Confucius [Blu-Ray] Mei Hu

Confucius [Blu-Ray] Mei Hu
Chow Yun-Fat returns to Western audiences following a long absence from 2000's international hit, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The legendary star of Hong Kong gangster films returns in a much different role, that of ancient philosopher Confucius, in this historical epic. Chow carries a film that is part action and part drama, but ultimately uneven. The first half showcases Chow as the wise sage whose Christ-like ideas of fairness and benevolence face resistance, but gain grudging acceptance amongst powerful politicians. Chow commands the screen with an assured, but quietly powerful performance, showing how Confucius rose from mayor to minister as his influence on Chinese society grew. The first half also carries an exciting war sequence set in 497 B.C. that features hundreds of extras and elaborate green screening that would match any Hollywood blockbuster. The pacing slows considerably in the second half, which chronicles Confucius and his followers wandering in exile and struggling to survive. Confucius's rivals fear his growing influence and drive him away. Scenes drag and some should have been left on the cutting room floor. The second half isn't fatal to the film, but pales next to the exciting first hour. Four bonus featurettes offer a behind-the-scenes look of the filming. One piece praises Chow Ad nauseam without offering much insight into his personality or working method. The others are formulaic promotional pieces collecting sound bites from the director and stars on set. The exception is the eight-minute "Chaotic Period of Spring and Autumn," where director Mei Hu takes us on-set to reveal the green-screening of the chariot-driven war sequence, the detailed period sets and massive Beijing soundstage where most of the filming took place. The picture and sound transfer on both the DVD and Blu-Ray are exceptional, though Confucius is best seen on the big screen. (Funimation)