Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi
Extras: Featurette, Interview, Storyboards, Soundtrack Spot
Set during the time of the Seven Kingdoms in China, a nameless swordsman (Jet Li) has killed three notorious assassins (Donnie Yen, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) that the King (Chen Dao Ming) of the kingdom of Qin and all his men have been unable to capture or kill. To celebrate the occasion he is brought before the King, rewarded and asked to tell the story how he, a lowly, unknown prefect in the kingdom was able to bring to an end the lives for the best warriors the kingdom had ever seen before.
Willingly he tells his story but the King is wary of the amount of truth in the Nameless One’s recollection and offers his own interpretation of how the events may have unfolded, and thus unfolds a film that tells a variety of angles and possible scenarios around the notorious death of the three assassins and the purpose they may have served.
Awash in wonderfully rich colors, flowing gowns, thousands of extras lining the screen, filled with blistering fight choreography and topped of with impeccable performances by some of Hong Kong’s best, "Hero" is a treat for every fan of thoughtful foreign cinema. (It is too bad, though that a small actress like Zhang Ziyi is given prominent placement on the cover despite her one-line part in the film, whereas Hong Kong superstar Maggie Cheung, who essentially carries the entire film with her character of Flying Snow, is barely featured at all. Hollywood studio politics are just completely beyond me sometimes, I’m sorry.)
The audio comes as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> and an optional <$DTS,DTS> track in the movie’s original Mandarin language. While an English dub is also available on the DVD I have not checked it out for obvious reasons. The audio is very clear and rich with subtle ambient details. It is in tracks like this one that DTS can fully play its trump card, as even the softest timbres and sonic textures are perfectly captured and reproduced in this highly dynamic track. The frequency response is wide and solid with good bass and clear high ends and dialogues are well integrated without ever drowning out.
Much better is the 25-minute featurette "Hero Defined" which features interviews with cast and crew members as well as plenty of on-set footage from the film’s shoot. It not only talks about the characters and production but also gives director Yimou Zhang the chance to talk a bit more about his intentions, the expectations with which he jumped into this project.
Storyboard to film comparisons for four scenes from the movie are also included giving you the chance to compare how the initial concepts turned into the final film.
Lightning fast action, choreographed by the incomparable and legendary Ching Siu-Tung, and heartfelt drama on an epic level make up the experience of "Hero." It is a film like you may never have seen before and it is a movie that breaks with Fantasia swordplay formulae to present a kinetic, energetic, and emotional story that is as memorable as the best films I’ve seen. Do yourself a favor, if you love movies. Go, get yourself a copy of "Hero" and see what great movies are made of!