Article first published as Blu-ray Review: 'The Wrath of Vajra' on Blogcritics.
Being assistant director to the likes of Johnnie To for nearly 20
years, Wing-cheong Law was bound to make a movie of his own. And if The Wrath of Vajra
— now available on Blu-ray from Well Go USA — is of any indication,
he’s bound to have just as strong a career on his own. Together with
action choreographers Peng Zhang and Sammo Hung, Law has packed the film
to the gills with high-flying martial arts ranging from Shaolin Kung Fu
to Japanese ninja to Sanda. Law has set out to make a film beginning a
new Chinese superhero franchise of sorts and here’s hoping we see more
of both the character and films with Law’s name as the director’s
once, the plot isn’t as convoluted as expected from a movie of this
ilk. Set in the 1930s, we start with Amano Kawao (Yasuaki Kurata)
imprisoned after the disbanding of the Japanese death cult Hades, but on
its way to being revived after Japan meets resistance from China.
Kurashige (Sung-jun “Steve” Yoo) is working to rebuild Hades by
abducting children to train them as killers for the Emperor. As a child,
Vajra (Shi Yanneng) was the most lethal in his class, but escaped after
an accident kills his brother. Now, Vajra has returned to put an end to
Hades and reclaim his place as the King of Vajra. But first he’ll have
to fight his way through Tetsumaku (Baocheng Jiang), Crazy Monkey
(Poppin Hyun-Joon), and Kurashige himself, even if it means employing
the 17-second Deadly Moves.
The Wrath of Vajra puts the smack down on a 50GB disc in a
2.39:1 aspect ratio. As expected from a Well Go USA Blu-ray
presentation, detail is sharp as a tack. Something that comes in extra
handy when the rain finally kicks in for the final battle; you can’t
have a kung fu movie without at least one fight in the rain, right?
Colors are natural, if a bit unsaturated here and there, with blacks
nice and inky with no sign of crush. Noise never rears its head, and
unfortunately, one extremely noticeable instance of banding finally
shows up as the film fades to the end credits.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track shines just as much as the video.
Featuring a Mandarin/Japanese track, dialogue is always crystal clear
with surrounds, music, and deep bass pitting you right in the middle of
the action. Also included is a Mandarin/Japanese 2.0 Stereo mix, as well
as two English language tracks in both 5.1 DTS-HD and 2.0 Stereo.
English and French subtitles round things out.
As for special features, the film’s trailer is included, along with previews for additional Well Go USA titles: The Suspect, Special ID, and Badges of Fury.
A “Making Of” consists of six featurettes that can be played
continuously and run a combined total of 25 minutes. They are broken
down into the following: “The Mission,” “Martial Arts Styles,” “The
Rebirth,” “Fighting I,” “Fighting II,” and “Fighting III.” Featuring
interviews with the cast and crew, and behind the scenes footage, you
get to see how much passion was put into the production, along with how
much of a beating the cast and stunt team endured. They really had to
hit each other otherwise they knew the action wouldn’t look real. A job
well done on all accounts as some of the action scenes are as brutal as
Law stages most of the action so you can actually see what’s going
on, and it’s interesting to note that the film was apparently originally
in 3D as there are 3D credits at the beginning of the film. Law also
employs the help of Matt Mullins (Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight and Mortal Kombat: Legacy’s
Johnny Cage) to lend some American flare to the proceedings, but have
no doubt, this is the Steve Yoo and Shi Yanneng show and everything
comes down their final fight. The first hour is a lot of buildup but
once you get beyond that, the film becomes more fun. I highly recommend The Wrath of Vajra to martial arts and action fans, with the nearly perfect video/audio and excellent supplements making this worth a blind buy.