Purple Storm
HONG KONG LEGENDS
 
Starring:
Directed By:
Teddy Chen
Year:
1999
Run Time:
112 mins
Producer: Hong Kong Legends
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Languages:
CANTONESE 5.1, English 5.1
Subtitles:
English, Dutch
W/S Subtitles:
Yes
Ratio:
1.85:1 Anamorphic
Region:
PAL 0
Genre:
Action Thriller / Drama - 18 (UK)
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MOVIE
7/10

Media Asia's big budget, and highly ambitious 1999 action thriller makes its way onto British shores courtesy of the ever improving Hong Kong Legends.

In a battle atop a cargo ship, Todd (Daniel Wu), a Cambodian terrorist, suffers major head trauma and loses all memory of his criminal past.
Seeking an opportunity to infiltrate the gan and apprehend the despotic villain Soong (Todd's father), Officer Ma Li decides upon a radical treatment for the incarcerated young man.
Using the skills of hypnotherapist Shirley (Joan Chen), Ma Li successfully replaces Daniel's previous memories with those of a fictional undercover cop.
Rescued by his father Soong, Todd is re-immersed into his previous lifestyle, but has trouble differentiating between his "old" and "new" memories.
As the release of the titular lethal chemical 'Purple Storm' nears, Ma Li is uncertain as to Todd's loyalty, and so it seems, is Todd...

Daniel Wu is thrown in at the deep end with his role as Todd - a young man constantly struggling with his own identity - and manages to hit many of the right notes.
As with his role in City Of Glass, his performance improves immeasurably over the running time, but his recurrent overplaying of certain key scenes is jarring.
After listening to the accompanying Commentary, it becomes apparent that this lack of subtly was at the request of Director Teddy Chen, and against Wu's wishes. It's a shame Chen didn't have more faith in his actor, as this unfortunately hurts the film badly.
However, Todd's relationships with Soong (played superbly by Kam) and his wife Guan Gi (the equally impressive Josie Ho) are well handled, providing a fair amount of depth to the characters, and some genuinely affecting scenes.

Having been billed as an action thriller, I was looking forward to being wowed by some slick gunplay. Strangely, it was this very aspect which consistently left me uninterested, with some unnecessarily fast cutting often adding confusion to the images on screen.
There are a number of impressively choreographed shoot-outs, taking place in a variety of locations, but again they never really sparked my interest, and I was left with a feeling that I'd seen it all before.

The film's biggest failing, and what ultimately robs it of a wholehearted recommendation, is in its desperation to try to cover too many different perspectives.
When the film starts, it seems as if we are to follow Ma Li, and discover his motivation for catching Soong. However, no sooner do we see him, does he disappear from view for a long period.
The same goes for Joan Chen's hypnotherapist, a woman seemingly struggling with her own moral standpoint, who also goes walkabout for a large chunk of the movie.

PICTURE
9/10

Having not seen the Universe DVD of this title, I'm unable to do a side-by-side comparison of the two. Suffice to say, I'd be hard pressed to believe that that disc would rival this one.
Providing an almost perfect transfer, which features a consistently sharp and detailed image, Hong Kong Legends excel in their presentation of the movie.
Black levels are almost always deep and solid, and shadow detail is equally impressive.
The only aspect which mars this otherwise virtually unblemished print, is the constant mild grain visible throughout. Whilst it's generally not too noticeable, in certain scenes (particularly the brighter ones), the grain becomes distractingly obvious as does some pixellation, and although it doesn't ruin the transfer, it does rob it of a perfect 10.

SOUND
9/10

Having been originally recorded in 5.1 Digital, I expected a high quality soundtrack, and that's exactly what I got.
The frequently, and effectively-used surrounds, clear dialogue, and beautiful reproduction of the film's haunting panpipe music all add up to an extremely involving mix.
The only area which could have been improved upon was the Bass level.
In the film's gun fights, shots often sound rather weak, and lack the gut-wrenching bass which I'd expect.
Aside from the excellent sound quality, my major gripe with the soundtrack is that the disc defaults to the atrocious English dub, and if you're unaware of this you'll start watching the movie with the "wrong" track.

SUBTITLES
9/10

Perfect in just about every way, the grammatically spot-on subs only drop a point because of their slightly too thin black border. This meant that, on occasions, I had trouble reading them against the brighter backgrounds.

MENUS
7/10

The fully animated menus reminded me of the Matrix DVD's opening screens.
The compilation of clips which run above the option buttons are impressively cut and scored, but I've always disliked discs which show a film's action scenes before you've even watched the movie.
The remaining menus are much better, with differing wipe effects revealing numerous film stills.

EXTRAS
7/10

Making Of Purple Storm:
This fairly interesting, if cursory look into the character's motives, weighs in at 18 minutes and is mainly conducted in English. Although it's classed as a "Making Of...", you rarely see more than a couple of seconds of behind the scenes footage at one time.

Interview:
An interview with Josie Ho, lasting 13 minutes, takes in a number of different questions about the director, the filming etc. and is not something which really grabbed my attention.
The interview clips along at a fair old pace, playing as one continuous feature, whilst the questions are briefly flashed up on screen.
Looking as though it was filmed in a Dentist's waiting room, the interview's sound is rather poor. Whilst it's by no means incomprehensible, you do have to listen very carefully.

Trailers:

UK Promo Trailer, Original Theatrical Trailer (the much better realised Hong Kong version), Hong Kong Music Promo (a short 1 and a half minute teaser trailer featuring the film's Cambodian folk-song).

Photo Gallery:
30 stills taken from the the movie, though, disappointingly, no behind-the-scenes snaps.

Further Attractions:
Exactly what it says on the tin...a load of trailers and information for HKL's other releases.

Commentary:
Easily the most rewarding of the extras, the Commentary is an informative and fun chat between Daniel Wu and Bey Logan.
Having worked on the film himself, Bey manages to insert many of his own interesting perspectives and stories concerning his time on the set.
I occasionally got the feeling that he overwhelmed Wu, and was more interested in giving his own thoughts and opinions than asking for Daniel's. However, after a while, Daniel seems to grow in confidence and starts dipping in with his own opinions.
By the end of this non-stop Commentary, I felt a greater appreciation for many aspects of the film, and was surprised and heartened by Wu and Logan's honest appraisal of the movie.
This is definitely well worth your time.

CONCLUSION
8/10

Whilst Wu's performance is the film's saving grace, there's just enough else contained within to make it worth watching.
Hong Kong Legends extremely impressive disc is also one which in any other circumstances would be a "must own" title. However, taking into consideration the film's failings and the disc's triumphs I'd say that it'd be worth renting before buying.

MOVIE 7/10
PICTURE
9/10
SOUND
9/10
SUBTITLES
9/10
EXTRAS
7/10
MENUS
7/10
PACKAGING
7/10
OVERALL 8/10