to Cambodia in search of his older brother Charles, Jones (Daniel
Chan) and his girlfriend Jess (Pace Wu)
find life a lot harsher than in Hong Kong.
Nearly 15 years have passed since the brothers met, Charles (Francis
Ng) having left with the family savings. After their mother dies,
Jones believes it time that the money is paid back...with interest.
However, Jones doesn't get quite what he bargained for, and after
being framed for the murder of a local gang boss, must not only
heal the rift between him and his brother, but also find the real
Directorial flourishes punctuate this superbly acted and beautifully
scored film from little known director Alan
Although both Daniel Chan and Pace
Wu are equally solid in their roles, it's Francis Ng's portrayal
of Charles which sets the film alight.
Working extremely well alongside Dave Wong,
Francis exudes a ruthlessness which makes his triad character both
utterly believable and totally cold. Thankfully, Ng also adds an
emotional centre to his character which raises him far above many
a Hong Kong anti-hero.
Gigi Leung's involvement in the film
is slight, her impact is massive. In one of the film's most memorable
scenes, she and Charles ballroom dance whilst being surrounded by
a large group of rival gang members. At the slightest command, both
draw their weapons and decimate their attackers.
Although this scene could have felt like any other action set-piece
from a HK film, its direction follows the music, leaving the pair
to literally waltz past their opponents.
Neither overdoing or underplaying the relationship of the two characters,
director Mak creates a nice balance to their scenes, where little
is said but much is understood.
Above all else, this 2000 production reminded me of an aspect of
Hong Kong cinema which is often overlooked - the soundtrack. An
eclectic mix of musical styles is blended with the superb visuals
with an assurance I've not seen in a long time.
A wonderful acoustic guitar piece accompanies the film's opening,
setting the tone and standard for what is to come.
This high standard is upheld throughout, as dance, canto-pop and
instrumental music is married perfectly to the movie's visuals.
If the film has one flaw, it's that the epilogue seems a little
disappointing at first. However, on repeat viewings it actually
makes more sense, and wraps up the film nicely.
If you're looking for a sign that Hong Kong movie-making is on the
up, and that Francis Ng is one of the most gifted actors of his
generation, A War Named Desire is the perfect place to start.
A somewhat unsatisfactory
presentation is offered by Mei Ah, which just about gets the job
A rather soft, although reasonably clean, transfer is not helped
by the fact that Mei Ah's encoding remains distinctly second-rate.
The artifacting, poor shadow detail, and black levels certainly
don't help the viewing experience, although it's far from unwatcheable.
At times the transfer sharpens up nicely, but overall this is a
presentation which did little to change my view of Mei Ah.
between the two Cantonese soundtracks available are subtle, and
so I decided to give a breakdown of each:
This soundtrack is very well mixed, with numerous directional effects
making their way across the front soundstage.
Rear effects are virtually non-existent, although this is really
not a problem as the above-mentioned music sounds superb.
Irritations arise however, when a number of scenes emit an audible
hiss, leaving dialogue sounding slightly crackly.
This being the films original, synch-sound soundtrack, effects are
far more naturally placed.
Dialogue, and sfx also sound more solid, with an improved level
Unfortunately, this track has one flaw - it suffers from lip-synching
problems near the movie's end.
Of the two options available, I found the most satisfying to be
the Dolby Digital 5.1 remix.
and spelling is evident throughout the film, with no scenes being
so badly translated as to make them incoherent.
At one point, the subtitles run out-of-step with the film's dialogue
but this is only fleeting.
Mei Ah menus are present, which are no more than serviceable.
below-average extras are provided, which include the plot synopsis
from the back of the DVD box, a cast and crew listing, and two trailers.
surprise, a Mei Ah transfer which fails to set the world of DVD
However, considering the low price and high quality of this massively
entertaining film, to pass it up would be a crime against cinema
- Buy it now.