Wind Blast

 

Wind Blast

Aka: Xi Feng Lie

Production Design: Xiao Haihang

Cinematography: Du Jie

Music: An Dong

Action Director: Ching Chi Li

Produced by Zheng Xin, Wang Zhonglai, Guan Yadi & Xu Jiaxuan

Produced, Written & Directed by Gao Qunshu

October, 2010

 

Cast:

Duan Yihong
Li Zhang
Francis Ng

Yu Nan
Ni Dahong
Jacky Wu
Xia Yu
Charlie Yeung

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: Huayi Brothers & Bejing United

Video: WellGo USA Entertainment

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: BD25

Feature Size: 18.39 GB

Bit Rate: Moderate~Low (16-25 Mbps)

Runtime: 118 minutes

Chapters: 17

Region: A

 

Audio:

Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1

Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Subtitles: English

 

Extras:

• Making of - in SD (25:10)

• Behind the Scenes -m SD (23:40)

• Well Go Trailers

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray Case: BRD x 1

Street Date: July 3, 2012


 

Critical Response: (Two divergent views)

Beyond Hollywood

Chinese director Gao Qunshu continues his bid to be the country’s top genre film maker, following up his hit visceral spy drama “The Message” with the action packed contemporary western “Wind Blast”. A breathless thriller set in the harsh wilderness of the Gobi Desert, the film overflows with stylish shootouts, chase scenes and fist fights, featuring choreography by Hong Kong action director Nicky Li, who recently also worked on the blockbusters “Let the Bullets Fly” and “Shaolin”. The film has an impressive ensemble cast of Mainland and Hong Kong stars, headed by Duan Yihong (“Hot Summer Days”), the legendary Francis Ng (“Turning Point”), Xia Yu (“Electric Shadows”), Ni Dahong (“A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop”), Charlie Yeung (“After this our Exile”), Zhang Li, Yu Nan, and top martial arts star Wu Jing (“Shaolin”).


       

 

The film gets right down to business, with former underground boxer turned hitman Zhang Ning (Xia Yu) and his pregnant girlfriend Sun Jing (Charlie Yeung) fleeing through the Gobi Desert, Detective Leopard (Duan Yihong) and his cohorts Shepherd, Mastiff and Yak (Wu Jing, Ni Dahong, and Zhang Li) in hot pursuit. Also on Ning’s trail are two killers (Francis Ng and Yu Nan), sent by an irate client to silence him and retrieve a vital piece of evidence. Although Ning is soon captured by the cops, the tables are turned as the assassins attack their camp, setting in motion a series of intensifying battles and explosive duels.

 

Unsurprisingly, Francis Ng is the standout performer, lending his killer an amusingly world-weary air, coupled with yet another of his trademark bizarre hairdos.

This further adds to the fun, and helps “Wind Blast” to stand as probably the best modern action film to come from Mainland China to date. Gao Qunshu again proves himself a fantastically genre-savvy director, equally at home with non-stop excitement as he was with character-driven suspense with “The Message” and worthy true life drama with “The Tokyo Trial”. – James Mudge


       


VCinema

While the Hong Kong influence is evident in Gao’s handling of an ensemble cast who are alternately positioned as pursuers or the pursued, characterisation only exists in broad strokes and never achieves the moral resonance of Lam, To or Woo. The assassins and cops of Wind Blast are defined by their weapons of choice and are largely interchangeable in terms of individual response to situations of danger or duress. . . Gao is less interested in such thematic staples as camaraderie, honour and loyalty as he is in combining the narrative template of the Hong Kong crime film with the aesthetic splendour of the Western. Aside from the city-set opening, events occur entirely in the desert, with swooping camerawork taking in the spectacular vistas, while characters often resort to traveling through the landscape by foot or on horseback and are framed against treacherous rocky backdrops. Such iconography is also juxtaposed with the modern elements of cell phones, heavy artillery, rock music, speeding vehicles and wads of Chinese currency circa 2010. It’s a mostly acceptable mix, although the harmonica-infused score perhaps overstates Gao’s admiration for the widescreen atmospherics of Sergio Leone. . . Unfortunately, [Wind Blast] is also an entirely impersonal undertaking, an action movie that has been assembled with sufficient skill but without any understanding of what makes assassins and cops such enduring archetypes for modern audiences. All the elements are in place, but Wind Blast is sadly much less than the sum of its parts. – John Berra


       

 

The Movie: 4

Qunshu Gao’s Wind Blast is a self-consciously genre melding flic that blends iconic tropes of the Hollywood Western, Cops & Criminals, and Action thrillers – more specifically Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino and John Woo.  I would have said that its most recent influence was Jiang Wen’s Let the Bullets Fly, except that Jiang’s film was released two months later.  Both films, no surprise, do share the same action director, Nicki Li.  Jiang’s movie, I might add, is the more cogent for all its outrageousness and considerably more entertaining.  But then, comedy, is not what Wind Blast is about.  That said, there is something to be said for Wind Blast if you enjoy a succession of visual tricks, high velocity, slow motion effects and all around mayhem, along with occasional doses of sadism, and don’t particularly need to be all that clear about what is going on, or why.


       

 

Even without having seen the movie in its original form, I have the feeling that this version is cut just a bit.  It is, for no good reason that I can see, censored, with one of those one or two blurry swishes over some nudity that takes place in the background in one scene.  I assume the reason for the blur is not just the nudity, but that it involves sex.  The funny thing is that the same shot appears in one of the bonus features without the blurring, and makes clear that the nudity was not frontal.  Go figure.

 

As peculiar as the censorship is, the real problem with the scene – and what leads me to think the scene is cut beyond the mere blurring, is that we hardly get to know the two people so engaged before Yu Nan’s character, a coldblooded assassin, kills them in their sleep for no apparent reason.  The fact that she wastes the sleeping couple without feeling, not even pleasure, makes her character decidedly uninteresting.  If her behavior is meant to show how sadistic she is, it comes at the expense of narrative since we don’t know her victims well enough to care much.  So I’m holding out for the idea that their scene is cut.  In any case, the scene is entirely unnecessary, except for showing how gun crazy she is, otherwise it has no meaning, and is all the more puzzling since she walks away from a second opportunity in the middle of the big fight at the end of the film.  For that matter, with little exception, Gao does not seem to be much interested in the moral or ethical issues of his protagonists.  I found this scene a destructive episode in an already problematic piece of story-telling.


       


I dwell on this episode because it is representative of how careless Gao is in regards motivation.  I don’t require anything deep, just enough to keep me involved with the characters.  At another point, in order to disarm one of the assassins someone tires to pull the gun from Yu Nan with the muzzle pointed at them. Once someone behaves with such utter stupidity I lose all concern for their fate.  Still another character believes that his coat makes him bulletproof, and then thoughtlessly walks into a hail of bullets with his coat wide open.


The set pieces are neatly done, though all of them repeat the same bit of business too long.  I must say that the final confrontations with each of the assassins are brilliant.


       

 

Image: 8/9

Most of the movie is shot in bright sun with exposures to smartly support that fact, just this side of blown out.  Grain is added for effect, more in the darker scenes.  Every now and then the grain gets in the way of resolution of distant images, as with the long shot of the town, below.  Other than that I don’t see much to complain about.  Close-ups are generally gritty, enhancing the various characters.  The shot of Francis Ng’s gun belt is so sharp and colorful, however, that it really belongs in a different movie.


       

 

Audio: 8/7

WellGo provides a perfectly adequate Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that covers all the bases: clear dialogue that balances properly with music and effects, which include everything from a windstorm to horses pounding the dirt, to explosions and gunfire in a variety of settings, to trucks of various sizes racing forward and back and sliding in the dirt.  It’s quite a little tour de force that adds a sufficient degree of LFE where expected.  There is no English language dub, and the subtitles are readable, even against bright scenes and not obtrusive.  There are a few mishaps in the translation but for the most part it tells the story in a sensible way.


       

 

Extras: 4

Both extra features are presented in standard definition and variable aspect ratios.  We appreciate the subtitles even though they are rife with old-school misspellings and usage errors.  Both features are worthwhile: funnily enough having watched so many of these things the main thing I got out of them is how remarkable it is that that a cool (or, in this case, hot) looking movie can be obtained from the not the slightest bit interesting rehearsal footage.


Recommendation: 6

Long on surreal action, short on character motivation, nonetheless there are some memorable grimaces and show pieces.  The actors really knock themselves out for us.


       

 


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

June 27, 2012



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