Asian Action Pack 2 (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, September 16, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, May 12, 2009
For the second collection ADV cranks their Action Pack up to 5.
What They Say
This action pack contains 2009 Lost Memories, No Blood No Tears, Public Enemy, Conduct Zero, Jungle Juice.
All five movies contain an English 5.1 track in addition to the original Korean tracks. For the purpose of this review the Korean tracks were used and are broken down as follows. 2099 Lost Memories has a very good 5.1 track that balances the use of the speakers including the rear ones well. No Blood No Tears has a 2.0 Korean audio track with the dialogue being primarily center speaker driven and no dropouts or distortions. Public Enemy has a 2.0 track that mixes the dialogue between the center and front speakers most of the time and adds depth to much of the spoken dialogue. The track is free from dropouts and distortions though isn't terribly advanced as far as tracks are concerned. Conduct Zero also possesses a 2.0 track that splits the work between the center and front speakers with no dropouts or distortions being noticed. Jungle Juice uses a 2.0 track that lacks distinction for the speakers used as the task is split evenly among them but there were no dropouts or distortions with this track either.
2009 Lost Memories Noise is disappointing in the video department as the film has color blur, a good deal of grain, jitters and suffers from looking like it was shot on poor film stock. Colors never come across as vibrant as they should and the areas that look like they should be black are never faithfully so because of this. No Blood No Tears has a presence of noise, color blur, dot crawl in its video presentation. Public Enemy is not anamorphic widescreen as claimed on the back and the film also shows the print damage from its film stock and contains noise as well. Conduct Zero is not anamorphic widescreen but also not the 4:3 stated on the back cover. The film has some softness to it as well as noise and color blur. Despite this the colors are still bright and blacks deep. Jungle Juice has noise, print damage, a good deal of grain and jitters in the video department though the instances are not overly common for the damage or jitters.
The packaging reflects the first collection and actually manages to (somewhat) turn something unimaginative into a positive. This time they have two machine guns back to back so it actually appears sort of like a Roman numeral II. That is the extent of the creativity as it still has the gunmetal grey back ground though now they is a splash of red behind the guns and a small handgun is present at the bottom. The back has cropped shots from the original covers of the ADV release of the films as singles.
The menu for 2009 Lost Memory is set up to look like the fictional Japan Bureau of investigations might with the JBI logo spinning in the center and select scenes from the film playing in the background mostly tinted in the blue color the menu features. The screen is quick to respond to selections and uses a bit of animation of a double sided arrow in a circle spinning and getting smaller to add to the computer selection effect. No Blood No Tears features a mostly red tinged shot of the main female front and center and the secondary female and her boyfriend on opposite sides of her in smaller frames. Underneath the two secondary characters are small black and white stills from the film of some other characters. The menu is quick to respond to selections. Public Enemy features a white and grey shot of one of the characters standing on the left side with red blood spatter behind him with the menu selections stretching out in front of him. The menu is also quick to respond to selections. Conduct Zero loads with a title card for the film then cuts to the menu which features a pop art looking picture of the main character screaming, the main female in a smaller image behind him holding her guitar as a heart spins between them. The background features bright yellow and white sun beam looking stripes and there are a few flowers as well and an upbeat track from the film plays in the background. The menu is also quick to respond to selections. Jungle Juice's menu features the main character looking out his driver's side window of his car which has different escort service cards on it and some graffiti behind it while a high tempo song from the film plays in the background. The menu for this feature is also quick in its response to selections.
The extras are what were originally on the discs which for 2009 Lost Memory is the original Korean trailer and a 10 minute production diary and for Conduct Zero the features are a music video, movie highlights, original Korean trailer, Image Gallery, Student Files (which have the English actors in character making comments during it) and outtakes. The other films have no extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
2009 Lost Memories.
The film begins in 1909 in China with the prevention of an assassination a prominent Japanese general. The film then shows how the general's survival changes history as it existed. With his survival the US and Japan are on the same side when they enter World War II in 1936 and the atomic bombs were used on Berlin instead of Japan. The changes move forward to the year 2009 where Japan controls the nation that was formally Korea. The story then opens with rebels attacking a building owned by the Inoue conglomerate for reasons that are unknown to the police.
Japan Bureau of Investigation agent Masayuki Sakamoto decides to dig further into the matter when the pieces don't add up and is confronted with resistances from on high. What can the secret the highest members of the government and the resistance fighters know be? And how does it play into the death of his own father over 20 years ago when he was branded a traitor to the police and shot by his own men in a raid by the resistance group over 20 years ago. What Sakamoto finds may challenge all he holds faith in and put him at odds with his former allies and his best friend as well as history as he has known it.
Mania Grade: B-
No Blood No Tears
The world is not an easy place for criminals or those who owe them money. Kyeong-seon is a woman seriously down on her luck as her husband ran out on her leaving her saddled with a large debt to a money lender. The lender himself is under pressure and sends his thugs to threaten her again. Lee's life changes with a chance encounter with Su-ji. Su-ji is the girlfriend of a smalltime hood who runs a dog fighting ring for the local highest member of the crime syndicate (KGB).
Su-ji convinces Kyeong-seon to help her try to rip off her boyfriend who she also has a grudge against which will help them both with their money issues. The plan goes awry when it turns out everyone around has a scheme running, no one can be trusted and the police are hot on everyone's tracks. With this environment Kyeong-seon has to navigate incredibly treacherous water or risk not just her life but the life of her estranged young daughter as well as the bullets and threats start to fly.
Mania Grade: C+
Chul-joong carries a badge in Korea's police homicide division but he is little different from the criminals he is supposed to capture. He shakes down drug dealers, drug buyers and fruit sellers on the street while being a general menace to anyone who angers him-which is incredibly easy to do with his temper. Chul-joong suddenly finds himself having to engage in actual police work when an Internal Affairs investigation focuses on him and his partner who commits suicide.
When a businessman (Gyu-Hwan) murders his parents and hidden in a raincoat runs into Chul-joong on a rain soaked street he causes Chul-joong to begin his rabid hunt of the man he believes killed his own parents but also injured Chul-joong's pride. What follows is a story of two intelligent monsters playing a high stakes game of catch me if you can that may lead to either unemployment or a change in Chul-joong.
Mania Grade: B-
Joong-pil is the badass master of his high school. Stories of his supposed exploits are all the rage to talk about by many of the students at the all boys' school who regal in his supposed skills and belief in justice. In truth Joong-pil is an idiot who is constantly skipping class and shaking down students on his own. Joong-pil's life gets a twist as he starts to pursue Min-Hee.
Joong-pil is soon faced with the dilemma of how to pursue Min-Hee yet retain his badass reputation while also dodging the attentions of Na-Young who leads a female gang and is not happy with the attention Min-Hee is getting from him. And if this wasn't enough he suddenly has to face an opponent from another school whose fighting prowess is rumored to be ahead id Joong-pil and may be aiming to control the entire area. When a choice comes down to Min-Hee or maintaining his pride and avenging his friends what path will he choose to take?
Mania Grade: B-
Ki-tae is a big fish in a little pond. He gets through his day shaking people down rather than attempting to hold honest employment. His friend Chul-soo spends his day playing soccer with some of the local kids and hanging out with Ki-tae being general low level menaces in their neighborhood and generally being idiots. For fun the two visit a local prostitute named Meg who will have some impact on them later.
The next day the two think they have struck the big time being able to work for a gangster. When the drug deal they are brought along on goes south the two of them are held responsible for either recovering the drugs or gathering up the money that the mob has lost in the deal. Now the two idiots are trying anything in sight to raise money and their paths cross with Meg's again. Suddenly the three find themselves in possession of a large amount of drugs and being chased by the mob and the police as the three discover they can only rely on each other.
The films all have bits of smart writing (even the ones about the stupid characters) and have moments that make it hard to just ignore them as a whole but with such a wide range of stories they are also harder to recommend. And each film has its share of faults-2009 Lost Memories' losing its incredible edited scenes at the most dramatic point and great performances to be a rather formulaic story once the whys of the plot are explained. No Blood No Tears feeling like they wanted to make a Tarantino style film and not quite grasping his gift for the compelling characters. Public Enemy with its completely unlikeable protagonist despite being a good psychological game between the two main characters. Conduct Zero with its lack of setting up its characters well though still giving a high energy performance. Finally there is Jungle Juice which seems to lack the ability to set up why some of these characters interact with each other and tries to play things a bit outside their ability to write.
Mania Grade: C-
Asian Action Pack 2 is another collection of films with nothing in common other than country of origin and that they were signed by ADV. While it is a nice value of five movies for the price of one the quality of the films just isn't quite what the first collection had though the films are still entertaining there isn't really a wide range of quality that may appeal to a wide range of tastes.
Korean 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.
Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: C+
Packaging Rating: D+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: C+
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 580
Aspect Ratio: Mixed
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2