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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Dragon Tiger Gate (Blu-ray)
Dragon Tiger Gate (Blu-ray)
Tai Seng // Unrated // May 27, 2008 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted June 21, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Director Wilson Yip's 2006 Dragon Tiger Gate, based on the long running Chinese comic book, sure is pretty to look at, even if it's a pretty shallow film. The story follows a man named Dragon (Donnie Yen), a young man who used to be a core member of Dragon Tiger Gate, a very covert martial arts academy. Dragon's younger brother, Tiger (Nicholas Tse), was raised by a big time criminal named Kwun. When Kwun meets up with a villain named Shibumi, he breaks up the meeting and steals a plaque that is apparently of great importance to the pair of bad guys.

Shibumi is pretty pissed off about this and so he and a bunch of henchmen decide to get it back. Meanwhile, a few useless romantic subplots are tossed into the mix and a guy named Turbo (Shawn Yue) beats some people up with nunchuks and tries to get into the Dragon Tiger Gate School. Once these plot points are out of the way, everybody fights!

This film is light on plot and equally as light on characterization but to its credit it does look very much like a comic book come to life which was likely Yip's intent. This is an incredibly colorful movie filled with tough guy posturing and dialogue and oodles of hard hitting action that are almost completely enveloped by CGI to give them that level of 'faux-pop' that films sans CGI lack. Realism was obviously an afterthought here and while the action is virtually non-stop, it doesn't carry as much impact as something like S.P.L. or Flashpoint as the film is almost a fantasy picture in many regards. If the film spent more time growing the characters rather than letting them stand around looking cool and showing off how slick their wardrobe and hair looks, it might have remedied the situation but as it stands this is an incredibly shallow film.

On the flip side, once you get used to that and set your expectations, Dragon Tiger Gate can be a fun ride. The action moves quickly and couple of the fight scenes in the middle of the film are truly excellent and quite thrilling. Shibumi makes for an enjoyably sinister villain and the picture is slicker than grease. The tendency to focus in on whichever particular hero is whupping ass at any given time by hitting us with stylish close up after stylish close up can actually be rather amusing in spots, particularly when no one seems to ever mess up their hair, their clothes, or even really break a sweat. Wilson Yip ensures that the movie has style to spare, it's just a shame that there wasn't more substance to accompany it all.

Video:

Dragon Tiger Gate hits Blu-ray in a spiffy looking 1080p AVC encoded 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The first thing you'll notice is the colors, which look fantastic here. Director Wilson Yip has done a great job ensuring that this movie really does look like a comic book come to life and as such this is a very flashy and CGI heavy picture with all manner of colorful sets, costumes and backgrounds all of which look quite splendid on this Blu-ray release. Detail is strong throughout the film with some scenes looking a little too 'digital' thanks to the abundance of computerized scenes, though it doesn't rank up there with the best high definition transfers on the market. Backgrounds can look a little soft sometimes but close up shots are nice and crisp. There aren't any problems with mpeg compression artifacts nor are there any edge enhancement issues to note. A little bit of grain is present but that's quite alright though if you look for it you'll probably notice some mild ringing around lights and reflective items like swords. Overall, however, the film really does look quite good here and is a noticeable step up from the SD releases.

Sound:

Excluding the audio commentary there are five audio options on this release:

-Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround Sound
-Cantonese Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround Sound
-Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
-English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
-Vietnamese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Optional subtitles are available in Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese and English. The two HD tracks are the way to go if your hardware can handle it, as they bring a lot more punch to the mix than the Mandarin or English 5.1 tracks which sound identical to their standard definition counterparts. The English dubbing on this movie isn't bad but the Cantonese tracks obviously feel more authentic and are preferable for that reason. Surrounds are used very effectively with some great bass response and almost constant rear channel action. The fight scenes have some nice bounce to them and there are plenty of fun sound effects tossed into the mix. On the other hand, the dialogue always stays clean and clear and there aren't any hiss or distortion problems. Some of the effects levels are a little higher than they probably needed to be but overall the audio on this disc is very good indeed.

Extras:

Tai Seng have ported over all of the supplements from their two-disc standard definition release though sadly none of them appear in high definition. First up is a commentary track with Tai Seng's Frank Djeng, Atlas Comics editor in chief Jeff Rogan and Hong Kong cinema enthusiast and writer Bey Logan. Seeing as none of the participants were actually involved in the making of the film, you can't expect an insider's take on the production. Instead, this is very literally three fans sitting around watching the film and giving their take on the film. They do provide some trivia and background information on the cast and crew where they can but for the most part this is really a fan track and it doesn't offer much insight into the movie.

From there check out the seven short featurettes that run about three minutes each. Here you'll get a look at some pre-production and production action as you're taken behind the scenes of the film. These are very brief but reasonably interesting as they give you an idea of the scope of this project and what went into making it. The eight featurette is the more substantial making of documentary that clocks in at roughly eighteen minutes in length. This is a more general look at the production's history and it includes some nifty fight choreography footage and behind the scenes clips. None of these featurettes are particularly deep but neither is the film they're covering and they do at least provide a glimpse into the creative process responsible for birthing the picture. What's rather irritating is that many of the interview clips in this featurette are also seen in the separate interviews on the disc.

Also included on the disc are interviews with Donnie Yen, Nicholas Tse, Shawn Yue, and Wilson Yip. These range from thirteen to twenty-five minutes in length and all the cast members to discuss their work on the film, what drew them to the project and what it was like on set as well as how they feel about the finished product. Despite the overlap with the featurettes, these are fairly interesting and Yen's thoughts on the fight choreography are worth listening to as are Yip's thoughts on the casting and on his hopes of franchising the film.

A selection of deleted scenes are also found, with a combined total of just under eight minutes in length. Most of these are actually characterization bits that give more depth to some of the players in the film and they actually might have helped the film had they been left in. These are in Cantonese with optional subtitles. They certainly give Tiger more depth. Rounding out the extra features on this Blu-ray release are the film's theatrical trailer, a teaser trailer, the American theatrical trailer, a TV spot, a still gallery, a couple of minutes of random footage (set to music with no dialogue or context) from the film's premier at Cannes and it's Hong Kong premiere, animated menus and chapter selection sub-menus.

Final Thoughts:

If you liked Dragon Tiger Gate on standard def DVD, you'll love it on Blu-ray but if you haven't seen the film yet it's probably best to go with a rental first to test it out. There's plenty of action here and the movie moves along at a good pace but this film is pure style over substance and sadly little more than that. It's worth a watch and it's a fun time killer, but far from a modern classic.

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.

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