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The Four (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

April 9, 2013 by  



“The Four” is a film that really goes all out in showcasing the challenges to shoot with the spider-cam and with Chinese cinematic innovation, they really made certain scenes look fantastic but yet so difficult to pull off.  I was impressed!  While some may criticize the film for having similarities to “The X-Men” and the addition of the undead to this film, if anything, it’s an enjoyable popcorn action Chinese film with enough differences that it’s far from being an X-Men wannabe but becoming its own intriguing storyline about an investigative team with supernatural abilities.

Images courtesy of © 2012 Beijing Enlight Pictures Limited. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Four

FILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 119 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition,Mandarin, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NR (Film contains nudity)

Release Date: April 9, 2013

Directed by Gordon Chan, Janet Chun

Produced by Gordon Chan, Abe Kwong

Executive Producer: Gordon Chan

Music by Henry Lai

Cinematography by Yiu-Fai Lai

Edited by Ki-hop Chan

Production Design by Bruce Yu

Starring:

Chao Deng as Leng Lingqui (Coldblood)

Yifei Lu as Shong Yayu (Emotionless)

Ronald Cheng as Cui Lueshang (Life Snatcher)

Colling Chou as Tie Yourda (Iron Hands)

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as Zhuge Zhenwo

Xiu Bo Wu as An Shigeng (The God of Wealth)

Taisheng Chen as Sheriff King

Yi Yan Jiang as Ji Yaohua

Anna Fang as Butterfly

Ryu Kohata as Avalanche

Sheren Tang as Aunt Foise

Waise Lee as Prince

Bei-Er Bao as Big Wlf

Ying Jie Wu as Ding Dong

Miao Chi as Guts

Tina Xiang as Bell

Gangs of spies. A royal secret service. A covert governing organization. A divine constabulary. Everyone wants to know about a stolen coin cast and a mysterious circulation of counterfeit currency. Every government agency and financial interest in the region has an interest and a plan. But this scam is only the beginning of their problems.
Something supernatural is happening. Someone is forming an army of the undead, created to crush anything that stands in their way, making their way to the capital.
Coldblood. Iron Hands. Emotionless. Life Snatcher.
They are kung fu superheroes. They are THE FOUR.
And they may be our only chance.
Based on the greatly-loved novel The Four Detective Guards by Wen Ruian, Gordon Chan’s (THE KING OF FIGHTERS, PAINTED SKIN, THE KUNG FU MASTER) film adaptation is the first for the big screen, and the beginning of a planned trilogy.

America has its fair share of superhero groups on the big screen.  From the Avengers, Fanastic Four and the X-Men, in Asia, we have seen many films featuring people with supernatural powers.  But what about an investigative team with supernatural powers?

This is the concept featured in Gordon Chan’s (“The Medallion”, “Fist of Legend”, 2000 AD”) and Janet Chun’s (“All’s Well Ends Well 2011”, “La Lingerie”) film “The Four”, the first film of a planned trilogy and a loose big screen adaptation of Wen Ruian’s novel series “The Four Great Constables”.

Featuring a cast with talent from mainland China and Hong Kong, the film stars Chao Deng (“Assembly”, “Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame”), Yifei Liu (“The Assassins”, “White Vengeance”), Ronald Cheng (“Fatal Contact”, “Vulgaria”), Collin Chou (“The Matrix Revolutions”, “The Matrix Reloaded”, “The Forbidden Kingdom”, “Fearless”) and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (“Infernal Affairs” films, “Ip Man: The Final Fight”, “White Vengeance”).

And now “The Four” was released in April 2013 on Blu-ray courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment.

“The Four” is set during the reign of Emperor Huizong” of the Northern Song Dynasty.  Overseeing the city for criminal investigations is The Six Panels Constabulary led by Sheriff King (portrayed by Taisheng Chen).

One day as they were pursuing a criminal, they Six Panels Constabulary get into a confrontation with a group from the Divine Constabulary.  It is learned that the Divine Constabulary was commissioned by the emperor and is led by Zhuge Zhengwo (portrayed by Anthony Wong).

Working aside with them are around a dozen people but a few of them have special abilities.

Emotionless (portrayed by Yifei Liu) is a disable young woman on a wheelchair, but she has the power of telekinesis and ability to read minds.  She barely speaks and trusts very few people.

Cui Lueshang (Ronald Cheng) is a former tax collector and goes by the name Life Snatcher and his ability is his powerful quick kicks.

Tie “Iron Hands” Yourda (portrayed by Collin Chou) is a scientist who is able to create mechanical things far ahead of its time.

And together, they are working to find out who is behind a counterfeit scheme and other trouble that is happening within the area.M

The Sheriff becomes jealous of the Divine Constabulary and has his best man from the Six Panels, Cold Blood fired from the group, as a way for him to infiltrate and join the Divine Constabulary and to report back any findings that the Divine Constabulary has been working on.

But the group welcomes Cold Blood as part of their family but Emotionless is torn between her feelings towards him because she doesn’t trust him but also senses his heart and that he has these feelings towards her.

Meanwhile,  the Sheriff doesn’t know that the group of women led by Ji Yaohua (portrayed by Jiang Yiyan) has infiltrated the Six Panels and are working for a mysterious leader.

And as Cold Blood starts to hang out with the Divine Constabulary and spy on them, he finds himself starting to like the people and wanting to be around them.   But he must try to learn how to associate with these new friends as his feral wolf anger can often get the best of him.  Meanwhile, Ji Yaohua tries to get closer to Cold Blood as well and it becomes a love triangle between he, Emotionless and Ji.

Which side will Cold Blood choose?  The Six Panels or the Divine Constabulary?

VIDEO:

“The Four” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:20:1 aspect ratio).  The film looks fantastic when it comes to close-up details but also its use of the spider-cam to really capture the sense of movement and blend in the wirework and CG elements wonderfully.  Contrast is well-done, some scenes may be a tad too dark but for the most part, “The Four” looks very good on Blu-ray.

I personally didn’t notice any banding or compression artifacts issues during my viewing of the film.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“The Four” is presented in Mandarin 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.  One thing I learned while watching this film is how amazing the film sounds in lossless and surround.  There are times where I’m watching the film and you can hear the environments such as wind blowing through the wind, good use of surround during the more action-intense sequences.  Lossless audio for the film is fantastic!

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“The Four” comes with the following special features:

  • Making Of – (24:22) A combination of several short making of featurettes, featuring interviews with the director Gordon Chan, interviews with the cast about the characters and the use of the Spider-cam, the amount of makeup for Cold Blood’s feral look and more!
  • Deleted Scenes – (4:10) A combination of deleted scenes featuring the other characters who are members of the Divine Constabulary.
  • Trailer – (1:41) Theatrical trailer for “The Four”.

EXTRAS:

“The Four” comes with a slipcover case.

“The Four” will probably be known for two things.

The first is for its spectacular use of a spider-cam in which multiple cranes were hold wired cameras above the set, so the camera can travel up from high above and carefully following the wire back down and to go back again.  The spider-cam would be able to capture people jumping from building to building without the use of CG but actual wire work.  And complicated as it was to film, Gordon Chan and his crew were ready for the challenge and were successful, despite the various attempts and mistakes before getting the final cut.

The second part about “The Four” that will be known for its its criticism by Chinese publications for the film trying to be a combination of “X-Men”, “Resident Evil” and “Van Helsing”, characters with supernatural ability and of course, with the Chinese flair.

And in some ways, I can see the comparisons because I thought of the film the same way.  I immediately saw the comparisons to “X-Men” with Professor X preaching to his X-Men to fight for the positive cause and not cause trouble and not to be like the others (ie. The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants).  The same can be said with the wise Zhuge Zhengwo (portrayed by Anthony Wong).  Emotionless has similarities to Jean Grey, Iron Fist has similarities to scientist Henry Pym (The Beast) but with the strength and ability to wield iron ala Colossus.  While Life Snatcher is like Warren Worthington (Angel) and his ability to woo the women but in this case, the ability to use his feet as weapons and last, Cold Blood.  The person trying to be on the side of good but has a feral side (ala Wolverine) because he was raised by wolves.

Throw in an antagonist who tries to revive the dead and thus the “Resident Evil” zombie comparisons.  And you have the crazy antagonist with the God of Wealth who is able to wield hot and cold and whatever unknown power that he is responsible for.

As the first film in the planned trilogy, with the film establishing its characters and their abilities but also the mysterious background of certain characters who may be good or bad, “The Four” is kept interesting because of its characters and the predicaments they are in.

While fight choreography looks amazing, some will find the comparison to other American films to be bothersome or unoriginal. But the fact is that Gordon Chan wanted to do something different from Wen Ruian’s novels by focusing on the characters and giving some back story to them, but as some questions are answered throughout the film, some tend to linger and keep viewers waiting to get answers for the second film.

Plus, aside from the action and drama, there is also a romantic love triangle storyline tacked into the film as well.

As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is very good but its the lossless soundtrack that stands out with great use of ambiance for the surround channels.  You literally hear the wind all around you and of course, a good number of action sequences throughout the film.

Overall, “The Four” is a film that really goes all out in showcasing the challenges to shoot with the spider-cam and with Chinese cinematic innovation, they really made certain scenes look fantastic but yet so difficult to pull off.  I was impressed!  While some may criticize the film for having similarities to “The X-Men” and the addition of the undead to this film, if anything, it’s an enjoyable popcorn action Chinese film with enough differences that it’s far from being an X-Men wannabe but becoming its own intriguing storyline about an investigative team with supernatural abilities.

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