Blu-Ray Spotlight: Daniel Lee’s ‘Code of the Assassins’
The steampunk wuxia film arrives next week on DVD and Blu-Ray from Well Go USA.
Daniel Lee, director of Black Mask, Dragon Blade, and 14 Blades has seen his passion project Code of the Assassins through to a streaming premiere on Hi-Yah!’s digital platform and is getting the Blu-Ray treatment from Well Go USA. It’s a wonky film first and foremost but has some really satisfying action sequences that honestly make it all worth it in the midst of everything it tries to do for its too-long runtime. But in the end this film has a lot to offer martial arts fans and will have you cheering during its ridiculous and over the top action sequences.
Code of the Assassins often looks quite beautiful with some really nicely staged shots and sequences. The disc is an AVC encoded transfer of the film in 2.23:1, a little larger than Well Go USA’s previous releases. At points the image can look pristine but in a lot of other instances a dark bluish tint threatens to replace the natural blacks in certain moments. It doesn’t seem to be an encoding issue but instead a filter placed over the image that seems a little overbearing at times. It’s most prevalent during night scenes or in dark interior sets, especially when CG effects are on display at the same time. But the film offers crisp and bright, almost glowing glamour shots that showcase the beauty of the visuals and give the film a character all its own. Despite the almost video game-ish qualities of the effects the fast-paced action doubles down on the feeling of adrenaline Assassins is clearly riding on.
This is where the release really shines. There are two Mandarin language tracks, one in 5.1 surround and the other in standard PCM stereo with optional English subtitles. There is no English dub track for this release. The sonic picture this disc provides uses the space it has to the fullest, and the surround track is particularly robust. During the Ghost Valley sequences and each time we get a slow-motion look into the main hero’s steampunk biotic arm, the sounds come around from all sides to hype you up for the next action-packed moment. Code of the Assassins rewards those who like their movies played loud, and with a crowd it will really sing.
- Trailer (1 min 31 sec)
Well Go USA’s disc release of Assassins features the same minimal extras, trailers for other physical releases they offer that play automatically on disc bootup. The trailer for Assassins can also be accessed from the menu, although the trailers that auto-play at disc start will play immediately afterwards.
Code of the Assassins attempts to take on a few too many things, from a frankly confusing thread of political intrigue to an admittedly forced romantic subplot that gets more complicated as the aforementioned political intrigue does the more that’s revealed. But the constant source of entertainment at the heart of this movie lies within its martial arts choreography, action & stunt directing, and cinematography with the underpinning of stellar sound design. That is to say, the writing can bloat the feeling of urgency the main plot seems to indicate is so important to our main character.
Working among other assassins who can easily be contracted to work against you forces the need to be on your toes constantly, and that’s a sentiment that doesn’t really come across in the final film. But to expand on this would be to critique the film in general and not the medium it’s being released on, which as is the case with most Well Go USA’s output, a solid product that should find its way onto the shelves of anyone who enjoys Daniel Lee films and especially those who watched this on Hi-Yah! at least twice. The action scenes are gangbusters with a crowd and the visuals are eye candy enough to keep you glued to the screen even during the most confusing elements of its story. This release comes recommended.
Code of the Assassins releases on Tuesday, March 28th.
You can pre-order a copy on Amazon or Gruv on DVD and Blu-Ray now.
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.