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Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Action > Drama > Gangster > Costume > Epic > Gambling > A Better Tomorrow (2010 Remake/Korea/Well Go USA Blu-ray w/DVD)/Shaolin (2011/Well Go USA DVD)/13 (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)

A Better Tomorrow (2010 Remake/Korea/Well Go USA Blu-ray w/DVD)/Shaolin (2011/Well Go USA DVD)/13 (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)


Picture: B- & C+/C+/B-     Sound: B- & C+/B-/B     Extras: C/C-/D     Films: C+/C/D



The latest martial arts action selections are more show than go.


For starters, did we really need a remake of John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow?  Well, a new 2010 version is here, shot this time in Korea and includes every cliché we have seen since everyone started imitating Woo and especially since they started imitating him so badly.  Woo served as Executive Producer, but all it does is add to the tired, embarrassing glut of bad remakes we have seen in Hollywood and beyond.  Director Song Hae-Sung said he wanted to tell the more personal character story of the characters.  He failed!  The action scenes are awful, pace tired and even Korea could look better.  Extras include a Woo Interview, trailers, Making Of featurette and Director/Cast Interviews.


With better fight scenes and even more clichés and silliness is Benny Chan’s Shaolin (2011), another costume epic with plenty of fighting, but less of a point.  As a matter of fact, this has some of the best hand-to-hand combat I had seen in any film in a while, so it is all the more disappointing it does not work.  The formula script is made worse by an odd, unnecessary appearance by Jackie Chan that is just there for commercial reasons.  At least the money is in this and it can look good, but it is really a big missed opportunity and maybe they’ll do better next time.  Extras include Deleted Scenes, International Trailers and a Theatrical Trailer.


But we have saved the worst for last in Géla Babluani’s 13 (2011), a would-be mysterious thriller about a young man (Sam Riley) who makes the mistake of substituting himself for a older man who has died to make some big money.  So what is the large-paying job?  Professional Russian Roulette!  Wow is this dumb!!!


I knew we were in trouble when Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson was announced as a co-star (he has a radar for bad scripts like no one since Freddie Prinze, Jr.), but this mess also wastes Ray Winstone, Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, Michael Shannon Alexander Skarsgard, Ben Gazarra and everyone else in its way.  I am ready for a marathon of Cimino’s Deer Hunter (1978, reviewed elsewhere on this site) after this.  Unless you want top waste two hours or more of your life skip it.  There are fortunately no extras.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Better and 13 Blu-rays are styled down in the most clichéd ways and the playback suffers for it.  Dull colors equals bad movies now more than ever.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD version of Better is even worse and on par with Shaolin with playback, though that is on a Blu-ray we have not seen as of posting time.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on 13 is sadly the best sound on the list so you can hear people shooting their brains out with the highest fidelity possible, which epitomizes how wonderful the design is not.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Better is more towards the front speakers and oddly more limited, with the Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD version even noticeably lossier.  Shaolin also has Dolby Digital 5.1 with the same kind of limits, but I wonder if the Blu-ray sounds better and if so, how much.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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