DVD Talk
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Reviews & Columns
Reviews
DVD
TV on DVD
Blu-ray
International DVDs
Theatrical
Adult
Video Games

Features
Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
Interviews
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Columns
Anime Talk
XCritic.com
DVD Stalk
DVD Savant
High-Def Revolution
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum
Resources
DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info
Links

DVDTalk Info
Review Staff
About DVD Talk
Advertise
Newsletter Subscribe
Join DVD Talk Forum
DVD Talk Feeds


Special Offer

Search: For:
Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Art of Action
The Art of Action
Columbia/Tri-Star // Unrated // December 31, 2002
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted January 12, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Buy from Amazon.com
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
this review to a friend
P R I N T
Printer Friendly
The movie

The Art of Action: Martial Arts in the Movies takes viewers on a historical tour of the origins and development of the martial arts movie, from the earliest Chinese films using "kung-fu" to the modern action star Jackie Chan and director John Woo. Hosted by Samuel L. Jackson, The Art of Action mixes clips from martial arts films with interviews with important directors and actors in the genre to create a very informative and interesting ninety-minute piece.

The documentary is very well-structured, starting with an overview of the Chinese term "wuxia" and then moving to the origins of the martial arts movie in the Peking Opera. The Art of Action includes a great deal of very early black-and-white film footage which was quite interesting to see, and will be especially interesting to fans of the genre. The occasional use of split-screen comparisons between early and modern films effectively highlights the influences that the early films have had on the genre in both the fighting styles and the overall choreography.

The Art of Action takes a consistently chronological approach, which provides excellent context for each new director, actor, or style that's introduced. Specific strong influences on the development of the martial arts film are discussed at the appropriate time, such as the realistic Japanese samurai genre, the work of Bruce Lee, or particularly ground-breaking individual films such as The 36 Chambers of Shaolin. At times, the profusion of names of directors and actors becomes a little intimidating, but the chronological framework gives the documentary the necessary structure.

Some of the most fascinating material in The Art of Action deals with the culture surrounding the martial arts film genre. I was particularly intrigued by the changing roles of women in the genre, as they were the first true stars of martial arts films; the documentary does an excellent job of presenting this topic in an interesting and informative manner. Other interesting topics are the reason for the switch of martial arts films to Hong Kong, and the cycle of interest in martial arts films in the United States. One area that could have been explained more clearly was the exact way in which the destruction of the Shaolin temples led to the creation of martial arts films via the Peking Opera; it's clearly important, but it's rather fuzzily explained in the documentary. Overall, however, The Art of Action does an excellent job of presenting an interesting and informative picture of the development of the martial arts genre.

The DVD

Video

The packaging states that The Art of Action has been "re-formatted" to the 4:3 aspect ratio, suggesting that the documentary has been pan-and-scanned, but this does not seem to actually be the case. While I wasn't able to track down any information on the film's original aspect ratio, the documentary itself doesn't show any framing problems. Additionally, while the interview clips and Samuel L. Jackson's commentary sections are presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, all the film clips are letterboxed to present them in a widescreen aspect ratio. This arrangement suggests to me that the original aspect ratio was in fact 1.33:1. However, the image quality of the 1.33:1 portions is quite poor, appearing almost to be the result of resampling a low-resolution original image, so there may indeed have been some tampering with the original aspect ratio; it's hard to say for certain.

The film clips are all letterboxed to present them in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I did some double-checking, and for all the films I was able to find information on (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Enter the Dragon; Face/Off; 36 Chambers of Shaolin; Charlie's Angels; Drunken Master), 2.35:1 was indeed the correct aspect ratio. From the looks of it, The Art of Action has preserved the correct aspect ratio for all its film clips, and should be highly commended for doing so.

As for the image quality itself, it's fairly irregular: the parts showing Samuel L. Jackson are very low-quality, with a generally blurry appearance along with some noise and edge enhancement. Fortunately, this is the least important part of the film, and the rest is of better quality. The various interview clips with  actors and directors are of satisfactory quality, with some of the problems that appear in the Jackson segments but much less severely affected.

Most importantly, the clips from the various martial arts films, which are used very extensively throughout the documentary, are of very good image quality. Obviously, modern films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon look the best, but even clips from older films like Enter the Dragon are clean and attractive-looking, and the earliest footage (black-and-white Chinese films) is presented in remarkably good, watchable condition considering its age.

Audio

The English Dolby 2.0 track does its job well, presenting both Samuel L. Jackson's narration, the interview subjects' voices, and the soundtracks from the film clips clearly and cleanly. Several of the interviewees speak in Chinese while a translator provides a voiceover translation; it's handled well, with the original speaker's voice muted in the background so as not to interfere with the clarity of the translation, while still preserving his original voice.

Optional subtitles are provided in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai.

Extras

Six trailers are provided for martial-arts (or martial-arts-inspired) action movies: The One; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Double Team; Maximum Risk; Time and Tide; and Universal Soldier: The Return. 

Final thoughts

The Art of Action provides a very interesting look at the origins and development of a popular genre: the martial arts action film. From its origins in Chinese and Hong Kong "kung fu" movies, to its wider influence in U.S. films like Charlie's Angels, martial arts have had an interesting history in the movies. Given that it covers a wide historical period in only an hour and a half, the documentary is probably most oriented toward the casual fan or newcomer to the genre, but with its extensive archival footage of early martial arts films and interviews with important actors, director, and producers, The Art of Action will have quite a bit of appeal to hardcore fans as well. With its satisfactory DVD transfer to back it up, The Art of Action is recommended.

Popular Reviews
1. Fargo: Remastered Edition
2. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
3. Criminal Minds: The Eighth Season
4. Little House on the Prairie - Season One & The Pilot Movie
5. King Kong Escapes
6. Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Four
7. Demons
8. Ride Along
9. Equus
10. Interior. Leather Bar.


Special Offers
DVD Blowouts
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
Alien [Blu-ray]
Buy: $19.99 $9.99
8.
9.
10.
Special Offers
Release List Reviews Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray Advertise
Copyright 2014 DVDTalk.com All Rights Reserved. Legal Info, Privacy Policy, Terms of Use