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January 7, 2013

Movie Review: The Assassins (Blu-ray, 2012)

Reviewed By: Rob Sibley

“The Assassins” is the directional debut of Linshan Zhao, starring Chow Yun Fat. Now before you get all excited this isn't a bullet ballet film like “A Better Tomorrow ”, “The Killer” or “Hard Boiled”. The Assassins is a Chinese period piece, a costume drama if you will. Set during The Three Kingdoms era of China. Quick note, if your interested in this time period be sure to check out John Woo's “Red Cliff” films and Daniel Lee's “Resurrection of the dragon”.

In The Assassins, Chow plays real life General Cao Cao ruler of Wu Kingdom. The title itself refers to a group of lovers played by the stunning Liu Yifei (White Vengeance) and Hiroshi Tamaki (Midnight Eagle). They play the lover assassins very well and you can tell from the very start that their relationship is doomed. With Tamaki being a eunuch and Yifei playing a concubine. Their story is truly an emotional one.

But the show stealer here (Not surprisingly) is Chow Yun Fat as Cao Cao. More often then not Cao Cao is portrayed as a one dimensional, merciless tyrant. But thanks to Chow's acting chops, he takes what could have been a caricature and makes Cao Cao a real human being with a soul. Luckily this film focuses on Cao Cao during his later years and Chow plays him with a smart wise edge.

Now don't let the cover art fool you... this isn't a full on fight film. The battles are well done, very little wire work is used. All of the battle sequences are much more realistic in nature and are rarely fantastical in anyway. Sure blood is spilled but the film is a character study at heart. The film features a very very dense plot so make sure you pay attention during this one.

All and all I enjoyed this film for two big reasons. I've always been fascinated by the Three Kingdoms Era and secondly I'm a huge Chow Yun Fat fan. So, if your looking for a film that lets Chow flex his dramatic acting chops this one is for you. Anyone looking for a wire-fu blood bath better look else ware. I will stand by this, Chow Yun Fat gives one of the best performances of his career as Cao Cao.

The fine folks at Well Go USA bring “The Assassins” to us and it's a glorious sight to behold on Blu-ray. The picture quality is just outstanding, this was a very expensive and lavish production so expect the Blu-ray to show that. The wardrobe, the gritty fight sequences, close ups... everything looks pitch perfect.

For audio you get two choices, the original Mandarin audio track and the English dub. Both tracks are terrific, but being a purist I went with the original Mandarin audio when I watched the film. The subtitles are spot on with no grammatical issues.

Extras are slim. Just a behind the scenes featurette which is alright but definitely nothing your going to watch twice and the excellent theatrical trailer. A commentary track would have been appreciated but it's life.

All in all, “The Assassins” is a terrific character study of a very fascinating individual. If your in the mood for a period piece action drama then this one should do the trick. Recommended.

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