Watching 'White Vengeance' is a daunting task. Mainly, because I'm not as well versed in Chinese history as I should be. There's also a 'Game of Thrones' mentality thrown around here, where various factions are vying for the same throne. It's easy to get them confused with one another. Backstabbing, betrayal, and deception are the name of the game here.
There are a lot of large-scale battles, as there are in many other Asian epics. But, perhaps the most dangerous dealings come behind closed doors as individuals plot and scheme against their friends in order to achieve the power they seek. See how this is a lot like 'Game of Thrones'? Or maybe 'Game of Thrones' is a lot like it. Whichever it may be, the political wrangling and constant threat of untrustworthiness amongst one's allies is at the forefront of 'White Vengeance's tale of the Feast of Hong Gate. It's a precursor to the famous Red Cliff rebellion.
Following the reasoning behind the war is a little tough. It's based in China's rich history, but I'm no scholar when it comes to that. Forgive me if I get a few facts wrong, but this is the gist that I gleaned. The Qin Dynasty has ruled for far too long according to the Chus. Two men, Liu Bang (Leon Lai) and Xiang Fu (Feng Shaofeng), are primed to conquer the sitting emperor. They work together to defeat the armies of their enemies. They swear allegiance to each other. Yet, Liu Bang reaches the city first and decides to claim the leadership role for himself. The two had previously decided that Xiang Fu would take up the throne, but the decree is whoever reaches the city first, and takes it over, gets the crown so to speak.
Xiang Fu is furious that his friend has betrayed him. Especially, since he purposefully sent Liu Bang back with his girlfriend, to protect her on her journey home, in order to get him out of the picture so he could arrive first. Yes, it gets pretty convoluted, but with the movie's lengthy 138 minute runtime the pieces start fitting together in the final act.
Director Daniel Lee has crafted quite a visual film. It's all vistas, panoramas, aerial shots of endless army hordes, snow covered expanses, and, of course, the requisite flower petals falling from the sky sequence. While the movie is pretty to look at I found Lee's ability to edit together cohesive battle scenes lacking. Most of the battles scenes are cut up like modern action movies. His lightning fast edits never give the audience time to process what is happening or who is fighting. Thankfully the armies of Liu Bang (orange) and Xiang Fu (blue) have color-coded uniforms so we can at least tell who is charging at whom.
Asian cinema war epics usually have quite a lot to digest. It doesn't just boil down to a bunch of guys fighting each other for supremacy. There are traditions, rich histories, and social mores that seem foreign to us Westerners. At one point the warring factions sit down and play a high-stakes game of "weiqi" which involves placing black and white stones on a board. Beyond that, I have no idea how the game works. However, it's the most intense and interesting part of the movie. The battle scenes are by-the-numbers, but here's a scene that feels wholly original. Lee does a superb job at conveying the amount of tension in the room as the game progresses.
I found 'White Vengeance' stirring at times and lethargic at others. The movie's editing during the battle sequences felt too haphazardly put together. The rest of the film is beautiful though. Asian cinema fans will no doubt appreciate it.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a Well Go USA release. It comes on a 50GB Blu-ray Disc. It's packaged in a standard keepcase that comes complete with a slipcover. It's noted on the back that the movie is playable only in Region A.
On the whole' White Vengeance' reflects the visual beauty that Daniel Lee was going for in his movie. The AVC-encoded 1080p transfer shimmers with color and near-perfect contrast levels. There are a few miscues as far as faulty CGI goes, but that has more to do with the budget than the way the movie's actual transfer.
Lee is fond of wide shots that attempt to take in massive amounts of armies, standing in perfect squares, waiting to strike. These obviously computer generated images tend toward the softer side of the clarity spectrum. When the movie focuses in on the people and the faces, that's when the true detail comes out. Textures, like Xiang Fu's immense fur coat, appear to be almost tangible. Facial detail, like hair, scrapes, and crimson blood, looks immaculate.
The movie's visuals aren't helped by Lee's chaotic direction in the action scenes. Shaky-cam and quick editing, hamper an otherwise deeply visual movie. Slowed down we're able to take in the wide variety of colors in the film. From the rich reds and gold of the palaces, to the stark white snow-covered grounds of the north, to the desolate browns of the deserts, the movie truly does run the gamut of colors. Blacks are as inky as they could be. As for compression artifacts I didn't notice any, save for a few instances of banding around lanterns in the dark.
'White Vengeance' is offered with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Mandarin Chinese track. Like the video, the audio is a sumptuous experience. The soundscape features rich and detailed sound coming from every channel. The only problem with the audio mix is a handful of sync issues. Most of the dialogue is spot-on with the movements of the actor's mouths; however, there is one character in particular where his words don't match his mouth at all. This is most likely a product of poor ADR.
Battle scenes offer a wide variety of sound. Swords clang, people scream, and horse hooves pound as the battles are fought. Rear channels have a lot to do here and they do it with clarity and precision. This is one of those movies that give a sound effect to swords slashing through air ("Shiiiiiiing!") which I, personally, find rather annoying. Besides the syncing snafu, the rest of the dialogue is clear and precise.
LFE is loud and generous. As the horses hoof it across the battlefield the sub-woofer rumbles magnificently. The movie's inspiring soundtrack has plenty of need for heavy bass and the mix doesn't disappoint.
I wish I knew more about the history that 'White Vengeance' is covering. Even then I found the 'Game of Thrones' type story fascinating to watch. The endless betrayal and deception on display here was astounding. I'll be perfectly frank when saying I had no idea how the film would finally turn out and who would be pronounced the ultimate winner. The head games they played with each other were dizzying to say the least. With very solid audio and video, 'White Vengeance' is recommended.