Asia's big budget, and highly ambitious 1999 action thriller makes
its way onto British shores courtesy of the ever improving Hong
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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
30 stills taken from the the movie, though, disappointingly, no
Exactly what it says on the tin...a load of trailers and information
for HKL's other releases.
Easily the most rewarding of the extras, the Commentary is an informative
and fun chat between Daniel Wu and Bey
worked on the film himself, Bey manages to insert many of his own
interesting perspectives and stories concerning his time on the
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.
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.