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Title: For the Emperor

Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:77

It used to be that when we thought of Asian action/gangster movies we automatically thought of Hong Kong. Hong Kong dominated the Asian video market for years, consistently putting out hundreds of great movies, becoming the top dog on that side of the pond. In recent years we’ve been seeing some serious punches being thrown from the South Koreans, as they have really stepped up their game and have been putting out some great movies. “The Man From Nowhere”, “The Thieves”, “Snowpiercer”, “The Good, The Bad, and the Weird”, the list goes on and on. I have a huge love of eastern gangster movies, much more than I enjoy gangster movies from the west. There’s just a style and flair to them that can’t be replicated and I, for one, just can’t seem to get enough of them. “For the Emperor” isn’t as top tier as some of the previously mentioned films, but it’s a solid enough action/gangster movie to satiate those of you who want another fix from Well Go USA.

Lee Hwan (Min-ki Lee) is a promising baseball player with a promising future, but he unfortunately has a small penchant for gambling and gets himself burned in a police raid after fixing a game for profit. Out of work, and out of money, Hwan signs up with the local gambling mafia and soon becomes their top enforcer. Beating money out of anyone who doesn’t pay up, Lee Hwan moves up the ranks of the gang, gaining more and more responsibility along the way. His boss, Sang-Ha (Sung Woong Park), sees his potential, but also notices that he spends a bit too much time with the local bar owner, Yeon Soo (Tai-im Lee), and decides to separate the two before Hwan gets too involved with the girl. This single act takes away the last bit of humanity that Lee Hwan has left, pushing him into a direction that very well may create a bigger monster than Sang-Ha ever expected.

Crueler and more vicious than ever, Hwan stabs everyone in the back on his way up the ladder, including his old friends/mentors. Soon he’s involved with the dirty politicians and upper crust elite, who are bigger sharks in a much bigger pond. Putting his former boss behind bars, Hwan is next in line for the succession of bigger and better things, that is, if his imprisoned boss doesn’t wipe him off the face of the map first.

“For the Emperor” has a little too much on the plate for its own good in many ways, keeping it from being a truly epic gangster movie. The hour and 45 minute runtime is stuffed with a little too many twists and turns, cramming a 3 hour epic into a regular theatrical running time. Scenes that show Lee Hwan’s rise to the top in the second half come at a fast and furious pace that is a bit hard to process in the short amount of time we had left, expecting the viewer to accept the quick changes that occur. It’s not a horrible thing, and it the simple plot is easy enough to follow so that you don’t get lost, but it feels a tad rushed in spots.

The simplicity of the movie is also its strongest point. There’s no wild twists and turns that leave you wondering where the plot is going. We know the basic outcome from the get go, things do NOT just turn out happy at the end of an Asian gangster drama. The main focus of the movie is the transformation that happens in Lee Hwan’s character and life. The changing of a corrupt baseball player into a gangster with very little moral compass to guide his life. The change is slow and steady, but certain nonetheless. The action scenes are hard hitting and vicious to the core. I find it refreshing to watch how the thugs only carry knives and other cutting weapons the whole time. Even though most of Korea, Japan, and Chine are devoid of hand guns due to a ban on them (unlike the U.S.), we still see action movies where they’re littered everywhere, even though most modern gangsters use blades on a regular basis. The use of bladed weapons made the action so much more disturbing and so much more impactful due to the up close and personal status needed to wield such weapons.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4.5stars:
“For the Emperor” comes with a stunning 1080p encode that simply dazzles on Blu-ray. Shot digitally it is shiny and glossy as can be, just stylized with some different color gradings to give it a more somber look. The opening shot of the film looks very natural, just tinged with a blue/green filter, but other shots looks like they used a red filter, and even others look completely un graded and brilliantly clear. The constant color shifts move according to the mood and changing themes of the plot as it goes along, painting as much of a picture as the dialog itself does. Clarity is strong, with excellent facial detail and long detail simultaneously. Black levels are almost impeccable, but do have a few moments where I noticed black crush and a flicker of banding in one short scene. My final thoughts are that it is an outstanding looking encode and one of the better ones that Well Go USA has done in recent months. A+

Audio :4.5stars:
There is both a Korean 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless encode as well as a 2.0 Korean Dolby Digital track to enjoy for night listening, but as usual, we’ll be paying attention to the full 5.1 track. From the get go I knew this one was going to be a winner, as that opening gangster battle with Hwan slicing and dicing was using the entire soundstage. Blades whizzed from all directions making sickening plunging noises into opponents fleshy bodies and the LFE was deep and pounding, creating a nicely layered experience. The rest of the movie is just as good, balancing scenes that are heavy with dialog and mixing them up with plenty of hard hitting action scenes that use all 6 speakers with excellent aplomb. Sonically immersive and well detailed, “For the Emperor’s” 5.1 Korean lossless track is every bit as good as the video encode.

Extras :1star:

• Theatrical Trailers
• Previers

Overall: :3.5stars:

“For the Emperor” isn’t a heavy and dense action/gangster film, but it certainly is a fun way to pass the time. There’s plenty of hard hitting action, and the plot clips along at a decent pace (sometimes clips along at bit TOO briskly), and has a fantastic looking and sounding pair of encodes for the a/v side of the equation. There’s not any real extras except for some trailers, so we’ll have to be satisfied with the fantastic looking and sounding disc. Worth a solid rental.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jae-young Han, Jae-won Lee, Min-ki Lee
Directed by: Sang Jun Park
Written by: Yong-Soo Lee (Screenplay), Seong-Dong Kim (Comic Book
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Korean DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 105 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 7th 2015

Buy For the Emperor On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Decent Rental

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