Bullet In The Head: R2 Vs R0
 
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles
English, Dutch, English SDH
Extras:
Disc One: Commentary, Trailers
Disc Two: Interviews, Trailers, Alternate Ending, Film Notes, Biographies
Menus:
Animated
W/S Subs:
Ratio
1.78:1 Anamorphic *CROPPED*
Region
PAL 2

Producer: Mega Star
Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, Mandarin 5.1
Subtitles
Removable Chinese (S+T), English, Japanese, Malaysian, Korean, Spanish
Extras:
Theatrical Trailer, Biographies
Menus:
Static
W/S Subs:
Ratio
1.85:1 Non Anamorphic
Region
NTSC 0
 
MOVIE

Never having received the sterling release it so richly deserves, expectations were greatly raised upon the news that Hong Kong Legends had secured the rights to John Woo's 1990 masterpiece.
With hopes that the "missing" scenes had been re-instated, along with the opportunity to view the film's alternate ending, many people were hoping that this would be THE definitive edition to own.

My thoughts of the film are mentioned here, so without further ado, let's find out if this Bullet In the Head finally hits the mark...

PICTURE
HKL

My criticisms leveled at Mega Stars transfer still apply: their print was typically marked with scratches and sparkles, and brightness levels often appeared far too high.
The worst aspect without doubt though was the frame "jumping" which took place throughout. It was one of those frustratingly minor errors which has the habit of irritating you once you notice it, and was the reason for it gaining a 5 out of 10 mark.

Hong Kong Legends start off well by showcasing a print with only very minor marks, and more pronounced colours.
However, as becomes evident with the opening credits, the extremely good detail levels come with a price....in the form of some particularly noticeable grain. Sadly, is seems there was very little HKL could do to rectify this, but thankfully it only becomes distracting a handful of times.

In a bizarre twist, HKL's print is considerably darker than Mega Star's, going as far as to make some scenes are in fact TOO dark!
Why there seems to be so much trouble with getting the brightness levels correct is beyond me, but just as the Region 0 disc is distractingly bright at times, the Region 2 release makes for awkward viewing of night time scenes.

Detail, as mentioned is better than Mega Star's transfer, and while this doesn't seem that noticeable with the screen shots below, once objects are moving on-screen, the gap in quality widens considerably.
Also, Hong Kong Legends have addressed the "jumping" effect exhibited by Mega Star's release, and provide a stable, solid-looking transfer throughout.

But, and there frequently seems to be one when reviewing Hong Kong Legend's transfers, the print is cropped from 1.85:1 to 1.78:1. This manifests itself with a loss of picture information across the top and sides of the frame, and makes some scenes feel cramped in their composition.
The Mega Star disc does not have this same problem, staying true as it does to the correct ratio.

Summing up, you have a far better, although darker, transfer from Hong Kong Legends which is cropped, or an average transfer from Mega Star that isn't.
Whilst I'm strongly against even minor cropping, I still feel the HKL transfer is superior, and deserves to easily win this category.


(Mega Star left - HKL right)

SOUND
HKL

Another aspect of Mega Star's disc which left me cold was their attempt to re-mix Bullet... into 5.1 surround-sound glory. The results were poor to say the least, with only the music sounding well-balanced. Dialogue was sometimes difficult to hear, and sound effects were plagued by an awful tinny quality.

Hong Kong Legends once again gain brownie points with a mix which, to my ears, features very little surround usage.
Dialogue was also clear and centre focused, as were the sfx and soundtrack.
Not even close to the standards of new 5.1 soundtracks, but it does the job perfectly well.


(Mega Star left - HKL right)

SUBTITLES
HKL

One area in which HKL had some competition were the subtitles.
Using the Westernised names of the three main characters Frank, Paul and Ben, Mega Star's subs were nonetheless very good, with few errors.

In a pleasing step, HKL eschew the Westernised names of the men, and instead go for completely accurate recreations of their Chinese names. Whilst some may find this off putting if they've seen the film before, I think it's a massive step forwards which should be applauded.
The rest of the dialogue and Chinese signs are translated with intelligence and accuracy, and apart from one tiny spelling error, are near perfect.


(Mega Star left - HKL right)

MENUS
HKL

Not much to discuss really: HKL provide lovingly crafted, and scored, animated menus throughout both discs, and Mega Star don't!


(Mega Star left - HKL right)

EXTRAS
HKL

With this being a Platinum Edition from HKL, a second disc is dedicated to additional material, along with another entertaining commentary from Bey Logan accompanying the film.

THE PLAYERS

'Baptism of Fire' - Jacky Cheung (15mins)
The extremely amiable, English-speaking Jacky Cheung takes part in this interview, in which he appears happy to talk about his time with both cast and crew.
A very good extra for this multi-talented Hong Kong Star.

'Paradise Lost' - Waise Lee (14mins)
Waise Lee, the least talented of the main cast (and, on this showing, the one with the least dress-sense), takes part in what turns out to be an extremely good interview.
Rather than talking solely about Bullet In the Head, he also criticises the latest filming practices in Hong Kong, whilst also comparing the Hollywood and Chinese film markets.

'Biting the Bullet' - Simon Yam (15mins)
Opening with a hit-and-miss sequence with Bey Logan, Simon Yam goes on to talk about John Woo, the filming of certain scenes, and his time on-set.

THE ARTISTS

'Natural Selection' - David Wu (30mins)
Starting from the point at which their paths crossed, long-standing Editor David Wu tells of his time with John Woo, and their shared experiences of working on his films.
A substantial and eloquently discussed interview.

'Tempting Fate' - Patrick Leung (20mins)
Apart from a constant, irritating drum-machine-inspired backing track, this interview with Bullet's... script-writer is absorbing and full to the brim with fascinating content.

'A Walk On Wild Side' - Lau Chi-Ho (14mins)
Action Director Lau's good-humoured approach makes this average interview more bearable, as does the inclusion of some eye-popping behind the scenes information regarding the film.

THE ARCHIVE

'Trailers'
Original Theatrical Trailer (featuring a few short clips which didn't make the film print included).
UK Promo Trailer
Once A Thief
The Killer

'Alternate Ending' (4mins)
The almost mythical alternative ending to Woo's film finally sees the light of day, in the form of this Mandarin-dubbed, burned-in-subtitled, VCD quality sequence.
I won't reveal what happens, but suffice to say I was fairly under-whelmed. The Mandarin-only dialogue and a huge oversight from HKL (they don't subtitle the last few un-subtitled sentences of dialogue from Waise Lee's character), make this a rather disappointing addition.

JOHN WOO RETORSPECTIVE

'Life Thru A Lens' (13mins)
Sporting an awful, vomit-patterned tie, the American interviewer given the task of drawing out some personal insight from interviewee John Woo, does an adequate job.
Some good background information is revealed about Woo's films, but little of it will be new to those who already have some knowledge of his career.

'Reflections on Bullet in The Head' (4mins)
A very brief sojourn to some of the locations utilised during filming, with Bey Logan providing his repetitive opinions on the film. Not really necessary considering the inclusion of his full-length commentary.

INFORMATION LIBRARIES

' Film Notes'
Written (I'm guessing) by Bey Logan, these general notes on the production are very informative, but all too familiar to Bey's previous magazine articles.

'Biographies'
John Woo
Tony Leung
Jacky Cheung
Waise Lee
Simon Yam
Static, text-based bios of the caliber HKL should include with all of their releases - Platinum or not!
Very impressive.


(Mega Star left - HKL right)

MEGA STAR

The theatrical trailer, and short biographies for
John Woo, Jacky Cheung, Waise Lee and Tony Leung, just don't cut the mustard when compared to HKL's list of features.

Obviously, there is no contest here, with HKL providing variation and quality in their extras.
Unfortunately, maybe due to his quiet character, Tony Leung is talked about extensively, but never to. That remains the only small disappointment to what is otherwise a very good collection of additional material.

CUTS/CHANGES
DRAW

Sadly, neither print is the "complete" cut, featuring the infamous piss-drinking scene in the nightclub, and with HKL touting this as a Platinum Edition, I would have hoped they would have been able to source this extra sequence.
Both films end with the car-chase sequence, and are identical in every other way.


(Mega Star left - HKL right)

CONCLUSION
HKL

While a completely definitive, uncut edition of John Woo's stunning film is still a distant dream, Hong Kong Legend's latest release is superior in almost every way to Mega Star's disc.
Cropping aside, there is really nothing that should stop you from picking up this impressive double-disc set immediately.

COMPANY
Hong Kong Legends
Mega Star
Winner
MOVIE
10/10
10/10
DRAW
PICTURE
8/10
5/10
HKL
SOUND
6/10
4/10
HKL
SUBTITLES
10/10
9/10
HKL
EXTRAS
8/10
3/10
HKL
MENUS
9/10
7/10
HKL
PACKAGING
7/10
7/10
DRAW
OVERALL
8/10
6/10
HKL