Is prophecy unavoidable or do people make it happen in the attempt to make it real or destroy it?
What They Say
Contains the uncut Cantonese version, and the English language international version! Before Shaolin Soccer, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and Hero, there was the Stormriders. Released in 1998, it was the most visually impressive, action packed film to ever come out of Hong Kong. Based on the hugely successful comic book, Storm Riders set the standard for future action wire-fu special effects movies not only in Hong Kong but around the world. It broke all box office records in its native land due to its exciting story, stellar cast, and impressive CG effects.
Lord Conquer (Sonny Chiba) is an evil martial arts master obsessed with ultimate power. After learning that there are two young boys with special powers, he sets out to unite them and bring invincibility to his clan. After taking the boys by force, he begins training Wind (Ekin Cheng) and Cloud (Aaron Kwok) to use their special gifts. As they grow stronger, so does Conquer's clan. Wind and Cloud believe they were orphaned and raised by Lord Conquer so they feel they owe their lives to him. After Conquer announces that his daughter Charity (Kristy Yang) will marry Wind, the bond between the two brothers is broken. Once they discover Conquer's true intentions, his reign of evil has begun, and it will take the two brothers working together to destroy the man they once called their father.
Never before released in the United States in its original uncut form, this new special edition DVD is the ultimate edition of the original Storm Riders!
There are two versions of the film-a shorter edited for time international version with English 2.0 Dolby and the uncut version which has a Cantonese 5.1 and DTS track. For the purpose of this review the uncut version of the film was watched using the DTS mix. The mix is very nice where there are no dropouts though there is a short portion where one scene has a very high pitched whine in the background and a few parts where the balance got onto the loud end of the spectrum but voices were never drowned out to make room for music or effects.
Originally released in 1998 the film holds up fairly well with bright colors that don't bleed and the darker areas are crisp. The film itself has a fair level of grain that occasionally increases with a few effects but seem to be a product of the film and not an encode issue. There are also points of dithering and some dot crawl on the disc but they are few and far between however the dot crawl does appear in one of the extras as well.
The cover is a fairly colorful montage of scenes from the movie often tinted with the color spectrum as the cover uses a red tint at the top followed by blue in the middle and the lower portion is green. The Storm Riders' logo is placed just slightly lower than the middle of the cover. The biggest problem is it is very busy and the eye tends to wander rather than finding a prominent image that the others enhance. The back cover has a special effect image for the background listing the extras and 6 scenes from the movie underneath.
The menu has quick shots from various scenes the cycle rather rapidly with a fire effect in the foreground. The extras menu uses one scene of snow falling from the film with the fire present as well in the foreground. The title screen uses a few seconds of the movie theme song but repeats every 33 seconds so little is heard at the menu. The extras menu use a background track that repeats every 29 sec with a score track. The navigation is straight forward and quick to respond.
Discotek provides a large number of extras sure to please fans of the film. Included are an interview with director Andrew Lau, a special effects featurette, a making of "The Storm Riders" segment, character profiles, cast and filmmaker biographies, production stills gallery,as well as international and theatrical trailers for the film.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The film opens and shows Lord Conquer and his ambitions as he attempts to conquer the land while defeating skilled men to claim their treasured swords and prove his strength. He receives a two part prophecy from a Buddhist priest. The first part of the prophecy tells Lord Conquer if he finds two children-one named Cloud and the other Wind as well as getting their birth charts (astrological presumably)-he will have 10 years of good fortune. The other half of the prophecy is sealed in a box that Conquer has to figure out the combination for to have revealed. Conquer sets out to fulfill the first part of the prophecy by sending his men to find the children by raiding the villages of all to find all boys of a certain age. Conquer finds Wind after killing his father to try to obtain his treasured sword (though Wind does not see him do so and does not know Conquer killed his father). Cloud is found by Conquer's men after they have killed Cloud's clan to find him and the sword his father has recently forged that is of superior quality. The children are taken back to Conquer's palace where Wind meets Conquer's son Frost and daughter Charity and both Wind and Cloud are made Conquer's main disciples to be trained in the martial arts.
The film advances 10 years and Wind and Cloud are working for Conquer with different feelings for him. Wind believes Conquer saved him from being eaten by wolves after his father died (he was told his father died fighting a monster) though Cloud knows that Conquer had his clan killed and his hostility is not well hidden and he distant toward others. One area where both Wind and Cloud feel the same however is both have fallen for Charity though both are successful in keeping the fact mostly hidden.
After 10 years with no success opening the box Conquer sends Wind and Frost to find the priest who made the prophecy to open the box while Cloud is sent to assassinate one of the last of Conquer's rivals and to collect the sword he possess. Both parties are successful in their endeavors though the priest is spirited away from Wind and Frost by a powerful group of men who unknown to them were sent by Conquer. Conquer then forces the priest to open the box with the second half of the prophecy which states that Wind and Cloud will join forces and stop Conquer.
As Conquer tries to figure out how to get rid of both men he learns of Cloud's feelings toward his daughter and plans to drive a wedge between Cloud and Wind by using her. He declares that Wind and Charity are to be wed causing Cloud to interrupt the wedding. As the two men are fighting he plans to kill them both but Charity gets in the way and is killed causing both men to lose their way and spend two years figuring out who they are and where they stand as the film builds to whether the men will fulfill their prophecy.
The film offers some breathtaking scenery as well as spectacular stunts and wire work in addition to some impressive special effects that put it in good company with some of the top films to come out of Hong Kong cinema. Having seen a shorter version in the past the film holds up much better in its uncut form as the story makes more sense. The film has a few problems in that since it is an adaptation of a comic book series they try to get all the most important or moving pieces from that medium in but the impact often gets lost in its translation to an abbreviated format as time can't be spent building each character or event up. It isn't terribly distracting but it does feel like some characters appear and events happen because they were in the comic.
Storm Riders is a fun tale of ambition and revenge wrapped in the world of Hong Kong cinema and the impressive work they can produce. Fans of martial arts films and especially the ones that use wires and special effects to create spectacular stunts and images would be well advised to give this film a look and should look forward to a rather sweeping story and scenery.
English 2.0 on the international version and , Cantonese 5.1, DTS on the uncut with optional English subtitles
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, JVC DVD player XV-FA95GD