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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Connected (Blu-ray)
Connected (Blu-ray)
Tai Seng // Unrated // April 28, 2009 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted May 10, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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It's
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been working the other way in recent years, with Hollywood raiding Eastern cinema to hammer out everything from The Departed to third-rate J-horror like One Missed Call. Connected, on the other hand, is a remake of a movie originally produced on these shores. This Hong Kong action flick -- directed and co-written by Benny Chan (New Police Story) -- uses Cellular as a springboard.

Bob (Louis Koo) is a serial screw-up: a debt collector waltzing out of his latest gig emptyhanded, and he's on his way to the airport to pick up a son who's half-certain his pop isn't going to bother showing up. He's making an effort, at least, when he gets a call out of the blue. The voice on the other end belongs to Grace Wong (Barbie Hsu), and she pleads with him not to hang up. Grace has been kidnapped, and she's pieced just enough out of the shattered remnants of an old phone on the wall to be able to reach out to a random number. Grace has no idea who these men are or even what they're after, exactly, but she knows they're targeting her family, and the meek, middle-aged debt collector on the other end of the phone is her only hope of saving them. At the risk of further alienating his own family, Bob races around Kowloon, trying desperately not just to rescue her young daughter and brother but to keep that threadbare connection with Grace intact. The havoc Bob inadvertently wreaks sends half of Hong Kong's police force gunning for him, and he quickly becomes ensnared in the kidnappers' sprawling conspiracy as well.

It's light on logic, sure, but Connected is a hell of an action flick, never easing up on the throttle until the end credits start their upward crawl. The scale of the action setpieces can be pretty startling, particularly one of the most masterfully staged high-speed chases I've caught in years. Dozens of cars and even the framework of a building are trashed, Bob's blindsided little sedan winds up dragging along a gaggle of construction workers, and it's repeatedly sent soaring through the air. Connected splices in a pretty sharp sense of humor that never deflates the intensity of its many, many action sequences, including a bit with Bob accidentally holding up a cell phone store when his battery's on the brink of petering out. There really aren't any weepy sidestories or meandering subplots either; even with a runtime clocking in just shy of two hours, Connected never lets its sights shift away from the deliriously over-the-top action and suspense. That doesn't leave room for rich, nuanced performances or anything, but who cares? These sorts of exaggerated cariactures are exactly what a hyperkinetic action flick like this screams out for. The photography and editing are stylish but never to the point of distraction, and there's something about the lack of wirework or CG that makes these elaborate setpieces that much more intense. I really dug Connected -- an unrelenting adrenaline rush that's a hell of a lot of fun -- and for action completists eyeing something different, this Blu-ray disc is well-worth picking up. Recommended.


Video
The 2.39:1, AVC-encoded video on Connected isn't quite like much of anything else I've caught on Blu-ray. The image has kind of a processed look to it, and shadow detail rolls off disappointingly quickly. Contrast is all over the map as well. Its colors are intensely stylized -- frequently skewing gold or towards a slightly blueish-green -- to the point that even though the head badnik is supposed to have silver-white hair, it looks instead to be dyed a bright blue. There are a few odd hiccups in the source, such as some stray marks on the far left edge of the frame as Grace's home is being raided. Even with the filtering and some noticeable edge enhancement, clarity and detail both remain reasonably strong, and Connected looked better splashed across my display than the screenshots scattered around this review might suggest. Connected isn't polished to the sheen I'm used to seeing for this sort of glossy action flick -- and I can't help but wonder how differently it might have turned out if the transfer had been tackled on these shores -- but just the same, the movie looks decent enough on Blu-ray.

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Audio
The featured soundtrack this time around is a 5.1 LPCM track in Connected's original Cantonese, and as you'd probably expect out of this sort of unrelenting action flick, this Blu-ray disc sounds great. Bass response in particular stands out, starting with a sudden, violent car wreck that hits like a slug in the gut. Cracks of gunfire and the meaty thud of all the kicks and punches are also accompanied by a tight, punchy low-end. The surround channels reinforce the aggressive action effectively, and even the more subtle effects such as tiny rocks tumbling off a cliff help ratchet up the intensity. As chaotic as the mix can get, its dialogue is unwaveringly balanced cleanly and clearly throughout.

Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in Cantonese and Mandarin. Aside from the obvious English stream, subtitles are also offered in Chinese (traditional and simplified), Korean, Bahasa Indonesian, and Bahasa Malaysian. The dub-or-die set should take note that there is no English audio on this Blu-ray disc.


Extras
By any other standard, Connected would've been a reasonably impressive special edition, even with the annoyance of having to swap out this single-layer Blu-ray disc with an accompanying DVD to be able to dive into the bulk of them. Disappointingly, though, virtually none of the extras have been subtitled into English, making them all but useless for most viewers on these shores. This includes a 34 minute reel of deleted scenes (subtitled into Chinese only), 9 minutes of alternate scenes (its English subtitle stream is left blank), an audio commentary with director/co-writer Benny Chan, and a 38 minute "behind the scene" [sic] piece.

One of the only extras here that is subtitled is a 20 minute promotional featurette. Heavy on clips from the movie and a recap of the plot, this making-of piece chats about Hong Kong boasting more cell phone accounts than people, upping the ante compared to the leaner American version, the challenges that go along with shooting a movie where you're performing against a cell phone, and shooting all of the action and stunts in a flick with this sort of colossal scale. The bulk of the footage runs 15 minutes, and it's rounded out by a lengthy action montage and a set of storyboards. A handful of trailers and teasers round out the extras.

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The Final Word
An unrelenting action flick infused with the sort of hyperkinetic energy only Hong Kong seems to be able to deliver, Connected is a hell of a lot of manic, completely unrestrained fun. I'm not really sure why a domestic release of an Eastern action movie would shrug off English subtitles for virtually all of its extras, but I dug Connected enough to find this Blu-ray disc worth picking up anyway. Recommended.


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