With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, February 09, 2009

ACF 226: "The Enforcer" DVD streets tomorrow, February 10th, 2009"

As I first wrote in ACF 210, The Enforcer is coming out in a single disc Dragon Dynasty "Special Collector's Edition" tomorrow, Tuesday, February 10th, 2009.

Directed by Corey Yuen, the film stars Jet Li as Kung Wei, an undercover cop in Beijing, who somehow has managed to keep his job a secret from his asthmatic wife and adorable young son Johnny (Xie Miao), who like is father is adept at martial arts.

Arrested as part of a new assignment, Kung Wei busts out of jail with G-Dawg, and together they travel to Hong Kong, where G-Dawg arranges for Kung to join the gang that he belongs to. Pretty soon they're ripping off some Latvian (!) arms dealers in a high-octane set-piece at a glass walled restaurant.

At this point Inspector Fong (Anita Mui, at right in the photo above) becomes involved. She travels to Beijing to get info about Kung, whom she knows only as a criminal involved in the shoot-out. Under false pretense, she meets and befriends his family, and winds up bringing Johnny back to Hong Kong.

The two Kungs, father and son, are united in a very satisfying final confrontation with the bad guys. Some truly innovative martial art stunts are employed, and a couple of comic elements are thrown into the mix.

I was astonished to find that the DVD has only a dubbed English soundtrack. The lack of a Cantonese soundtrack is addressed in this statement released by Genius Products (which, along with The Weinstein Company puts out Dragon Dynasty) after the initial P.R. release and the sending out of screeners:

"Dragon Dynasty strives to provide fans with only the highest quality DVD releases, including restored video and audio and extensive never-before-seen bonus features created exclusively for the label.

Though no usable version of the original Cantonese-language track was available in time for this release, every effort was made to bring together the best elements in the world in creating the greatest version of The Enforcer ever experienced on DVD in the U.S."

I'm sorry but I find this hard to swallow. The give-away is the phrase "in time for this release," which indicates there is/are original Cantonese-language tracks available.

Last fall, in response to a generally positive comment about Dragon Dynasty releases that I made at Grady Hendrix's Kaiju Shakedown (since dropped by Variety), I took considerable grief from some others for my views. I still have a generally positive view of the Dragon Dynasty releases, especially the bonus features they provide. But they've really dropped the ball with this one.

The Enforcer has some problems as it is. Jet Li has never been a great actor, and the drama inherent in the plot are beyond his skills. But everyone's performance suffers more because of the invariable disconnect between the actors in the film and the voice actors doing the English-dubbed soundtrack. This even though it's at times clear that some decent effort has been made to match the movement of the actor's mount to the English being spoken.

I like having an English-dubbed soundtrack as an option, either for a change or when I'm too tired to read subtitles. But only as an option to the original soundtrack.

I can't in good conscience recommend this DVD as anything more than a rental. I can only judge the film through the filter of the dubbed dialogue. It's not top-drawer Jet Li, but it does have some great action sequences. Also the film benefits from the presence of the late Anita Mui, a multi-talented star who died in December, 2003 from cervical cancer. She was only 40 years old. So the movie gets 2.5 out of 4 stars, fairly good.

Despite the decent extras (a commentary by Bey Logan and three interviews), I can only give the DVD package a rating of 1 out of 4 stars, poor. The lack of a Cantonese soundtrack prohibits a higher rating.

So rent it, find a version with the Cantonese soundtrack on the Internet, or wait until Dragon Dynasty decides to do right by the film and its customers.

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