Sha Po Lang

Sha Po Lang is hands-down the best HK action film I’ve ever seen.

The movie easlily blows away Election, Breaking News, and One Nite in Mongkok. Yet reviewers are so caught up in debating the types of fighting, the number of opponents, the duration of the encounters, and arguing whether Donnie should or shouldn’t have been the lead, that it’s easy to forget that SPL is first and foremost a motion picture. Wilson Yip has assembled a stellar cast, but he also has put together a an exceptionally gifted crew of technicians. He was obviously interested in more than shooting a string of action sequences. The fighting may not begin until 45 minutes into the picture– but what an exciting 3/4 hour! Nobody seems to remark the exceptional care that has gone into every sequence, from the unusual camera angles & movements, to the streets aglow with the light of colored gels, to the final editing. When Breaking News hit the streets (a B- film if ever there was one), everyone raved about the eight-minute [over]long opening crane shot, some even going so far as to compare it with Welles’ work in A Touch of Evil (I’d like to know what they were smoking). Yet the outstanding cinematography, set design and editing in SPL went all but unnoticed. SPL is one of the most stylish pictures I have watched recently. The remarkable interior shots, the expressive use of color (especially the scenes drenched in steel-blue), the dramatically-lit close-ups, a solid cast, exquisitely choreographed hand-to-hand combat– all add up to some of the most thrilling cinema to have graced our screens in a long time. Sure, we’ve seen many of the devices used before: the rooftop chases, the split-screens, the incurable diseases, the adorable orphan, etc. But everything looked so fresh that it was as if I was seeing these things for the very first time. Those who just want to see fists flying and bodies slamming are advised to check out the Sunday afternoon wrestling on TV. Film lovers and journalists who have all but given up on HK cinema are strongly urged to see for themselves that the HK film industry is still alive.

I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to catch SPL at the festivals, but the DVD transfer looks and sounds spectacular. The soundtrack has great dynamic range, which the DTS sound enables the listener to enjoy to the fullest. The image is free of dust, dirt and scratches, and there are no noticeable digital artifacts. Blacks are solid and the image benefits from exceptional clarity and sharpness. Lemon yellows, pale blues and bright orange fairly popped out of the screen. I have never said this before, but this is absolutely a DVD to be enjoyed on the best home theater system possible, the volume turned up high. A must-see!

Hong Kong | 2005 | Directed by Wilson Yip Wai-Shun | Starring Ken Chang, Timmy Hung, Kai Chi Liu, Danny Summer, Kenji Tanigaki, Austin Wai, Jacky Wu, Simon Yam, Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo

Choreography: Donnie Yen Chi-Tan
Score: Chan Kwong-Wing
Screenplay: Szeto Kam-Yuen
Audio Format: DTS 5.1 ES, DD 5.1 EX
Video Format: Widescreen 2.35:1 (Anamorphic)
Languages: Mandarin, Cantonese
Subtitles: English, Chinese
Distributor: Deltamac
Disc 1 – The Movie (93 minutes)

Disc 2 – Special Features (46 minutes):-
– Trailer
– Making Of
– TV Shots
– Press Shots
– Photos Gallery

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