Everyone knows that aside from being one of his most highly regarded films, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is also extremely influential. From John Sturges’ Magnificent Seven to Star Wars to Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, the tale of helpless villagers in need of heroes in a time of need stems from Seven Samurai. It’s not surprising to see the Chinese variant Seven Warriors coming to Blu-ray from Well Go USA on April 22. Aided by co-director Sammo Hung, director Terry Tong brings a surprisingly violent end to a slapstick-influenced midsection. How does it measure up to the original? Warriors is better than some.
Transitioning the action to the Warlord Era China, we find soldiers turning into bandits and raising hell on the local farmers. In the village of Guangxi, the people decide to take a stand to defend their homeland. Now, they have brought seven warriors to aid them against the evil doings: Liu (Ben Lam), Ghost (Ma Wu), Karl (Fui-On Shing), Ching (Jacky Cheung), Yung (Siu Chung Mok), Wu (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), and Cmdr. Chi (Adam Cheng). Together they embark on a mission to stop the nefarious Ma Cheng Piu (Lo Lieh) and bring peace back to the village.
I have to admit, I was quite surprised by the level of detail for a 25-year-old Chinese film. Typically these are not in the best shape and take an exhaustive amount of restoration to look as good as Seven Warriors does. Aside from the typical scratches and white specks, the daytime scenes fare the best with plenty of facial details, clothing textures, and background elements such as trees and fields. Considering it’s on a smaller 25GB disc, it should come as no surprise to find mosquito noise and less detail during nighttime sequences. Aliasing and banding are never an issue.
The other sore spot is the Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Filled with one of the worst synth scores imaginable, at least the dialogue is always clean, even if it wouldn’t matter considering the English subtitles. Foley effects are appropriately embellished making the film feel more like a ’70s kung fu movie rather than a late ’80s action film. Although, the synth score does seem like a cousin to all those Cannon films usually starring Chuck Norris. The only special feature is a theatrical trailer, but there are also previews for next month’s Special ID starring Donnie Yen, along with the already available Wrath of Vajra and Badges of Fury.
There’s not a lot about Seven Warriors to offer audiences looking for another version of Kurosawa’s masterpiece, especially with that one available in a definitive Criterion Blu-ray release. I suppose the ones most likely to seek out Seven Warriors are cinephiles who just want a new flavor. This is not the worst adaptation out there, but with the original available in such an outstanding package, the high price of Criterion’s Seven Samurai is still the best bet. With surprisingly decent video however, it is worth a look for anyone in need of a fix. Even I had a phase where I had to see every DVD release from Dragon Dynasty, and this would have felt right at home amongst them.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00HRYH6NQ][amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B003KGBISY]