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The Film
Saviour of the Soul II

Its Origin
Hong Kong

Running Time
93 mins

Genre(s)
Fantasy
Comedy

Director(s)
Corey Yuen
David Lai

Stars
Andy Lau
Rosamund Kwan
Shirley Kwan
Corey Yuen

DVD Distributor
Universe

DVD Origin
Hong Kong

Region Code
All

DVD Format
NTSC

Audio Tracks
Cantonese Mono
Mandarin Mono


Subtitles
Chinese, English

Screen Format
Letterboxed

Special Info
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Saviour of the Soul II


Film & DVD Review

The Film
In a search for a treasure aiming for a reward from the devil, Andy met and found his long time dream lover, Rosamund. However in order to save Rosamund from the Devil, Andy was killed. Rosamund gives Andy her last sacred breath for his resurrection but Andy has chosen to die again for the retrieval of Rosamund's beauty. Andy and Rosamund could only become dream lovers.

The first Saviour Of The Soul is a film which I hold in very high regard. It is very much like a fantasy comic book on film, and it features some cool fight scenes, funny humour and a decent story. Liking a film that much makes you want to see its sequel to find out if it can be as good as the original. Unfortunately in this instance, it is not the case, and from very early on in the film it is painfully clear that Saviour Of The Soul II has absolutely nothing to do with the first film at all, and is merely a sequel in name only.

I'll start things out by stating that Saviour Of The Soul II is a very strange film in almost every regard. The plot, when implemented onto film, is really quite bizarre. On paper it sounds like it should be an interesting fantasy story, but the directors have made it into a very strange ride indeed. The humour is also very strange. It varies its tone frequently and can go from normal slapstick to spoof, and all the way to downright ridiculous, surreal and weird. Basically what I'm trying to say is do not go into Saviour Of The Soul II expecting a normal film, even by some Hong Kong standards.

What I can make out of the plot goes like this... Andy Lau is Ching Yan, a man that has dreamed of the same woman every night for 28 years. He sees her as being his dream girl. Living with his godson (who idolises him), and mad doctor friend (Corey Yuen) they end up setting out on a quest to track down the Virgin's Ice, in order to get a large financial reward. It is rumoured that the Virgin's Ice can give eternal life. Unbeknownst to Ching Yan, the woman that is the Virgin's Ice is the woman in his dreams (Rosamund Kwan). Also wanting to get his hands on the Virgin's Ice is the King of Evil, and in an attack Ching Yan is fatally wounded. The only way he can be brought back is from the breath of the Virgin's Ice woman, but if she gives him life, she will lose her life.

Ok, so I don't think it sounds as bizarre as I stated it actually is, you really need to see the film to appreciate how strange it becomes at times. A factor that probably heightens this is the fact that the tone of the film changes quite frequently. It starts off as an out and out comedy, with some really weird and wonderful gags, then it turns into more of an action film and lastly it becomes far more drama orientated, with little in the way of humour at all. This tone imbalance, while quite typical for a lot of Hong Kong films, due to its severity it detracts from the film.

The humour at the start of the film certainly takes a few minutes to get used to, as it really is beyond slapstick. It is fantasy humour, with no hints of reality involved. There is a magnifying glass that actually increases the size of things that it appears to magnify, invisible potions, and quite a few other visual gags. The magnifying one is used just a little too much and as such in the scenes it is used in, the humour value is somewhat decreased by the last use. One of the funnier moments is the spoof of Stephen Chow's spoof of the God of Gambler's entrance. Or at least I figure from what is said in the film, it is a spoof of Stephen Chow's spoof in All For The Winner as I have yet to see that film. Most of the humour certainly is strange, weird, bizarre, ridiculous, slapstick and almost any other word like that which you care to use, but after I got used to it I did find it quite funny. Unfortunately some of the gags were lost on me due to the subtitles not subtitling text.

So after the humour, Saviour Of The Soul II became more focussed on being an action film. The action is generally weapon based, with Andy Lau sporting a straight sword, much like in the original Saviour Of The Soul, maybe that was the link needed to call this part II?! Anyway, the action is quite entertaining to watch, but is very heavily fantasy orientated, using wires for practically every scene and move. The characters can't just jump ridiculously large and high distances, they can actually fly. So make sure you switch off all reality filters prior to watching this film (if you choose to watch it that is!). The choreography isn't over complex, and does feature a lot of spinning and the like to make it look more fancy and aesthetically appealing, which works for me! It won't make you go "wow!", but I think it is still entertaining enough.

For me the film's weakest area is the drama sections relating to the plot. As the film really is a bit of a jumbled mess as far as tone goes, emotion towards the characters is not built up that well through the story. So when things start getting sentimental and dramatic, I found that I wasn't really involved or caring. Following and understanding the plot is also a little difficult, so having to try to figure out what is going on is something else that detracts from anything positive about the drama.

The acting is a difficult one to comment on. I don't think anyone puts in that great a performance by any means, but the performances are definitely suited to the comedy moments. In such farcical comedy, sub-par acting can be excused and can possibly even fit well in those situations, but when the film turns serious the flaws in the acting become quite obvious. Like in the film The Moon Warriors, Andy Lau is not that convincing at all at acting a dying man. I leave it with just saying that there certainly won't have been any Oscar nods for anyone in this film.

While there are moments in the film that are memorable, one of them being the scenery in the snowy mountain shots, there are many other moments that are worth forgetting. The film feels like too much of a mess, and this undoubtedly harms the overall enjoyment factor.

Audio & Subtitles
Saviour Of The Soul II comes with audio in either Cantonese or Mandarin, both of which are only mono tracks. The Cantonese track was chosen for my viewing. First thing that was noticed was that the speech was clearly post-synched as the speech was not in time with the movement of the actors' and actresses' mouths. The only real criticism I have for this audio track is that it did sound a touch distorted at times. This made the effects and some speech not have the sharpness and clarity you would have hoped for.

Spelling and grammar were really rather good with the English subtitles, as there were only a few noticeable errors with each. However, on the negative side of things, text is not subtitled at all, and there are several scenes where the text needs to be subtitled to either fully understand the scene or to get some of the gags. Additionally the songs that are sung in the soundtrack to the film are not subtitled either.

Quality
The letterboxed print is a bit of a mixed bag here. There are places where the print looks really quite pale, but there are other scenes where the colours look well reproduced. There are a lot of primary colour objects or clothing used in the film and these items can look quite vibrant at times. Unfortunately there is also some noticeable colour bleeding in some scenes. The print is not as clean as it could be, as there are quite a few speckles and the like throughout the film, and detail levels don't look that great as the print is, on the whole, quite soft.

DVD & Extras
For extras there is the typical stuff; Star Files for Andy Lau only, which is in English and Chinese, and trailers for this film and Days of Tomorrow.

Overall
I admit I was a little prejudice against this film at first because it uses the Saviour Of The Soul name, but clearly isn't a related sequel to this film at all. However, treating it fairly I do think that the film has some promising moments, but is so seriously let done by the huge tone imbalance and a rather jumbled and slightly confusing to follow plot. It could definitely have been better, and had it stayed as an outright comedy I do think this would have been a highly enjoyable film. As it is, though, I think it is one that can quite easily be overlooked.

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All review content copyrighted © (2003-2009) Kris Wojciechowski

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