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A French chef swears revenge after a violent attack on his daughter's family in Hong Kong, during which her husband and her two children are murdered. To help him find the killers, he hires three local hit-men working for the mafia.
For more about Vengeance and the Vengeance Blu-ray release, see Vengeance Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 17, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Johnnie To
Writer: Wai Ka Fai
Starring: Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Testud, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong, Suet Lam, Simon Yam, Ka Tung Lam
» See full cast & crew
Vengeance Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 17, 2010
Nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or award at last year's Cannes Film Festival, Johnnie To's "Fu chou" a.k.a "Vengeance" (2009) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The only supplemental features on the disc are the film's original theatrical trailer and a standard making of featurette. In Cantonese and French, with optional English subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
An aging French chef, Francis Costello (Johnny Hallyday, Man on the Train), arrives in Macau looking for revenge - someone has attacked and critically wounded his daughter (Sylvie Testud, Fear and Trembling), and killed her husband and two children. He does not have a clue who might have ordered the attack, but hopes that the Police would point him in the right direction.
In his hotel, the chef encounters three hit men - Kwai (Anthony Wong, Infernal Affairs), Chu (Lam Ka Tung, Lam Ka Tung) and Fat Lok (Suet Lam, Sparrow). He offers them a deal - he would give them his restaurant and big house in Paris if they help him find the men responsible for the attack on his daughter's family.
The chef takes the hit men to his daughter's apartment. Then, while they are looking around, he cooks them a meal. They gather around the table and eat. Later on, the chef confesses to them that many years ago he also killed for money. He left the "business" because someone shot him, and the bullet got stuck in his head. The chef knows that his time is running out.
The chef, Kwai, Chu and Fat Lok head to Hong Kong where they quickly discover what they are looking for - three professional killers. They all meet in a quiet public park but no one gets killed. The Hong Kong killers manage to escape and the chef, Kwai, Chu and Fat Lok head back to Macau. Shortly after, Kwai gets a phone call from George Fung (Simon Yam, Election), a powerful triad boss, who orders him to help the same men he has been paid to eliminate.
Vengeance is yet another Johnny To film that seems to be rubbing a lot of people the wrong way. I liked it; a lot of other critics did not. The main complaints seem to be gravitating around the fact that the film is heavy on style but light on substance. So, I wonder - when was the last time To made a film that had an original story?
To's films have always been about style. Usually, they are slow, moody, dark and at times even funny. They have characters that see the world around them differently - and through their eyes, so do we. When they speak, they use simple words. When they kill, they don't hesitate.
Vengeance is a typical To film - it is slow, moody, dark, at times even funny. In a lot of ways it reminded me about Jean-Pierre Melville's Le samourai - but not because Johnny Halliday and Alain Delon's protagonists share the same name (interestingly enough, Delon was initially considered for the main role). Rather, because in both films killing is seen as a ritual.
What does not work in Vengeance is precisely what was meant to make it special - the Memento-esque spin. For the most part, Halliday's transformation into a cool killer who struggles to remember who his enemy is simply does not work. He is a lot more impressive as the aging, jaded chef who needs Kwai, Chu and Fat Lok's guidance. Still, I like the dark atmosphere in Vengeance. The film may not be one of To's greatest, but parts of it are truly engrossing, oozing with style.
The lensing is fantastic. Cinematographers Cheng Siu-keung and To Hung Mo have done a terrific job with the elaborate shootouts. The panoramic vistas from Hong Kong and Macau are also impressive.
In 2009, Vengeance was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Vengeance Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with VC-1 and granted a 1080p transfer, Johhnie To's Vengeance arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
This high-definition transfer is better than the one Hong Kong-based distributors MegaStar used for their Blu-ray release of Vengeance. It is still, however, somewhat inconsistent. The softness I observed on the Hong Kong high-definition transfer is still present, but a lot of the noise filtering is noticeably reduced. During the second half of the film, contrast levels are also more consistent; clarity is pleasing. Furthermore, the color-scheme is virtually identical to that of the Hong Kong high-definition transfer. Finally, while viewing Vengeance I did not detect any disturbing scratches, stains, marks, or cuts to report in this review. To sum it all up, if you are yet to add Vengeance to your libraries, I encourage you to opt for Optimum Home Entertainment's release. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in in order to access its content).
Vengeance Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and English LPCM 2.0 (with portions of Cantonese and French). For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English subtitles for the main feature. However, when turned on, they only appear when Cantonese or French is spoken. Additionally, the subtitles split the image frame and the black bar below it.
The basics for the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track are solid. The bass is potent and punchy and the high-frequencies not overdone, but the rear channels are not very effective. In fact, there are only a couple of scenes where they come alive. The dialog, however, is clean, stable, crisp, and exceptionally easy to follow. Finally, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, or hissing to report in this review.
As expected, the English LPCM 2.0 does not impress. There are no serious technical issues with it, but its dynamic amplitude is indeed very conservative. The dialog, however, is clean, stable and easy to follow.
Vengeance Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Making of Vengeance - a standard featurette in which Johnnie To, cast and crew members discuss their work on the film. In Cantonese and English, with optional English subtitles. (11 min, PAL).
Trailer - the original theatrical trailer for the film. (2 min, 1080p).
Vengeance Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
If you are yet to add Johnnie To's Vengeance to your libraries, I recommend that you opt for this Blu-ray release, courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment, over the one MegaStar produced awhile ago in Hong Kong. However, please keep in mind that the disc is Region-B "locked". RECOMMENDED.
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Vengeance Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Spring/Summer Wave from Optimum - February 25, 2010
In a series of retailer alerts, Optimum Home Entertainment has revealed some catalog and new titles it will publish on Blu-ray in the UK in April-June. On April 19, the studio will release Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor and David Lynch's Inland Empire. ...
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