Blu-ray
Recommended
3.5 stars
Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
1 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

A Better Tomorrow (2010)

Street Date:
November 8th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
November 11th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2010
Studio:
Well Go USA
Length:
124 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Okay, let me see if I can get this straight. I'm quoting fellow High-Def Digest writer Josh Zyber here : "'A Better Tomorrow' is the 2010 South Korean remake of John Woo’s 1986 Hong Kong action classic, which was itself a knock-off of Brian De Palma's 'Scarface,' which was in turn a remake of a 1932 gangster film. And yet, with all that, the trailer looks like a pretty generic Asian action flick."

Were you able to follow that? If not, it really doesn't matter, because the last sentence of that statement is what's important. After all the homages, remakes, and references to other movies 'A Better Tomorrow' does indeed turn out fairly generic.

Was there a real reason that 'A Better Tomorrow,' Chow Yun Fat's first star vehicle, needed to be remade? Not really. At least, not that I can see after seeing the final product. Like so many Asian action movies 'A Better Tomorrow' centers on a story of revenge.

A group of gangsters are at the top of their game. No one can stop them. They're taking over everything. Kim Hyuk (Joo Jin-Mo) is the leader of the group, with Lee Young-Choon (Jo Han-sun) being his right hand man. Early in the movie Hyuk is reunited with his long lost brother Kim Chul (Kim Kang-woo). Chul hates Hyuk for the life he's living and the choices he made earlier in their lives. Hyuk wants desperately to reconnect with his brother, but Chul isn't budging.

The most interesting aspect of the movie is the dichotomy between the two brothers. Their relationship, however strained, seems genuine in nature. The two actors do a fantastic job conveying the hurt and anguish the characters have endured over their many years of growing anger and betrayal.

There's a new man in the gang. Tae Min (Han Sun Jo) is a timid, scared henchman who looks up to Young-Choon and Hyuk. One day he'll be just like them, even if that means betraying and ambushing them. Tae Min's coup works, he takes over the gang. Hyuk spends time in prison and Young-Choon, a once feared mobster, ends up with a bullet in his leg washing cars for a living.

It's fairly easy to guess what transpires after that right? Revenge is plotted and plans are formed. The guys intend to pay Tae Min back an hundred fold, but since they've been gone Tae Min has built up a seemingly impenetrable army of men. An army so big it'll surely take a few shootouts to rid the world of all of them.

There's nothing much to report about the action contained in 'A Better Tomorrow.' It's all pretty standard for the genre. No mind-bending scenes of gunplay or jaw-dropping martial arts mayhem. If anything the real reason to check out 'A Better Tomorrow' is the relationships it portrays. Hyuk is juggling two relationships with people that care for him equally. His brother, who becomes a cop, even though he doesn't show it, honestly wants Hyuk to succeed. Still Chul finds a hard time believing that his criminal brother has changed his ways. Young-Choon also cares for Hyuk but is too proud to make his feelings known. Instead the two sit together in silence, not talking much. Both of them thinking about the same thing, but neither wanting to say it.

I enjoyed this movie for its honest portrayal of friendship and brotherhood. People going in expecting a wiz-bang Asian action movie may come away slightly disappointed. It does have its shoot'em up scenes, but they aren't anything you haven't seen before. The real strength of the movie lies within the three main characters.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'A Better Tomorrow' is a Well Go USA release. It comes complete with a combo Blu-ray/DVD pack. The Blu-ray is a 50-GB disc. The discs are housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. A slipcover is provided that has the exact same artwork as the case. Finally, there's an insert provided for scene selection with chapter names and timestamps.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Credit must be paid to cinematographer Seung-gi Kang for making 'A Better Tomorrow' look so lush, detailed, and beautifully exotic. The 1080p high-def transfer for 'A Better Tomorrow' features wonderfully defined detail, stunning South Asia shooting locations, and a surprisingly strong color palette, even though most of the movie is set in darkness and low-lit rooms.

Daytime scenes feature stark blue skies and crystalline water. Young-Choon's white suits bear a splendid contrast to the rest of the movie's dark visuals. Contrast is very well contained here. Whites are perfectly bleached while skintones appear natural and unaltered.

When the movie reverts to its dark worlds of dim corridors and dark interrogation rooms, the detail doesn't quit. Shadow delineation is top-notch, while blacks reserve a deep inky look. Even in the darkness it's easy to make out facial details, and it's simple to spot individual hairs on the actors' heads.

I was really surprised by the amount of detail and care that it seems 'A Better Tomorrow' was treated with. It's a very good looking video presentation.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Think the near demo-worthy video couldn't be outdone? Think again. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Korean track is a demo force to be reckoned with. Even though the action scenes in the movie are somewhat generic, the sound sure isn't. This is a crisp, clear, and concise sound mix that calls attention to huge explosions just as well as footsteps coming down a hallway.

The movie's two big shootouts feature individual bullets whizzing their way through the soundfield creating a very immersive feeling. Panning effects work smoothly without interruption. Hundreds of tiny bullets zip from the front of the sound stage to the rear in a millisecond and then crash into wood or brick with a distinct crunch. LFE booms when Young-Choon starts releasing RPGs into a crowd of henchmen.

Even the more subdued moments feature some nicely refined ambient sound like people talking or cars zipping by on a busy city street. Dialogue is always clear and intelligible. This soundtrack is sure to please fans and audiophiles alike.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Character Intro Cast Interview (SD, 3 min.) – A few promotional type interviews with the movie's four leads with them briefly talking about their roles in the movie.

  • The Making of 'A Better Tomorrow' (SD, 3 min.) – Hardly a making of documentary at such a short runtime. It's simply another promotional tool for advertising the movie.

  • 'A Better Tomorrow' (2010): Challenges and Transformations (SD, 2 min.) – Another very short featurette, this time taking a brief moment to talk about the differences between this movie and John Woo's original.

  • Trailers (HD, 4 min.) – An original trailer, and theatrical trailer are included.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no Blu-ray exclusives provided.

Final Thoughts

'A Better Tomorrow' is pretty standard as far as Asain action movies go. It does have its moments when it focuses on the personal struggles and strained relationships between brothers and friends, but the action scenes do leave a lot to be desired. On the other hand the video presentation is gorgeous and the audio is demo-worthy. It's probably worth picking up just for the wonderful high-def presentation that you're in for. Considering the great audio and visual feast you'll have with this 'A Better Tomorrow' comes recommended.

Technical Specs

  • BD-50 Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English

Supplements

  • Making Of 'A Better Tomorrow'
  • Character Intro Cast Interview
  • 'A Better Tomorrow' (2010): Challenges and Transformations
  • Trailers

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.