Saviour Of The Soul

Saviour Of The Soul (1990)
Tai Seng Video Marketing
Cast: Anita Mui, Aaron Kwok, Andy Lau, Gloria Yip
Extras: Trailers, Biographies

If there is one thing, Hong Kong cinema is constantly excelling in, it is the uncanny blending of different genres into a coherent and appealing story line. In no American movie is the line between horror, science fiction, fantasy, romance and comedy so blurred as in many films that make it to market in Hong Kong. It gives these movies a very special quality and appeal that made the genre famous, and that offers something for everyone. It is certainly the recipe to the success and importunity of Hong Kong movies in general.

"Saviour Of The Soul," one of Tai Seng’s latest import discs, is no different in that aspect as it perfectly weaves fantasy elements with urban street sprawls. It mixes explosive action with traditional martial arts and comedy, and it always maintains a solid plot that revolves around commitment and love. Yiu May-kwan (Anita Mui), Ching (Andy Lau) and Siu Chuen (Kenny Bee) are three saviors of mankind in a constant war against evil domination. In a face-off, Yiu May blinds an evil master, who now sends his scholar Silver Fox (Aaron Kwok) for revenge. Determined to put an end to the young woman, Silver Fox plans a vicious surprise attack and almost manages to kill Yiu May. But Siu Chuen comes to her defense and takes a deadly blow to save the woman he loves while blinding one of Silver Fox’s eyes.

Yiu May realizes that Ching, too, is in great danger if Silver Fox returns after recuperating. She decides to distance herself from Ching, leaving him heartbroken and sad. For months, Ching searches for Yiu May, his lost love, but she remains without a trace, until he overhears her sister’s conversation, leading him to her hiding place. He arrives just in time. Silver Fox has just returned and poisoned Yiu May with a deadly spell. Not only does Ching have to defeat Silver Fox, but he also needs to save Yiu May’s life to find the happiness he sought for so long.

What may sound a little confusing in this synopsis is a well-told and engulfing story that constantly evolves over the course of the film. There is no real simple set-up and a straight-forward second act that heads toward the foreseeable resolution. The beauty of "Saviour Of The Soul" is that the story is intriguing, constantly introducing new elements and twists, as the viewer takes a plunge into this racy action adventure.

Boasting a star-studded cast with Anita Mui in the lead and a mysterious Aaron Kwok as the antagonist, much of the film’s entertainment value comes from the interaction of the characters with each other. Always humorous, often unexpected, the dialogues emphasize the romantic aspects of the movie as well as the comical elements, and make "Saviour Of The Soul" a highly enjoyable experience. The acting is great, and the stunt choreography breathtaking and visually stunning. Certainly, Anita Mui is a household name in the vocabulary of every connoisseur of Hong Kong films – and music – as is Andy Lau, and Aaron Kwok is without a doubt still vividly in everyone’s mind from his intriguing appearance in the computer effects-laden action fantasy drama "The Stormriders."

Director Corey Yuen, who also co-directed films such as "Fong Sai-Yuk" and "The Bodyguard from Beijing" among others, teamed up with co-director David Lai to create this movie and together they brought Peter Pau on board as the cinematographer. Pau, probably best known for his outstanding work in numerous films by Ronny Yu, including "Bride Of Chucky", as well as John Woo’s "The Killer", once again creates a tapestry of stunning images that are artistically composed, poetically lit and beautifully photographed. Especially the atmospheric lighting in many of the film’s key scenes is remarkable and shows the visual mastery Hong Kong films are so famous for.

"Saviour Of The Soul" is presented in a <$PS,letterboxed> version on this DVD that is not <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> television sets. The transfer nicely restores the movie’s original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Some dust and scratch marks are visible in the film print that was used for this DVD, but they are never distracting. The transfer is very detailed but appears soft at times with slightly bleeding edges. Overall however, the transfer is pleasing and warm. Colors are powerful, nicely reproducing the hues of the superbly photographed film. Slight over-saturation of the colors appears to be noticeable in selected scenes, but seen as a whole, "Saviour Of The Soul" makes a great DVD. The image quality is rich with deep, solid blacks and good highlights, creating a picture that runs the entire gamut of contrasts and shades. No hint of compression artifacts are evident and even in the most furious action scenes not a sign of <$pixelation,pixelation> can be found. The result is a highly detailed image quality that is sure to please every fan of Hong Kong movies.

"Saviour Of The Soul" contains two language tracks, one in Cantonese, the other in Mandarin. While the Cantonese track is presented as a 2-channel <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix, the Mandarin track features a full blown <$5.1,5.1 channel> mix. Since this is a recent remix, supposedly prepared specifically for this DVD or an earlier Laserdisk release, do not expect wonders. Spatial integration is limited to a few ambient effects for the most part, and a few effectively placed sound effects. I found even the stereo track in Cantonese language to be fully sufficient for an engrossing experience. The audio is well produced with a rather natural frequency response. Dialogues are will integrated and always stand on top of the music and sound effects. "Saviour Of The Soul" also features a great score by Anthony Lun, that nicely captures the film’s atmosphere of melancholy and hope.

It had been a while since I last saw "Saviour Of The Soul," and there would have been no better way to re-experience this movie than on this DVD. Although like most Hong Kong movies it could certainly benefit from a new transfer and an <$16x9,anamorphic> DVD encoding, you will be hard pressed to find any version of the film that compares to this DVD. The lush and strong color reproduction, combined with the highly detailed picture make "Saviour Of The Soul" a visual feast that shows very easily, what makes Hong Kong films so unique and spectacular. Very different from American cinema, films like this one are gems that are sadly underrated and underexposed in our domestic marketplace. Check it out. It is a thrilling and compelling fun-filled action adventure that takes you through a series of genre and always maintains a very human touch.