Film & DVD Review
To give their relationship some new excitement, love Yui and Ching plan to spend their holidays together in Europe. Unfortunately, their car is stolen on the day they are due to depart. After a big quarrel, Yiu and Ching break up and quickly go their serperate ways. On his way to the police station Yiu finds his stolen car, but with a drug trafficker and his gang hiding in it. Knowing Yui is a nurse, they take him hostage to help save their wounded partner. Ching becomse suspicious of what has happened to Yui, and over time discovers that only she can help save his life.
For all the people that read my reviews here but are not regulars at the likes of the Bullets N Babes Forums, I suggest you give sites like it a look over for other information on Asian films. Through those sites you hear of films through word of mouth that you might not have ever considered watching. For me Love Battlefield is one of those films, as with all the other films currently sitting on my shelf I had no intention of buying any more for a while. However, that changed after reading some positive feedback, so I decided to shell out for it and I'm very glad that I did.
A couple going through a rocky time in their relationship have planned a trip to Europe, but on the day they are due to leave they discover that their car has been stolen. After an argument, Yui (Eason Chan) decides to go to the police to report the car missing. During his ensuing taxi ride he finds the car parked on a quiet street, but on closer inspection finds that the drug dealers who stole it aren't far away, and he is taken hostage. What follows is Yui's efforts to stay alive at the hands of the drug dealers, and his girlfriend's attempt to find out what has happened to him.
As far as romantic action dramas go, I can't think of any that I've seen that were as good as Love Battlefield. The script offers an excellent balance of all three elements with seamless overlapping, meaning that there is no stark contrast in scenes with bits seeming out of place or tempo. Credit for this has to be given to both the cast and the scriptwriters, as everything is played with complete sense of realism. Granted I don't actually know if the way the drug dealers act, and their disregard for everyone else's life, is actually true to life so I can't actually comment from that point of view. However, people like Yui and his girlfriend, Ching (Niki Chow), are real people. They are terrified, powerless, caught in something way out of their depth and just trying to survive.
The violence in the film keeps with the realism tone as it is not glamorous looking, it isn't flamboyant and stylish, it is simply very brutal and to the point. I would imagine that a group of deadly drug dealers out to kill people wouldn't go for the forty minute showdown with people dodging bullets left right and centre, jumping through windows and so on, they'd want it quick and methodical. That is how it is in the film. However the filmmakers certainly didn't hold back with the violence. There are many gunfights, with a very high accumulative body count, but there are a couple of other moments that are far more brutal and slightly disturbing. One person's head is stamped into the ground several times with blood spilling out shortly after. This sight is not laboured on at all, and most of the violence happens off screen, but the knowledge of what is happening makes it all the more violent thanks to your imagination. The same goes for a scene where someone is run over by a car. He is caught under the wheels and, from the very brief look that you get of the aftermath, his body is very much ripped apart. The sight you get of this is a little more than a brief glance, so it is impossible to see in detail what was on screen (unless you use the pause button), but the brief glance of a lot of red blood and the legs gives you a horrific mental image.
However, the film is not without its flaws. At times I found myself questioning Yui's insistence in not escaping and saving the lives of the bad guys (he's a medical nurse). With all he witnessed during his journey you would honestly have thought that he would have thought enough was enough at some point, but he doesn't. Then there is a scene near the end where Yui has to get a car door open, and tries breaking the window. With a lot of rocks at his feet his determination to break it with his body just does not seem right. I also found the introduction of the main drug dealer's wife to be a little too conveniently timed and placed for my liking, which was a shame as I would have thought they could have come up with something else for that scene and introduced her earlier. These quibbles don't detract much from the overall enjoyment from the film.
In his role as Yui I was quite impressed by Eason Chan. The fear and anguish in his face when confronted and put in situations by the drug dealers looks real, and the anger and emotion during his car-park argument with Ching also looked very real. That scene came off very well through the interaction between Chan and Niki Chow. With the back story you have for the two characters, the short change in mood from happy couple to all out war is very believable, and the raised voices and mannerisms were right on the spot. Maybe there was a little tension between the two on set that made the realistic arguing all the more easier to do! Unfortunately Niki Chow didn't impress quite as much as Eason Chan. She may have had a smaller role, but a lot of the time she simply spends it staring into space with a look of anguish and indecision on her face. With the exception of some notable scenes, there isn't a huge amount of variation from this.
Wang Zhi Wen and Qin Hai Lu play the drug dealer's leader and his wife respectively. Wang Zhi Wen comes across as one ruthless b@stard! He cares for no one but his gang, and will kill at will, a trait that Zhang portrays alarmingly well! Qin Hai Lu as the more compassionate character, but still one that is not afraid to get her hands dirty and kill. As a result she has a wider range of emotions, from the sympathetic and caring to ruthless and deadly, all of which are well portrayed.
A technical area that the film could really have done with some improvement in is the lighting. There are quite a few scenes that are simply far too dark. At first I was thinking that this was a bad judgement in the transferring of the film print to DVD, but there are scenes that are adequately lit, so the scenes that are too dark stand out a little too much. The lack of lighting in places certainly detracted from some scenes, as the finer details of what was taking place just couldn't be seen.
Action, drama and romance; this film has all three in a healthy combination that is definitely worth experiencing.
Audio & Subtitles
As is the norm with most Mei Ah releases these days, there is an original language DTS track available on the DVD, and that is what I chose to listen to. While not a track that gives the surrounds their greatest of workouts, the audio is suitably spread around the soundstage where needed. All sound effects are crystal clear, and basically nothing really to complain about that I noticed.
Spelling and grammar for the English subtitles were very good, as I don't recall seeing any mistakes. Near the end of the film in the underwater scene writing appears on the screen and it is not subtitled, which is a shame. I don't think it is the beginning of the credits, but I have no idea what it could be either.
As I've stated in the main body of the review, in some scenes the picture is very dark. This is made worse from there being very little in the way of shadow detail - it is pretty much in light or black, no grey-tones for the shadows. The print is very clean, with only a very few speckles appearing on screen. Colours look a little washed out, but this again could possibly be due to the lack of adequate lighting, or a deliberate choice for this rather bleak film. Detail levels are decent, but not near mind-blowing, and there is some noticeable grain effects in places.
DVD & Extras
As is the way with extras, the film's trailer is present on this DVD. In addition to this there is a 7 min 45 second Making Of featurette featuring some short interview snippets, film clips and them shooting some scenes. Next up is the deleted scenes section, which clocks in at 8 minutes. This includes an alternate ending and 2 other deleted scenes. Then there is the Databank that includes the film's synopsis and a brief who's who in the film. Finally there is a music video, where you have the choice of having it with the words, or just instrumental. In both cases the lyrics are on screen for karaoke purposes. None of these extras have English subtitles.
For a purchase based on positive word of mouth, I am more than happy with Love Battlefield as it delivers solid entertainment from many different genres. A good story and a decent cast performance keeps you engaged from start till end as you watch one of the better romantic action dramas out there!
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