The DVD cover for The Setting Sun promises "Love, Betrayal, Passion." But it doesn't promise boredom. Unfortunately, that's what the majority of this 1992 Japanese film delivers.
That same DVD box cover also fails to mention how old the movie is, as well as the fact that this is an almost totally subtitled film. The box does claim English/Japanese with English subtitles – but that gives the impression that it is about 50/50, when in reality, it's more like 90/10 (with Japanese being the 90 percent). Now, subtitles have never been a big deal for me when a film is well-done…but they only add to the misery when a movie is as dull as this one.
Set in 1930's Manchuria, Masaya Kato plays a Japanese soldier who one night gets into a fight at a nightclub where Diane Lane is the featured singer. One of the leaders of the Shanghai mafia starts making the moves on Lane's character, and Masaya stops him…then attacks him with the sword. The fight gets him kicked out of the military.
The film picks up three years later, with the mafia still looking to get to Masaya's character, plus an offer from the Japanese military to help them in the opium wars against the Chinese. Of course, it turns out that Diane Lane's character not only still around, but a rebel in the resistance against the Japanese…which forces Masaya's character to chose between his loyalty to his country and his growing love for Ms. Lane.
I suppose The Setting Sun might be one of those movies where "something is lost in the translation", but I just couldn't "get into" the film. I didn't care about any of the characters, had trouble following the plot at points, and really felt "empty" after spending two hours with this film.
The video is letterboxed, but not anamorphic, and the picture quality varies depending on the shot. Some of the indoor scenes look decent, but most of the outdoor scenes suffer from a lot of dirt on the film. The worst bits of the movie are many of the establishing shots, which look like they might be stock footage, and have a great deal of dirt on them. There is also pixilation evident in many sequences. Overall, though, the most noticeable problem with this DVD is the lack of color and sharpness one expects from a DVD movie.
The audio is presented in 2.0 Dolby, with no other audio options available. This is a wholly unremarkable track, with little in the way of aggressiveness – although it does seem properly balanced and free of any glaring defects.
The only extras on this disc are a Photo Gallery that offers two pictures for every page viewed; plus Filmographies of the movie's main four actors, including Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland. A standard Chapter Selection is also available.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I'm a fan of both Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland (who has little more than a cameo part in this title), but I can't recommend this movie. It seems their presence in this movie was only an attempt to give the film some marketability outside of Japan, and probably give both actors a healthy paycheck at the time. Compared to other movies we've seen them in, however, they really appear to be "phoning it in" in this picture. Skip it.