From acclaimed Director Gordan Chan (Fist of Legend) comes a film that is another worthy addition to the Hong Kong Legends library. Billed as a Y2K millennium bug film 2000AD is more of a generic thriller whereby a terrorist group are attempting to steal a computer program that is capable of destroying any computer system in the world. Videogame enthusiast Peter Li (Aaron Kwok, again proving that Asian Pop stars can act when asked to) is drawn into a game type scenario via his brother who is somehow involved with the terrorists. While attempting to prove his brothers innocence Kwok soon faces danger at every turn as he attempts to find out exactly who he can trust and of course he also has to prevent the terrorists from obtaining the computer program. As he finds his life to be in danger more and more frequently he soon realises that this is one game that does not have a reset switch! To be honest, this description of the story is not completely accurate but then I found the plot to be full of holes and needlessly complex to a point where the traditional Hong Kong style 'rewrite the script as you shoot' scenario was all too obvious and for those reasons alone it becomes a little hard to explain the story with any real depth.
Forgetting the convoluted plot we see that this films saviour comes in the form of its characters and the unusual level (for a Hong Kong production) of character development seen throughout the 95-minute running time. Alongside the likeable Aaron Kwok (who I must say did a great job with this role) are a variety of actors who all put in great turns as their various characters, most notable amongst these are Francis Ng (superb as Officer Ng), Daniel Wu (Purple Storm) who puts in a great comical performance as Benny (particularly in the Gentlemen's club) and Phyllis Quek who plays her role as the beautiful but mysterious Salina perfectly. The various performances from those mentioned and the rest of the cast is of a generally high quality and combined with a fun script it leads to several laughs, many likeable characters and of course some fantastic action set pieces.
For action fans out there you would be wise to note that 2000AD is a slow burner, taking a full half hour until the first true action scene develops. But when it does you will certainly know about it, as the four major action set pieces are all quite invigorating. The shoot-out sequences are superbly crafted creating both a sense of claustrophobia (as the characters are often trapped in the situation with nowhere to run) and, well quite honestly they are supremely brutal with characters taking hits that look extremely painful (unlike most action films where the characters just walk away or die suddenly) but this is all accentuated via the superb control of shutter speed, colour and a sound mix that draws you further in to the experience. The martial arts sequences tend to be of the fast and furious nature, we are never meant to believe that the characters are professionally trained and it shows as Kwok and the others sell a more scrappy street style particularly well. The final action sequence that deserves a mention is the thrilling car chase in which Kwok performs most of his own driving stunts (he is a racing car enthusiast) and due to this the camera angles capture the sense of speed (and danger) extremely well.
Along with the patchy storyline and some slightly ropey special effects in the films opening ten minutes (although there are also a lot of subtle effects shots that work very well) the only other major faults with 2000AD would be the general pacing and the unsatisfying finale that could have been far more exciting than it actually is. With a further 10-minutes of cuts and a bigger finale this could have been a superb summer style blockbuster but instead it offers up enough laughs (for fans of the traditional Hong Kong film style humour that is!), some decent characters and enough exciting action sequences to make this a film you will enjoy on more than one occasion, but there are better titles out there (like those in the Similar Releases section).
This DVD is dual encoded for both Region 2 and 4.
Presented at its original 1:78:1 aspect ratio and featuring Anamorphic enhancement this is another fine effort from Hong Kong Legends. Seeing as this film was made in 1999 you would expect the print used to be in fine shape and while for the most part that is true I was surprised to see a fair number of blemishes in the form of dirt and I even noticed a white line for a brief moment. Sharing a look that has much in common with other recent Hong Kong titles like Purple Storm and Time and Tide this film also has its fair share of film grain (this seems to be common for Hong Kong titles) but not to a level where it becomes distracting. Important aspects such as detail level, colour rendition and black levels are all excellent creating a superb viewing experience that makes up for the minor print damage. Strangely HKL have placed the layer change quite poorly and depending on your player it will be quite noticeable as it occurs as Phyllis Quek (Salina) is looking up and can create a jerky movement.
2000AD benefits from the fact that its original sound mix was presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and that is exactly how HKL have presented the audio for you on this disc without any need for one of their own remixes. Featuring both Cantonese (although there is a little English and Mandarin in there too) and English DD5.1 Audio tracks this is the first title from HKL to offer a truly dynamic sound mix. Every speaker will be utilised to full effect throughout with the shoot-out scenes in particular offering some fantastic moments as the room is consumed by gunfire. Other standout scenes include the airplane explosion (some great panning sounds and use of the subwoofer) and the car chase that again features some superb demo moments by making full use of the Dolby Digital format. The English dub seemed pretty good for the brief test I gave it while the English subtitles were of the usual high standard.
After the disappointing Stefan Hammond commentaries of The Postman Fights Back and In the Line of Duty it is good to see that Hong Kong Legends have again enlisted Bey Logan to return and complete their 2001 schedule. For 2000AD Logan is joined by the films director Gordan Chan (they were on the set of Jackie Chan's new film, Highbinders, that is also directed by Chan, at the time of recording) and as such this really is more of a Directors Commentary track along the lines of what most films receive. Logan still pitches in with some relevant information but he is mostly there to ask Chan questions, easing the information out of the Director and this is a job he does very well. Fortunately Chan is both very well spoken (in English) and has some interesting stories to tell and of course Logan is always there to fill in any gaps (be they information gaps or just silent pauses from Chan). Unfortunately this commentary is not of the usual high standards that we have come to expect from a HKL disc featuring Logan, this is mostly down to the fact that Logan is stepping down to allow Chan to speak and while this is no bad thing I would have preferred to hear a little more of Logan's generally more interesting banter. Still, this is a decent commentary with some good stuff from Chan, but it is not quite what I had expected and as such, not something that I will come back to often (unlike, for example the Bruce Lee titles where I find Logan's commentaries a far better alternative to the original audio!).
In similar vein to Purple Storm (another more recent title on the Hong Kong Legends label) we are treated to a Making of Featurette that runs for 20-minutes and is very much focused on the films lead and Asian Pop Idol Aaron Kwok. While this piece features some interesting interviews and behind the scenes footage it is mostly using Kwok to promote the film (as this was originally shot for the Asian market) and as such includes his music video for the film (as featured in the end credits but presented here sans credits), footage of Kwok practicing a dance routine and the music promo for the film that again features Kwok (this time kitted out in army gear) and to be honest he starts to grate after a while (but fortunately he is fine in the film!).
In the interview section we get a 15-minute segment with Director Gordan Chan who not surprisingly talks mostly about the films production going in to how it was to work in Singapore, the international nature of the film, the use of special effects and his initial worries of working with Aaron Kwok. The second interview is with one of the films stars, Andrew Lin. Running for 17minutes I spent the first 10 trying to work out just who he played in the movie! With a very different look Lin talks about his background as an SFX artist, how he came to Hong Kong to promote effects work in movies and broke into acting by accident, and then he talks about his work on Blacksheep Affair and 2000AD as well as his current projects and future aspirations. Both interviews make for interesting viewing and are presented with clips from various HKL releases.
Apart from the typically useless Photo Gallery (at least present these full screen so us reviewers can use the stills as ideal screen grabs!) there is also a larger than usual Trailer section featuring the HKL Promo, the Original Hong Kong Teaser Trailer, Theatrical Trailer and Music Promo for 2000AD, all of which are presented in Anamorphic Widescreen.
Despite its flaws I certainly enjoyed 2000AD and I am sure that fans of the more modern Hong Kong action films would agree but a rental may be advisable to any other interested parties. This release is of course another great showcase for Hong Kong Legends who are one of the few DVD publishers that can offer a great set of extras and a video/sound presentation to match, almost making this disc worth owning on its technical merits alone!