Title: Eastern Bandits
HTS Overall Score:
My love of Asian cinema, particularly Hong Kong cinema, is sizeable and I have to feed the addiction monthly. Well Go USA has made this addiction much easier to feed since they continue to pump out lots of Asian cinema into the U.S. without having to pay for ridiculous import fees. Their recent foray has been with the 2012 film “Eastern Bandits”, which is a rather unique hodgepodge of different genres. It’s a blend between a modern western, a war drama and a comedy, all giving equal parts to each genre. I wasn’t sure what to expect from watching the trailers, but the end result was certainly entertaining. Some things worked, some things fell a bit flat, but the pieces that worked tended to outnumber the instances that fell flat, so while it’s not a perfect film, it’s certainly entertaining.
Fang (Xiaoming Huang) is the leader of a group of rag tag bandits operating during the Japanese invasion of China. Unconcerned with fighting against the Japanese, he is mainly worried about making a living as a thief and keeping his men alive. Bank robbery, ransom, murder, you name it and he he’s involved. This all changes one day when they kidnap a young man, named Gao (Yi Zhang) on the way to his wedding. After refusing to be beaten down by the group’s brutal treatment he works his way into the ranks of the bandits, ending up saving their lives more than once or twice. Unbeknownst to Fang and the rest of the crew, Gao is actually a Chinese rebel who’s working on one final mission. A mission that requires the use of more muscle than he would normally have, thus the inclusion of a group of bandits.
When the bandits learn about the double agent working in their midst they are less than pleased, to say the least. Gao can’t seem to convince them to fight for honor and country, but luckily for him, their goals very well may overlap. Gao’s target is the Japanese Emperor’s brother, who is coming to visit China at the end of the month. While Fang and crew may not give a rats rear end about honor, they DO realize that the Emperor’s brother will be worth a small fortune and the two men finally have some common ground. This culminates in a joint effort that will end up costing many people their lives, but will pay off big if the ragtag group can pull off their biggest heist yet.
“Eastern Bandits” tries to be a lot of things, sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing. The mixture of multiple genres and sub plots is a rather unique with elements of comedy, war drama, action, western, and even romance intermingle freely and overlap quite often. The comedy is light enough that it keeps the extremely serious moments from becoming too oppressive and usually it’s never TOO slapstick, to where you feel that it’s drastically out of place. The romance is kept to a minimum, and actually feels a bit underdeveloped for what it promises in potential, which is one my main gripes, but overall the weird blending of multiple genres works pretty well. Gao and Fang’s sister are cute together and the action is stylistic and has that almost “Tarantino” level of arrogance that makes it a lot of fun. It tries to be a bit more epic than it can really be in such a short film, but it never fails to entertain and is a lot better, story wise, than many other Asian films can boast. So you can say that it’s a mixed bag, but one that pleases more often than it disappoints.
“Eastern Bandits “sports a very nice 2.35:1 AVC encode on a BD-25 disc. The movie has a sort of burnt yellow color grading to it, giving a lot of precedence to very earthy tones tinged with yellow. The other colors are nice and bright when necessary, especially during the opening sequence in town with the jail break and during the bank robbery. Detail is quite good throughout and borderlines on superb, especially with up close shots. My only gripe with the detail is the fact that the movie has a bit of a soft look for a majority of the time. Never enough to make it look poor, but it lacks that crystal clear “pop” that defines a great looking set of detail. Black levels are exceptional and really show quite a lot of detail. Every once in a while I noticed some crushing of the blacks, but usually only for a few moments or so.
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is the golden egg of the disc, with a fantastically nuanced and detailed recording. The surrounds are used quite heavily and the channel separation displayed throughout the movie was simply amazing. You could hear things swirling around you with distinct clarity, from a bullet whistling over your ear to the sounds of rocks falling from a cave in. sounds of a busy city street bustle and hustle form all directions, making you feel like you’re IN a Chinese market. Dialogue is very solid, no abnormalities or lack of balance to be heard of. The action can get pretty furious and loud, but I never had to turn the volume up and down between action and dialogue scenes, so I have no complaints with the dynamics. LFE is punchy and sometimes powerful, punctuating action sequences with some serious oomph when needed. I really impressed on how detailed and punchy the bass sounded, instead of trying to be a powerhouse track, it focused on extremely tight and accurate LFE replication.
• Theatrical Trailer
I really ended up enjoying the film a lot more than I expected. It isn’t perfect, for the tonal shifts can sometimes fall a bit flat, but the overall level of “fun” in the film was more than I thought I was originally in store for. Lots of action, a fair bit of comedy and a nice bit of Robin Hood meets Chinese war drama thrown in for good measure. The solid video and amazing audio make this a fun outing for anyone who enjoys Hong Kong cinema. Definitely give it a watch for fans of the genre.
Starring: Xiaoming Huang, Yi Zhang, Xinyi Zhang
Directed by: Shu-peng Yang
Written by: Shu-peng Yang, Lao Huang
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Mandarin: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Mandarin DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 27th, 2014
Buy Eastern Bandits Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Give it a Watch
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