Blu-Ray Spotlight: Bad City
Kensuke Sonomura has been a rising director in martial arts film for a little while now, and Hydra certainly turned some heads when Well Go USA released his first film in 2021, two years after its inital release. Sonomura’s second film here, Bad City, gets a release much sooner from Well Go between its festival run in just over a year.
The film follows the metropolitan police department in the fictional Kaiko City, where a Yakuza lord announces that he will run for mayor. A special task force is created to take him down as quickly & effectively as possible, which sees the temporary release of ex-police inspector Torada (Hitoshi Ozawa) to help lead the investigation. The film is very much steeped in the world of procedural law enforcement, but occupied with those who already have reasons to distrust the system they have to work within.
Bad City is presented in its original aspect ratio, 2.39:1, in an AVC-encoded file. The look of the film is overly yellowish, in a grungy & dirty looking color overlay that nearly overstays its welcome yet lets a lot of good-looking details through particularly in closeup shots. Sometimes the filters can become bothersome in terms of turning blacks to a different hue, giving it a lifted quality. It looks as if the compression shows a slight amount of artifacting, but is just right at the edge of noticeability before it comes up as a recurring issue. There’s no information on what kinds of cameras were used for shooting but it seems to have been a situation where the compression algorithm is a little too conservative for the source material, or even a 4K treatment to give the film more room to breathe visually.
Bad City is presented here with both a Japanese and English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround and 2.0 linear PCM stereo track, with optional English subtitles. As usual, my recommendation would be to stick with the original Japanese track. But the English dub provides some good performances, although it can feel a little overdramatic like animes with their dubbing practices. The sense of place in the 5.1 tracks bring some really great audio, especially during action-packed scenes. The 2.0 stereo tracks also do a very good job of collapsing the surround into a more compact sonic package, and mastered quite well although louder segments feel a little hotter than the film’s quieter ones but just by a smidge.
Well Go USA’s releases are relatively bare bones and Bad City is no exception. There are trailers on the disc that play automatically on startup of other titles, and the trailer for Bad City is accessible from the menu. After the main title’s trailer plays the other trailers will autoplay after Bad City’s ends.
Bad City is an exercise of varying scopes for Sonomura, and the presentation that Well Go USA gives his sophomore film certainly delivers on a caliber the film deserves. With Well Go’s model for selecting titles that could receive a 4K treatment, it may be unlikely that this will get one but with Sonomura essentially batting 2 for 2 critically any future titles carried by the label could very well get to that point.
For now this is a very worthy release of a very good film that hits its high points once it gets out of the restrictive genre trappings of hitting procedural cop beats and plays in the much more fun martial arts playground Sonomura cut his teeth on. But the lead-up is far from boring as the underlying mistrust within the police force borrows some threads from David Simons’ excellent series The Wire. This is a title I’ve seen go from festivals directly to Well Go USA, and for the time being it’s certainly in capable hands. This release comes highly recommended.
Disclaimer: Well Go USA has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.