milestone in Hong Kong movie making it may be, but Zu's reputation,
in my eyes, has always been overrated.
Whilst it undoubtedly features (at the time of filming) groundbreaking
special effects and set-pieces, it still remains a large number
of ingenious ideas in search of a coherent plot.
The leaps of faith required of the viewer as the film jumps from
scene to scene makes for a storyline which becomes increasingly
hard work to follow.
Taking the lion's share of the acting roles, Yuen
Biao gets to show off his considerable talent as the young soldier
thrust into position of having to save the world.
Adam Cheng is at his scene-stealing best as the swordsman who must
pass on his skills to Biao.
Wonderful cameos from Sammo Hung (as
several different characters), and appearances from Moon Lee and
Brigitte Lin bolster an already impressive
line of stars including Meng Hoi and Damien
Tsui Hark's renowned directorial skills are given free reign, with
each of the stunning set-pieces filling the screen with imagination.
Just about everything, and everyone, takes flight, and if it's not
soaring stone elephants, then it's self-dividing swords with which
our heroes battle each other.
However, the basic fact remains that the characters and plot seem
to matter less than the range of special effects, and this makes
for not only an emotionally uninvolving but also confusing viewing
the incredible presentation Project A
received, I was looking forward to being similarly impressed by
Unfortunately, these feelings slipped away upon the realisation
that the print used has aged very badly, with the transfer doing
little to help.
Detail fluctuates alarmingly from good to below-average, although
I expect some of this is due to the source material rather than
Whilst grain is abundant in many scenes, some of the most disappointing
elements of the transfer are those which fail to cope with smoke
and dry-ice-filled scenes. Artifacts are quite visible during these
darkly lit sets, and add to a disappointing transfer.
Although night-time sequences (of which there are many) come off
particularly badly, the daytime ones fair a great deal better, with
bold colours and decent detail holding things together.
effects and the musical score are moved to the left and right front
speakers successfully, with the centre speaker handling the majority
An aspect which I have often noticed with mono soundtracks mixed
into 5.1 is that, unless a great deal of care is taken during the
process, the dialogue and sfx can become muted.
At times this is a problem with this latest release, as many of
the well realised sound effects are drowned out by other elements.
failing to particularly impress me with their translations of terms,
and their faithfulness to the script, the subs are good enough to
get the job done.
Scorpion King remains HKL's best piece of subbing work for a long
time, and it's frustrating to come across such inconsistency from
release to release.
The hugely welcome addition of director Tsui
Hark alongside Bey Logan is a breath of fresh air for those
of us who feel these commentaries work best with the input of more
than one person.
Tsui, as you'd expect, reveals some fascinating details, speaks
perfect English and seems to enjoy the trip down memory lane with
One of HKL's best commentaries for a while.
UK Promo Trailer
Original Theatrical Trailer
The Wizard's Cave
Offering the sort of extras Hong Kong fans crave, HKL provide the
US version's additional scenes - presented here in non-Anamorphic
Opening the story in modern times, Yuen Biao's
character finds he becomes strangely drawn to an ancient artifact
on display in a local museum.
Presented with its original English dub, the added scenes do nothing
for the film, other than making it even more incoherent and syrupy
thanks to the plotline involving Moon Lee.
the less, this is required viewing.
The elfin action actor talks quietly and thoughtfully about his
start in film-making and of his landing the role in Zu.
The feature lasts for a respectable 17 minutes and is well worth
This 20 minute interview with co-star Moon Lee is better than her
previous outing on HKL's Mr. Vampire release.
Thankfully, as with Meng Hoi's, her interview stays focused on the
film and as such, holds your attention.
Tai Chi Boxer
Project A: Platinum Edition
Whilst falling short of some of their other releases in terms of
numbers, the extras are still of a high enough quality to demand
entertaining a 90 minutes as you're likely to see in Hong Kong fantasy
cinema, Zu still impresses with its unparalleled imagination. It
also makes you realise that, as with so many modern big-budget SFX
epics, a film still needs a heart in order to keep your blood pumping.