First, Another Meltdown is actually the 1998 HK action film The Blacksheep Affair. Yeah, retitling is a bothersome trend when it comes to foreign imports, though, honestly, Blacksheep Affair isn't a very good title anyway.
Arthur Wong (Man Cheuk Chui, Body Weapon, Green Snake) is a Beijing agent that is demoted after not following orders during a hijacking rescue. He is sent to the European country of Lavernia. But, he barely sets foot in the country when he crosses with Keizo Mishima, the leader of a cult called the Red Sun. Keizo has been secretly dealing in weapons with Lavernia's military. Keizo and crew murder some Interpol agents. Wong and his fellow agent catch Keizo but get none of the credit for the arrest. While suffering from some homesickness, Arthur reconnects with an old girlfriend, Tammy (Shu Qi, The Transporter, Gorgeous ), who fled Beijing after the student revolts. But, all is not bliss. Fearing he will reveal their arms dealing, the corrupt heads of Lavernian government do not want Keizo to be extradited and arrange for Arthur and his fellow agents to handle the transport, which is set to be ambushed.
Blacksheep Affair is a good b-grade, HK action film. The plot is actually pretty good, using the old 60's spy/and 80's patriotic action film device of a fictional country to set up the evildoings, therefore you can comment on certain nations practices without blatantly offending them. Yet, it doesn't shy away from mentioning that Tammy was running from China due to the bloody protest clashes, or that Keizo's sect was responsible for a Tokyo subway massacre, thus echoing real life events. Also, the ending is quite bleak and doesn't pull any punches, a nice change of pace from the typical happy endings US action films tidily tack on.
The action direction is courtesy of Ching Siu Tung, the man behind Heroic Trio, Chinese Ghost Story, and Swordsman 2&3. The action is pretty good, though, at times, you can tell they were a little rushed. For instance, the blocking of the fight scenes is edited from move to move, sometimes with no transitional continuity- like in a sequence where Keizo is attacked by assassins in prison, one moment he grabs a guy and slams the man, breaking the guys back with his knee, but in the next shot, he's facing the other direction, punching and kicking two thugs. The action has plenty of hand to hand combat, with Man Chuek Chui doing some impressive kicks, along with some gun battles, and cheap explosions. It also features something I really liked. In a typical hostage scene, where Arthur has a hostage and the cult members have hostages, each side demands the other give up. When Keizo shoots an innocent hostage, instead of giving up, Arthur simply shoots one of the cult thugs in exchange, setting up a nice bit of macho posturing.
Man Cheuk Chui (a.k.a. Vincent Zhao) really got his launch into fame by playing Wong Fei Hung and replacing Jet Li in Once Upon A Time In China 4&5. He isn't extremely charismatic like Jet Li or Chuw Yun Fat, two (former) HK actors who could wrap you in with just a steely-eyed glare or quick grin. Man Cheuk Chui's a little more stone faced, but he is great at action. Despite sustaining some bad injuries during his HK film career, in Blacksheep Affair you can see him taking some pretty good (non wirework aided) tumbles, and his fighting is very smooth and limber.
The DVD: Columbia/Tristar
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Worn out. Pretty disappointing transfer. Columbia is usually fairly good at getting decent prints of their Asian acquisitions (especially newer titles, with the Once Upon a Time in China trilogy being a blatant exceptions). From the open to close, the entire film is just worn and has that slight uneven flicker of a shoddy print. It isn't particularly dirty, it is just dull. Naturally, the results of a bad print are, a little more grain, a little more softness, and weak contrast. Now, it isn't horrible or unwatchable. HK import fans will recognize the quality as being around/slightly better than a cheap, middle of the road HK release. It is just that coming from Columbia and with a $25 MSRP, the quality is a bit of a letdown.
Sound: English, Cantonese, or Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround tracks with optional English subtitles. It isn't a Hollywood action film, so the surround sound fx is going to be weak in compassion. The score is pretty generic and the fx and dialouge could use a bit of a bass boost, but it is okay. It should be noted that the English dub puts the fx and music in the sides a bit more, though, the result is a bit too dialogue heavy for my tastes. Subtitles are good, though very Anglicized, changing names from "Yim Dong" to "Arthur Dong" and "Chan Pun" into "Tammy Chan."
Extras: Chapter Selections--- (Columbia) Trailers for Another Meltdown, So Close, Meltdown, The Sea is Watching, Scene of the Crime.
Conclusion: The film is pretty good, thought he quality of the transfer isn't. HK action fans who don't import cheaper (HK) or cleaner (UK) versions may want to pick it up. Otherwise the film is a perfect weekend rental.
Although they are usually pretty good and include original language tracks, I gotta' say, Columbia is really starting to worry me. When it comes to their Asian titles, with retitling and releasing cut prints (like Double Vision) they keep edging closer and closer to Buena Vista territory. In a very jackass move, it seems they are trying to pass off this film as a semi-sequel. They already released Jet Li and Wong Jing's High Risk under the title of Meltdown. Although it has zero relation (even in terms of style) to High Risk, they then slap Another Meltdown on Blacksheep Affair. Shame, Columbia, shame. Don't take the low road.