The name Ronny Yu may not mean much to American audiences. In Hong Kong, he has been directing movies since 1979 but never garnered as much attention as he did after the success of The Bride with White Hair in 1993. Armed with an imaginative martial arts take on the Liang Yusheng novel Baifa Monü Zhuan, Yu flipped the tale into an action-packed Romeo and Juliet.
Stateside, Yu would come to mainstream attention after breathing new life into the pint-sized killer doll franchise with Bride of Chucky and delivered genre fans the long-delayed Freddy vs. Jason. As far as his action roots go, he’s probably best known for the Jet Li’s Fearless. Proving he still has some fight left in him—he’s only directed eight films in 20 years—now Yu brings the story of the legendary Generals of the Yang Family as the band of brothers set out to rescue their father in Saving General Yang, now available on Blu-ray.
The Yang family is led by General Yang Linggong (Adam Cheng) with a ruling thumb over his seven sons: Yan Ping (Ekin Cheng), Erlang (Yu Bo), Sanlang (Vic Chou), Silang (Li Chen), Wulang (Raymond Lam), Yanzhou (Wu Chun), and Yansi (Fu Xinbo). Yanzhou and Yansi have just competed in a fight tournament, winding up in the death of Lord Pan Renmei’s (Bryan Leung) son. Pan wants payback for his son’s death so after General Yang is captured in an ambush by the Khitan, he offers no assistance. Now, the seven sons are sent out to rescue him while the dastardly Yelü Yuan (Shao Bing) continues to attack the Song Empire who has vowed revenge against Yang over the death of his own father.
There are subplots involving Yanzhou’s love for Princess Chai (Ady An), his childhood sweetheart, and General Yang’s wife She Taijun (Xu Fan), worrying about the prophecy that seven sons will leave and only six will return. But we’ve come for the action and boy, does Yu deliver the goods. Filled with breathtaking hand-to-hand combat sequences, a blazing aerial assault, an attack on Wolf Mountain, a canyon assault, and a one-on-one bow and arrow showdown, we definitely get more than we could hope for. Add in the brotherhood of the Yang sons and their loyalty to save their father and possibly the dynasty and you’ve got the emotional oomph to make every battle seem more brutal than the last.
To make things even better, Well Go USA has blasted Saving General Yang onto a spacious 50GB disc in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Well Go USA has a long standing of excellence in their releases and this one never faults. I couldn’t find anything to nitpick in the entire 102 minute runtime. Facial features, special effects, clothing, set design, everything is brought to life with impeccable detail. No banding, aliasing, crush, or even shimmer rears its head.
The same goes for the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. Presented in both Mandarin and English (2.0 stereo is also available in both languages), the soundfield is always active. From whistling arrows and whirling wind to every sword clang, not even the music drowns out the dialogue, with every sound effect coming at you from every direction. A nice level of LFE keeps the action rumbling along as well. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish, and French.
In the special features department, they cover just about every aspect you can think of. While the “Making Of” only runs eight minutes, things are more than made up for with the “Interviews with Director and Cast” supplement. Running a whopping combined 94 minutes, co-writer/director Ronny Yu and all of the Yangs are included as they go over the production design, themes, and action pieces. There are also previews for upcoming Well Go USA titles: The Wrath of Vajra, On the Job, and Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon.
If you’re looking for some intense, brutal, and practical action—meaning Ronny Yu doesn’t rely on high-flying computer enhanced spectacles—then Saving General Yang is exactly what you’re looking for. Featuring great performances, the aforementioned action sequences (brought to life by a faultless transfer with a fantastic audio track), Saving General Yang is more than a great addition to the onslaught of action films coming out of the Well Go USA pipeline. It would also make a great holiday gift for the action lover in the house and I have no qualms about deeming this release highly recommended.