A follow up to the 1998 manga inspired The Storm Riders, Oxide and Danny Pang's The Storm Warriors once again teams up Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok as Wind and Cloud, a deadly duo of honorable martial arts masters who are far more powerful than their pretty boy good looks would have you believe. As their names imply, they have the uncanny ability to exert control over different elements, which obviously makes them pretty tough opponents. When the film begins, things are more or less peaceful in the land they call home, that is until a sinister warlord named Lord Godless (Simon Yam) lays waste to a swordsman and by defeating him takes on all of his powers and abilities. This makes him pretty formidable in his own right, and he figures he's in a pretty good spot to take over China.
That's where Wind and Cloud come in - they're not cool with this idea at all and so Wind decides to up the ante by letting his dark side take over but by letting his powers grow stronger, he winds up losing control and becoming just as bad as the one he would defeat. This leaves Cloud in a tricky spot, having to take on a supernatural sword master and his closest ally in the entire world!
Basically done in the same style as the original film but with more updated effects work and with Simon Yam playing the heavy in place of Sonny Chiba, The Storm Warriors won't bring you around if you didn't enjoy that earlier picture. If you were a fan, however, you ought to appreciate what the Pang Brothers have done here as it is very much in keeping with what came before, from the melodramatic dialogue to the sweeping camera work to the multitude of completely unrealistic digital effects work to the teen idol posturing of the film's two leads. This might sound like ragging on the film, but it's not - the film is plenty entertaining and completely enjoyable as disposable entertainment - but it's not deep and it's all rather silly.
The film is essentially a super hero story, so the laws of physics barely matter here. Characters are beaten to a pulp and tossed or thrown as fast as a bullet only to get back up and basically ask for me. The violence is all rather tame and while it has an impact from time to time, it's obviously been toned down for a mass market audience (at least in its homeland). This isn't a flaw, per se, but those expecting hard hitting punches and fast flying kicks will probably be taken aback by the wispy haired warriors in long flowing and ornate outfits that the Pang's are dealing with.
Entertainment value is the order of the day, however, and if you're okay with shutting your brain off and just enjoying the ridiculous ride, The Storm Warriors can be good fun. The Pang's typically impressive cinematography ensures that , CGI or no CGI, the movie always looks good and Simon Yam is great as the bad guy even if the two heroes aren't all that memorable. Is it a great film, not by any stretch but it's inoffensive and enjoyable in a 'big dumb spectacle' sort of way.
The Storm Warriors arrives on DVD through Lionsgate is a good 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. It boasts nice, accurate color reproduction and strong black levels, which makes it easy to forgive the occasionally compression artifact that creeps into the frame. Skin tones look good and there's no edge enhancement to note, and this is generally a well authored disc of some very clean, clear source material.
Audio options are supplied in Cantonese and English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks, with optional subtitles available in English and Spanish. The Cantonese mix is the one to go for unless you have an aversion to subtitles, but whichever you choose you can expect plenty of surround activity and well placed directional effects throughout the film. This is quite an active mix with good bass response and good ambient and background noise present throughout. Levels are well balanced and dialogue comes through nice and clearly, while the subtitles are free of any obvious typographical errors and are easy to read.
Extras include a five minute Behind The Scenes/Interviews featurette and the four minutes special effects featurettes. Here you're going to find pretty much everything you'd want to know about what it was like on set including how some of the more impressive fight sequences were staged and coordinated, where and why digital effects were used in certain parts, and what went into getting this rather elaborate production finished - but only at a surface level. These don't go particularly in-depth at all. Rounding out the extras are a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Lionsgate properties, menus and chapter selection.
The Pang Brothers have been primarily regarded as horror film directors since they found success with The Eye but Storm Warriors proves they can successfully blend the fantastical elements found in many of their darker pictures with martial arts and still come out on top. Lionsgate's DVD is a good one, with a pretty decent presentation and a brief collection of extra features. Overall, a very nice release!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.