Purple Storm Review
"Terrorist Todd Chow is injured during a mission. The Counter-Terrorist Unit capture him for interrogation, only to find out he's lost his memory. Taking this to their advantage they brainwash him into thinking he's one of them. He is used as bait to bring out, and infiltrate the Terrorists. The race is on, as the Terrosists are now in possesion of a deadly biological weapon, that will create a Purple Storm and threaten the lives of billions."
As with most recent Hong Kong films, Purple Storm is a film that I only heard about when Hong Kong Legends released the DVD, but this shouldn't be the case for anyone who keeps up with the Hong Kong Film industry. It wasn't a huge Knock Out in the box-office, (hence why I had never heard of it) but it was very well recieved, winning more technical awards than any other film in Honk Kong cinema history, making a star out of Daniel Wu, and adding yet another succesful film to Jackie Chan's roster. If you are a fan of Hong Kong action movies, then I think that you too will enjoy Purple Storm.
Produced by Jackie Chan, the idea for Purple Storm came out of a conversation where Chan was discussing his film Who Am I?, (which also involves a soldier type guy losing his memory). The decision was taken to make a similar story, but based around terrorists. The original title The Terrorist was quickly abandonded for political reasons, the next title Purple Rain was commented by Bey Logan himself, for being too familiar to a certain song. The title Purple Storm was soon finalised.
The Purple Storm refers to the Terrorist's plan for mass genocide. A lethal Biological chemical is to be sent into the clouds, explode, and then cause a huge downfall of fatal purple rain that would be carried over a great area of Asia. Their plans are found on a disc carried by the terrorist, Todd Chow (Daniel Wu), who suffers a head injury during a mission, loses his memory and is captured. Similar to Le Femme Nikita, the government attempt to mould this man into one of them. Their plan initially works, but Chow is soon re-captured by the terrorists, and his memory painfully starts to come back through a series of painful flashbacks, brought on by meeting his real family.
The head of the Terrosrist group is a hardened follower of the demented dictator, Pol Pot, and to make matters worse, he is also the loving stepfather of Chow. As Chow's memory comes back, his fight for redemption is made more difficult when he has to decide whether to join his Father and Wife in their bid to begin the Revolution, or to oppose them, and follow the good guy in him, the good guy he only knew existed after losing his memory.
As far as Hong Kong films go, Purple Storm was given a significant budget ($4 million), and it shows. Elaborate Production Design, some good Set-Pieces (based as usual within real life locations), and much firepower. Now before you start imagining a grand film that could equal the efforts of Hollywood, think again, this is still very much a Hong Kong film, and some special effect shots do seem crass in comparison. Although I highly doubt that a Hollywood film made with only $4 million would look near as good! Where Hong Kong films usually better Hollywood, is that there is a rawness and realness to their style of film-making, and more attention is put on characters and their inner stories.
I found the most appealing aspect of Purple Rain was the story of Todd Chow, and his inner struggle, coming to terms with his painful past. The action sequences are good, but they aren't ground breaking. There is a minimal amount of martial arts, overshadowed by the gun fights, which are cool, but never reach the level of John Woo's films. It's the story that will have you gripped, it's a bit dark for such a big-budget HK film, but that's what sets it apart from other films of this genre. Dealing with issues such as dictatorship, mass genocide, religous executions, family sacrifice, and terrorism in general. It could have expanded more with these issues, and have made a film similar to Bullet In The Head, but this is still contempary mainstream Hong Kong, and is very much a popcorn movie.
If you know what to expect, I think, like me you will enjoy this film. Good action, that is greatly overshadowed by the film's plot and the lead character, something unusual for most action films of today!
For the most part this is a very good transfer, If you've seen Iron Monkey and Hitman, or any other recent film distributed by Hong Kong Legends, then you'll know what to expect. The flaws show during some dark areas, where there are compression artefacts, and quite a lot of grain in backgrounds. These flaws are only present on occasions, 95% of the transfer is pin-sharp, and is a typical good quality transfer, that could almost pass for something produced by a major Hollywood Studio.
Yet again Hong Kong Legends haven't disappointed.
English & Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1
The default is English, but anyone with any amount of self-respect will select the Cantonese track. It's a good one, gunfire sounds sharp and powerful, and there are some good panning effects on the front stage. Rears are used to good effect, mostly for atmosphere and natural sound effects, such as thunder and rain. The score (which can get a bit annoying at times) sounds great, and uses the 5.1 channels pretty effectively, offering some rear split effects for the score's sound effects. The LFE's are used, mainly for score, and for some of the film's explosions. Maybe the boom track could have been used more, as there are certainly occasions where I felt the soundtrack needed a bit more punch. I'll try my best to compare the soundtrack to other HK films, and not Hollywood, so in this respect, Purple Storm has a very good soundtrack, and for a Hong Kong film, maybe the best so far.
I can't imagine why anyone would want to listen to the English track, (sorry for being pig headed), but I usually turn them on for a laugh. Either way, i'm sure HKL have their reasons for including them. As far as I could tell it's virtually the same as the Cantonese Track Sound/Score wise, except it's a few decibals quieter. And of course the lanugauge has been dubbed, lines are not re-produced properly, so you miss out on some story points, and the voices themselves simply don't match the characters - but then again, that's what dubbed tracks are meant to be, so I suppose it does its job very well!
White. They are re-mastered subtitles, and are the Cantonese/Cambodian literal translation. Some DVDs of foreign films have english subtitles of the English dub, and not of the original language (e.g Das Boot). I find this immensely frustrating, but that's why I like HKL, because they don't do this, they know what the true fans of foreign films want. Bey Logan was responsible for the original subtitles for the film, and as far as i'm aware, they've been directly imported to the disc. Full thumbs up for me here. But why HKL don't include Cantonese subtitles also, is something that escapes me!
HKL fans will be in familiar territory, nothing new has been added to the succesful formula.
Advertised, but I sure couldn't find them! These are usually interesting reads, and seeing how the talent involved were mainly new faces to me, it's a shame this HKL regular feature wasn't included.
Promo fluff, but Hong Kong promo fluff. If you're curious to see how they differ when doing this sort of thing, then this should be interesting to watch. B-Roll footage of behind-the-scenes work is the best aspect of this feature, otherwise, it's as promotional as it gets people.
Leading Lady, Josie Ho. In the film, Ho plays the wife of Todd Chow, a terrorist who is till very much inder the influence of Chow's father. She was nominated for some major awards in Hong Kong for her role in Purple Storm, but unfortunatley didn't win. The interview is good and she speaks about working with the director, and how he helped her. She is fluent in English, and is good looking so the interview just flies by. But one major gripe is they decided to play background music along to the interview, and it does sometime drown out the speaking.
Bey Logan & Daniel Wu.
Logan is a familiar to HKL discs, especially those of Bruce Lee. Logan is known in the industry as one of the foremost authorities in Honk Kong Cinema, and is an expert when it comes to Bruce Lee. He worked behind-the-scenes on Purple Storm and his only official credit is in translating the subtitles - but there's no doubt, he knows his stuff. Daniel Wu plays the lead character, Todd Chow, and speaks English very fluently. Logan and Wu make a good speaking team, and they speak non-stop throughout the film. Logan acts as a inquisitor of sorts, boucing questions off Wu, and getting tons of interesting info.
It's a very good track, and gives you all you need to know about the production of the film, as well as being an excellent reference to the Hong Kong Film industry in general. I heard much about Loagn before, and he is constantly cited as one of the best commentary speakers around. Seeing how this is the first of his commentaries that i've heard, I can't offer a comparison to his other tracks, but after listening to this one, I can see why people like him so much.
This track does all a commentary should do, it's engaging, easy to listen to, and is packed full of good stuff. A worthy addition to the disc.
Orginal Theatrical Trailer, UK Promotional Trailer, Music Promo. There is also a showcase for some other titles in the HKL catalogue, recent additions being City Hunter and Legend Of A Fighter. As with most HKL trailers, they are all anamorphic, and are of decent picture and sound quality.
A great action film, with a plot that took me slightly by surprise. I think even passing fans of Hong Kong films won't go wrong with giving this one a rent, even an impluse purchase may prove to be a decision you won't regret. People who associate Hong Kong with Kung Fu and Martial Arts, should look elsewhere though, there is the bare minimum of fighting in Purple Storm. If you've seen the films highlighted as 'similar releases' above, then you should know what to expect.
Fans of gunfights and gadgets will like this film, as there are plenty of SWAT team guys sneaking around, much techno babble, and terrorist ambushing, and much firing the crap out of things. But at the end of the day, it will be the story that many people will find to be the most memorable aspect, and I must admit I did find a lump in my throat on occasions, (but I'm overly sentimental, so that's expected!).
A good film, a good commentary track, some OK extras to keep you happily occupied for 45 mintues, and not forgetting the HKL badge... what more could you ask for from a DVD?