If You Liked The Assassins see:

Red Cliff, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Three Kingdoms, The Lost Bladesman

The year is 198 B.C. and the Han Empire has subdued all threats with their greatest weapon, The King of Wei. After traveling to the East and defeating China’s greatest warrior, Lu Bu, no one dares to confront Cao Cao or the Han Dynasty, which has resided under his protection for years. Unfortunately man may fear Cao Cao but the stars do not.

Chow Yun-Fat stars as Cao Cao, The King of Wei, in this period action/drama about the infamous tyrant as he is tormented by the ghosts of his past and the on-coming attempts on his life by many, including those found inside the palace walls. Will he be forced to live out his final days forever looking over his shoulder and stepping carefully even in the confines of his own home?

Another plot in the film includes Gong Ling Ju (Yifei Liu; White Vengeance) and Mu Shun (Hiroshi Tamaki; Princess Toyotomi). As children they are enslaved in a brutal training camp where they are trained to become assassins. It’s here where they meet and fall in love. Unfortunately for the two lovers they are separated. Gong Ling Ju becomes the prize of Cao Cao and Mu Shun a part of Cao Cao’s sea of subordinates. They eventually find each other in Cao Cao’s massive world, but also find The King of Wei an unexpected character that confuses them and their motives.

There is something to be said for these Chinese period drama’s that surpasses most American viewers who aren’t up to par when it comes to China’s rich history. Still, as a character study The Assassins has so much to offer, all set in a beautiful world of vibrant colors, beautiful costume designs, and truly an impressive performance by Chow Yun-Fat who manages to create an anti-hero out of Cao Cao. You hate him, but you also love him and understand his brutal reactions to things on the smallest scale to the large. It also helps that you never really see Cao Cao in battle, rather you piece together his character and history from legend and reactions from the supporting characters. You don’t go into the film seeing him as this vicious murderer, just a man doing what he can to survive in a world of cutthroats obsessed with the power he has obtained and willing to do just about anything to have it for themselves. Great twist at the end as well. The Assassins is a bit slow at times, but all together well worth watching.

I was more then a little disappointed with the BD transfer for The Assassins. At times the film is vibrant and beautiful. When Cao Cao carries Gong Ling Ju into his chambers for the first time her red gown is like a beacon of red light illuminating the scene. I expected the majority of the film to be the same, taking advantage of the beautiful set designs and wonderful costume designs. Unfortunately grain plays a major factor in the films flaws, soft shots popping up now and again, and I’m sure the climate and atmosphere of the films location didn’t help. In a lot of night scenes you have a slight mist eating away at the scenes. Close up’s look fantastic, but the film is large on an epic scale and most of the shots are wide out to envelope the massive amount of extra’s and the vast beauty of the palace grounds. It really could have been better.

Audio is phenomenal. Lots of activity from all spectrums of the surround sound spectrum. LFE effects are very nice including one scene where assassins use a pulley system supported by arrows. You get some nice impact sounds when the arrows slam into their resting places. The traditional music in the film also gets a big boost in sound.

I began watching the film using the English 5.1 HD option but quickly got a bit tired of some of the characters whiney voices. There are only one or two of them but it just brings the seriousness of the film down several notches. I ended up using the Mandarin 5.1 HD option but closing out with the English option due to time constraints. In the later half of the film the troublesome characters of the film tone down the silliness of their dialogue delivery. Still, excellent sound for The Assassins.

~Behind The Scenes- I really liked this short but sweet 16+ minute BTS feature. The cast is really charming, some of the behind the scenes footage was really intriguing, and you get a good bead on some of the actors and actresses involved, especially when it comes to the art of acting. A must watch.


AJ Garcia
Review by AJ Garcia
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