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Though John Woo's The Killer exceeds most in terms of artistic violence and choreographed gunfire (mainly reminiscent of Peckinpah), the core of this film is about character, specifically the commonalities between an assassin and police officer in defining their own sense of conscience. The action is masterfully directed. The Killer on blu-ray looks fine (maybe as good on dvd?) and the bonus material includes deleted scenes, trailers, a location review, and a few interviews with John Woo. (Unfortunately part of the Q&A has poor sound quality and with no available subtitles it's often difficult to understand). Overall, The Killer is a great film and highly recommended for any fan of excessively glorified violence.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
227 of 251 people found the following review helpful
Absolute disaster; this release is an insultMarch 23 2010
Edward Doty Schatz
- Published on Amazon.com
As any fan of this film knows, we've been waiting for the clichéd 'Holy Grail' for a long time. Every release on DVD has been plagued by horrible prints, remixed audio, cropped image, bad subtitle tracks, non anamorphic image and various sundry image issues. All of those problems have left nearly every DVD edition as coasters on your coffee table as they were painful to watch. No release, save the TF1 French DVD release (without English subtitles) has ever done John Woo's The Killer justice.
Here comes Dragon Dynasty, the unholy offspring of the Weinstein's buy up of distribution rights in the United States of nearly every Asian film. Well known for their Blu-Rays which are merely DVD upconverts (Hard Boiled on the PS3 game Stranglehold) or otherwise botched jobs like the burned out picture on Jackie Chan's Police Story, the butchered version of Supercop, interlacing instead of progressive on The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin etc.
After reading the Blu-Ray review on DVD Beaver and viewing the disc myself via a broken street release, it is easy to see that this disc is another Dragon Dynasty abomination. The disc is 1080i and suffers from visual artifacts that accompany a PAL source. The audio is NOT lossless and is instead compressed Dolby Digital 2.0 Cantonese and 5.1 English dub. The only redeeming feature is that coherent subtitle translation that seems to be sourced from a prior release in the United Kingdom. The extras are also sourced from elsewhere and are presented in Mandarin dub and are of dramatically lower visual quality.
Despite Dragon Dynasty's insistence this was a "Full HD" presentation and their boasting of its greatness on Twitter, it is nothing of the sort. It's another hackneyed release from the team at DD. While it may be "the best" when it comes to The Killer on home media, it is far from being worthy even as replacement for a VHS copy. While it may improve audio and visual wise on prior releases, it's like going from a Yugo car to a Fiat. Buying this Blu-Ray supports their lazy and disgraceful approach to these classic films.
78 of 91 people found the following review helpful
Check The Screen Shots at DVDBeaverMarch 24 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
I am about to cancel my pre-order of this Blu Ray release. Please check the screen grabs at DVDBeaver. The transfer is obviously INFERIOR to prior DVD releases. I was eagerly awaiting this title, but I am not going to throw away $20. This is a disgrace.
96 of 116 people found the following review helpful
DVDBeaver and [...] trashed this transferMarch 23 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Just to counterbalance the hyperbolic 5 star "review"s which have absolutely no relevance to this Blu-ray Dragon Dynasty abomination:
From DVDBeaver: "....a real disappointment.....hazy...moiring...does not look or sound very good at all....riddled with annoying artifacts...no lossless audio option...ridiculous English dub in 5.1 but original Cantonese in 2.0 channel...this interlaced transfer is unacceptable...extras all seem re-hashed".
From [...]: "..wow, what a major disppointment...This is so far from high definition quality that aside from being anamorphically enhanced I can't really say much else recommends it...at times not even as sharp as a decently upconverted SD-DVD...Vivendi really needs to go back to the drawing board on these Dragon Dynasty releases, because the first two have been travesties from an image standpoint.."
I haven't previously sunk so low as to review a product I haven't seen myself but these two websites are consistantly reliable and I get so irritated by industry shills (A. Nani Moss - anonymous? Oh how hilarious you are) pushing their product disguised as "reviews". It was enough for me to cancel my pre-order anyway.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
An awful treatment for a classic filmMarch 27 2010
Mrs. Amanda N. Watkins
- Published on Amazon.com
Just awful. No remastered picture. It's from a 1080i interlaced PAL transfer with no HD audio and no new extras. Looks like the Weinstein's have managed to ruin yet another film on Blu-ray by being extremely cheap.
Definitely input your thoughts on their Dragon Dynasty site here: [...]
I guess if you haven't seen it and you really want to since there are no other available US releases available, do so at your own risk. Try renting it first before buying and rate it against other Blu-ray releases from the same time period as the Killer.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Magnificent movie, lackluster releaseApril 3 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
I give this movie 7 stars out of 5. I give this release 2 stars out of 5.
A magnificent and one of the most influential action/drama movies ever made.
This release, the only one for the North American market, is lack-luster. Cleaned up from original film holes, dirt and dust, sound track noise but offset substantially by the quality of the digital video and audio encoding and compression. The original Cantonese track is mono (expected) but the English dub track is mono too (very unexpected). Subtitles are better than some other releases of this movie. Extra features OK, but not in keeping with a movie of this significance in Asian cinema and action cinema.
This post has some very detailed comments on this movie as a movie, followed by objective facts about the DVD followed by some opinions.
This is one of the most important and influential police thriller, action drama movies ever made and certainly to have ever come from Hong Kong. It is a magnificent stylized gun-fu bullet ballet expanding on themes and character types from previous John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat works such as A better Tomorrow and A Better Tomorrow 2. It is loosely a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's "Le Samouraï" starring Alain Delon and the chanbara film "Gyangu 9" starring Ken Takakura.
Alain Delon and French police thrillers had such an influence on John Woo that we see Chow Yun-Fat, in the role that made him a star in "A Better Tomorrow", wearing Alain Delon designer sunglasses with the dark duster/raincoat. Although Chow Yun-Fats characters later wore the now classic Ray Bay Wayfarers, this matchstick chewing, cigarette smoking, designer sunglass wearing duster/raincoat clad image became iconic with Chow Yun-Fat's characters in A Better Tomorrow and subsequent John Woo movies.
For John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat, the dove imagery, the stylized gun-fu bullet ballet and the iconic presentation of the Chow Yun-Fat character all reach their pinnacle in this movie, The Killer. This is the one that defined it all for many, many movies to follow.
For many in western cultures, the gun-play, heroic bloodshed and the intense action scenes are an overwhelming distraction from the more important dramatic content. They are often confused as the central purpose of the movie like so many action genre movies from Hollywood that are devoid of any substance in character development or dramatic content.
In John Woo Hong Kong films, the gun-play, heroic bloodshed and intense action are stylized supporting elements only. The serve to support the emotional intensity and importance that the themes in the dramatic content are to the central characters. It is through the test of intense mortal conflict that the central characters palpably demonstrate their commitment to their mores and beliefs. Because of the history of Chinese, especially Hong Kong, cinema with intense sword-play, heroic bloodshed and similar elements going back to its roots in Chinese Opera, these elements are less distracting and better understood by Hong Kong and Chinese audiences.
As with earlier John Woo films with Chow-Yun Fat, dramatic themes include the conflicts between honor and duty, the conflicting mores between incumbent and incoming generations and power brokers, the discovery of where one's honor and duty truly lie and the redemption through self-sacrifice, including one's own death, for one's true honor and duty.
For The Killer, many may see these iconic character types, themes and actions as clichéd. However, it is important to remember that A Better Tomorrow, A Better Tomorrow 2 and, especially The Killer, created these iconic character types themes and actions that, through imitation and homage elsewhere since, have perhaps reached the level of cliché. This kind of continuous imitation and homage demonstrate the real significance of this movie.
Here are my observations: 1)Disc One: Media and Standard: DVD5 containing DVD Video Contents: Menu: Play Movie Scenes: 1-4, 5-8. 9-12, 13-16 Setup Audio Options: Cantonese, English Captions & Subtitles: English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish, None Movie, including leader, 1h 46m 18s
2) Disc Two: Media and Standard: DVD5 containing DVD Video Contents Menu: Special Features Deleted Scenes Li Defends Jenny As John Watches The Police Force Looks For John John And Jenny Find Happiness John And Jenny Share Breakfast With Sidney The Hunt Continues Interview Gallery Interview With Director John Woo American Cinematheque Q&A On The Killer (2002) American Cinematheque Q&A On Hard Boiled (2002) The Killer Locations John Woo Trailer Gallery The Killer Original Theatrical Trailer The Killer UK Promotional Trailer Last Hurrah For Chivalry Trailer A Better Tomorrow Trailer Hard Boiled Trailer Captions & Subtitles English For The Hearing Impaired None
3) There appear significant numbers of single frames that are highly pixelated and visible on a 20in display.
4) There appear significant single frames that comprise at least two cinema frames overlaid and are visible on a 20in display.
5) There is a little or no shadow and dark/black object detail.
6) There are significant visible quantization/anti-aliasing artifacts, especially in face close-ups, smoke/haze and strongly backlit scenes and are visible on a 20in display.
7) The holes, dust and dirt from the original film source commonly seen in other releases are removed.
8) There are audio distortions, especially with sibilant "esses", especially from Sally Yeh.
9) The crackles and pops in the audio track sometimes heard in other releases and clips are removed.
10) It lacks a "crispness".
Here are my opinions: 1) For as an important movie as this in Hong Kong and action/drama cinema history and as important as it is to Asian cinema fans, this release is lack-luster.
2) Although nicely cleaned up from holes and dirt, increased contrast, some increased saturation and audio track clean-up, these improvements are substantially offset by the artifacts and loss of shadow/dark detail and some crispness. I find the artifacts and detail loss VERY annoying in places and I'm a farily forgiving viewer. The video encoding details are all the explanation needed as to why all these problems exist in this release.
3) All audio is monaural, AC3 2.0 Dolby and there is no 5.1 or stereo option of any kind. This is deplorable. It is appropriate to offer original mono tracks so that critical viewers can experience the the original exhibition sound and, especially, the original looped voices. However, it is much more enjoyable to many to have at least a stereo processed sound and preferrably a 5.1 processed sound, well done, for general viewing. These are not difficult to produce and have appeared in a huge number of near vintage movies such as this one.
4) It would be pure conjecture to state that the artifacts and absence of more substantial audio tracks are the result of doing whatever was necessary to put this release on DVD5 instead of DVD9 media. It could well be that a decision was made to do this release as cheaply as possible and the video and audio processing done resulted in it all fitting on DVD5. Either way, it certainly does not do this movie justice nor does it endear Dragon Dynasty to its customer base. DVD9 media is ubiquitous in DVDs today. It's capacity allows far better treatment. Greater detail and far fewer artifacts that have been accomplished with much more challenging film sources than this one.
5) The extras are lack-luster. None of them are bad. The ones from John Woo are nice. The absence of other significant film critics and commentaries on the extras disc, and the total absence of a very knowledgeable commentary on the main movie disc is highly disappointing. It was nice to have a short one about the cinema shoot locations not mentioned on the box. For a movie of this importance, absent from the US market for so long, at least a substantial commentary track from an expert such as Bey Logan should have been done. The trailers were a reasonable selection of John Woo movies, but the selection seemed a little opportunisitic. It was nice to see a trailer for A Better Tomorrow. A good release of that one by Dragon Dynasty would be outstanding.
6) For me, I'm ambivalent that I acquired this particular release. I'm seriously disappointed with its quality. If A Better Tomorrow were released with this quality, I would be very ambivalent towards it too. I'm sure it would not be very well received by North American Asian cinema customer base.
7) This release was a golden opportunity for Dragon Dynasty to hit a solid game-winning grand-slam home run. It could have created a brand customer base that would have returned for a lot more releases. Instead, we got, at best, a disappointing attempted single that was thrown out out at 1st. I'll be watching for a much better release from some company in the future.
8) Dragon Dynasty: this is an opportunity to re-think the Asian cinema market and customer base in the US. Outstanding movies presented and treated well, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, House Of Flying Daggers, and other action movies sell well. Some win Academy awards. There is always an opportunity to re-release this in the near future with a lot better treatment and better extras. Taking it sometime might be well advised. Whoever releases this with stellar treatment and extras will do very well. It's fans are still waiting.