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White Vengeance (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

September 5, 2012 by  



I did enjoy “White Vengeance” but compared to other Chinese historical films or war epics, “White Vengeance” featured wonderful costume and set design, but for its story,  it was good…just not great.  And because of it’s complexity of the timeline and focus on various characters, I found myself having to rewind and rewatch certain scenes because I was getting confused.  But for those who love Chinese historical films with plenty of action, you’ll more than likely enjoy “White Vengeance”!

Images courtesy of © 2012 Starlight International Media Group. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: White Vengeance

TELEFILM RELEASE: 2012

DURATION: 138 Minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (16:9 Widescreen), MandarinDTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English

COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment

RATED: NOT RATED

Release Date: September 4, 2012

Directed and Written by Daniel Lee

Producer: Susanna Tsang

Music by Henry Lai

Cinematography by Tony Cheung

Edited by Man To Tang

Production Design by Daniel Lee

Art Direction by Henry Fong

Costume Design by Kwan Kit Mok, Ming-ha Wong

Starring:

Shaofeng Feng as Xiang Yu

Leon Lai as Liu Bang

Hanyu Zhang as Zhang Liang

Anthony Wong as Fan Zeng

Yifei Liu as Yu Ji

Jordan Chan as Fan Kuai

And On as Han Xin

Qing Xiu as Xiao He

Haifeng Ding as Xiang Zhuang

Xiang Dong Xu as Xiang Bo

Chen Zhi Hui as Xiahou Ying

In a time of tyranny and oppression, deception is everywhere. Insurgency swells among the people as two brothers battle for supremacy -and the love of a woman- during the fall of the Qin Dynasty. Liu Bang (Leon Lai, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS) and Xiang Fu (Feng Shaofeng, XI YOU JI), once united but now locked in combat to rule the insurgent lands in a recreation of history’s famed bloody battle for rule and dominion, known as the Feast at Hong Gate. Witness the beginning of the Red Cliff rebellion with this historic clash, directed by Daniel Lee (3 KINGDOMS, BLACK MASK).

A beautiful, violent Chinese historical film that features a loose adaptation of “The Feast at Hong Gate” written and directed by Daniel Lee (“14 Blades”, “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection oft he Dragon”, “Black Mask”)  and featuring an all-star cast with Leon Lai (“Fallen Angels”, “Seven Swords”, “Comrades: Almost a Love Story”), Feng Shaofeng, Liu Yifei (“Forbidden Kingdom”), Zhang Hanyu, Anthony Wong (“Infernal Affairs” films, “Exiled”, “Hard Boiled”), Jordan Chan (“Help!!!”, “Skyline Cruisers”, “Spy Dad”), Andy On, Xiu Qing and Jia Qing.

The film was nominated for four Hong Kong Film Awards including “Best Art Direction” and “Best Costume & Make Up Design” and was released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Well Go USA.

“White Vengance” is a film that is loosely based on the Feast at Hong Gate and the fall of the Qin Dynasty.

The film begins with a group of students and a scholar visiting a site honoring Liu Bang and Xiang Yu.  The scholar, is shocked to see these unnamed markers next to the men, let alone both shrines being in the same area?  Why would this be done?  And out of nowhere, a man with his hat obscuring his face, tells the students and their teacher of the story of Liu Bang And Xiang Yu.

As the Qin Empire was in chaos, two sworn brothers in battle, the warrior Xiang Yu (portrayed by Feng Shaofeng) and the diplomatic Liu Bang (portrayed by Leon Lai) became leaders of insurgent forces who rebelled against the Qin Dynasty from 209 BC to 206BC.

To put this era in context, because the Qin Empire was in turmoil, it was split into 18 kingdoms.  Two of those kingdoms became prominent and powerful, Western Chu led by Xiang Yu and Han led by Liu Bang.  And both would eventually conquer the other kingdoms.  This era (206BC-202BC) would be known as the Chu-Han Contention.

Because these two men were so powerful that serve King Huai of Chu, King Huai became concerned that he would easily be beaten.  So, how could he take out one or both of these men?  Why not pit them against each other?

King Huai devises a plot that whoever can subvert the Qin Kingdom would be the new Lord Qin.

While Xiang Yu is the warrior that many people fear and has men who have succeeded in many wars, he is also a man who falls in love with the woman Yu Ji (portrayed by Yifei Liu).  As the two marry, Xiang Yu must go to war and leaves his bride to his swordbrother Liu Bang, hoping he can take Yu Ji far away and protect her.  What Xiang Yu doesn’t know is that Liu also loves Yu Ji.  But both he and his wife are unaware of it.

And as Liu Bang escorts Yu Ji to safety, many of Liu Bang’s warriors feel that their leader should pursue the title of Lord Qin.  Mainly because he fights for the people and cares about the people, where as other leaders believe in war and hurting the people, including Xiang Yu.

At first Liu Bang wants no part of becoming the Lord Qin but as many of his friends and people support him, Liu Bang manages to gain prominent people such as the wise consultant/strategist Zhang Liang (portrayed by Hanzyu Zhang), who is second to Xiang Yu’s long-time consultant and strategist Fan Zeng (portrayed by Anthony Wong).

And both Xiang  Yu and Liu Bang develop a tremendous reputation of winning wars and winning over the people.  But with both sides being powerful, but one believing in being a warrior in the battlefield, while one is more of a pacifist and one does not want any soldiers dying.  Who will eventually become the next Lord Qin..Xiang Yu or Liu Bang?

VIDEO:

“White Vengeance” is presented in 1080p High Definition (16:9 Widescreen).  The film looks absolutely beautiful in HD.  The use of CG to make a war look like thousands were taking part in the battle looked effective.  The detail on closeups were amazing but it’s the detail that comes with the costume and make-up including production design that is the winner of this film.  Everything looks impressive, even the makeup, I would not have known that legendary HK star Leon Lai was playing the part of Liu Bang, until I read the front cover of the Blu-ray.    But from a cool to warm presentation in HD, the film looks great, with some areas looking a bit soft at times.  But considering that the film is primarily focused on close-ups and wide-angles, the film looks great, black levels are nice and deep and well-contrast.

AUDIO & SUBTITLES:

“White Vengeance” is presented in Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  As one can expect from a film with a lot of action, there are good use of directional sound effects coming from the surround channels.  From spears and arrows being shot from one side to the other, the sound of horses galloping on the battlefield to the sounds of the clanging swords.  The lossless soundtrack for “White Vengeance” features awesome dynamic range, crystal clear dialogue and also wonderful use of the surround for the music!

Subtitles are in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES

“White Vengeance” comes with the following special features:

  • Behind the Scenes – (54:27) Behind-the-scenes of the rehearsals for the action sequences and the making of the film.
  • Cast and Crew Interviews – (36:03) Featuring cast and crew interviews.
  • Trailer(1:40) The original theatrical trailer for “White Vengeance”.
  • International Trailer – (1:06) The international trailer for “White Vengeance”.

EXTRAS:

“White Vengeance” comes with a slipcover case.

“White Vengeance” is a beautiful film and possibly the best film so far from writer/director Danny Lee.  From the look of the film thanks to its beautiful cinematography, wonderful costume design and make-up and also the effective and believable production design, the film looks and sounds quite impressive on Blu-ray!

But with so many Chinese historical films, how does “White Vengeance” compare to other epic films?  For one, it’s an interesting take on the “Feast at Hong Gate” and the battle between Xiang Yu and Liu Bang.  Two leaders, two sworn brothers in battle but yet, two of the most powerful men of insurgent groups, it was destined that these two would become rivals and enemies.  As both men wanted to become Lord Qin.

There approach to competing for this title is what is fascinating.  Xiang Yu is a warrior, while Liu Bang is the pacifist who wants no one to die, but he knows that to protect the people, he must become the leader by doing things he may not want to do.  This includes going against the man who one called him brother, Xiang Yu.

While many fans of this of Asian cinema will come to expect the fighting on the battlefield, the amount of corruption between warring factions but the film’s strength lies in its portrayal of strategy.

Xiang Yu’s use of the legendary strategist Fan Zeng and Liu Bang’s use of the #2 strategist Zhang Liang.  Both men are wonderful advisers, but as much as the film is a battle between both Xiang Yu and Liu Beng, it’s also a battle between two master strategists, Fan Zheng and Zhang Liang.

And it’s the strategic ways of how each counter each other that to me, was the most captivating part of the storyline.  Both leaders depend on their advisers/strategists and it adds to the storyline of loyalty and betrayal.  Does one’s thirst for power exceed the trust one has in their close advisor’s and the people close to them?  You’ll have to see how things play out between this war between two leaders.

Once again, this film is loosely based on the actual story of Xiang Yu and Liu Beng.  For one, the actual relatonship between Xiang Yu and Yu Ji has been romanticized quite a bit for this film, but it in it’s overall effectiveness of trying to include a romantic aspect to the film, it does work for “White Vengeance”.

There were other characters that tried to showcase the loyalty of the men of Xiang Yu and Liu Beng.    In one scene, during the “Feast at Hong Gate”, we see Fan Kuai (portrayed by Jordan Chan) biting off his finger as a sign of his loyalty to Liu Bang.  Also, characters did not live or die as was seen in the film, although the depiction of loyalty to their leader during a certain time seems to be factual.

But for those looking for a film for historical accuracy, many directors pursue a loose adaptation in order to make the movie more appealing to audiences.  So, for those expecting an exact depiction of what took place during this era in Chinese history, you’re not going to get an authentic adaptation.

As for the Blu-ray release, “White Vengeance” looks and sounds amazing.  The cinematography, costume and set design, make-up are well-done and the use of the lossless soundtrack to capture the sounds of war was amazingly done.  And you also get a few special features as well.

Overall, “White Vengeance” is a good Chinese historical film but definitely not one of the best.  While the action and the use of strategy was fascinating, the storyline is a bit difficult to showcase something so complex when it focuses on four individuals.  Yes, the film’s primary characters are Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, but by the second half, the story then switches to Zhang Liang and Fan Zeng, the strategist a bit more and all of a sudden, we see this change between both primary characters that leave you feeling as if you missed a bit of character development after what had taken place at the “Feast at Hong Gate”.

But other than that, I did enjoy “White Vengeance” but compared to other Chinese historical films or war epics, “White Vengeance” featured wonderful costume and set design, but for its story,  it was good…just not great.  And because of it’s complexity of the timeline and focus on various characters, I found myself having to rewind and rewatch certain scenes because I was getting confused.  But for those who love Chinese historical films with plenty of action, you’ll more than likely enjoy “White Vengeance”!

 






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