When Clint Eastwood’s nameless cowboy first appears in any scene from a Sergio Leone film, the audience practically understands his backstory with little explaining – a former assassin who probably killed too many people and is now trying to change his past by helping some innocent folk. With little dialogue and the plot of the film explained visually, Eastwood’s cowboy flicks have clear stories, flow smoothly, and are totally exciting. Wind Blast may seem like a kung fu western on steroids (as advertised on the Blu-ray cover) but comes across as a confusing and slow-moving parody of a western. Inspired by Eastwood’s typical cowboy characters, too many characters in Wind Blast have mysterious backstories that are eventually explained much too late in the film to care. The lack of clarity has nothing to do with the story at all as well since this is not a film with twists and surprises. If the story was clearly established within the first ten minutes rather than after sixty ambiguous minutes, Wind Blast may have been a more pleasurable movie to watch.
Some may call the screenplay creative with its lack of dialogue, but I shall call it lazy screenwriting. From what I could interpret from this two-hour film that felt like three and a half hours, Wind Blast begins with a hitman shooting a guy sitting at a cafe in the city. Before taking out his target, the hitman stealthily snaps a picture of his boss who sent him out on this mission. Cut to the opening credits. The rest of the movie jumps many months ahead to the Gobi Desert with four policemen out looking for the hitman hiding in a secret cave. The hitman turns out to be a protagonist because the character has a pregnant wife tagging along with him. Also looking for the good hitman are two assassins who were hired to kill him because he took that picture of the big bad boss at the beginning of the film. The policemen capture the hitman and then try to safely get him back to police headquarters in the city but the two assassins don’t make the job easy for them – the rest of the film is non-stop action on the highways of the Gobi Desert as the assassins and policemen take turns shooting at each other until the end of the film. That sounds exciting but I didn’t understand what was going on until late into the film – action movies are awesome when we know the conflict and why people are fighting. Simple and clear screenwriting established at the beginning of a typical action movie – as in The Raid, The Transporter or Taken – can make a film with non-stop action exciting and not dull. There were some cool staged action scenes but overall an overkill amount of action amounts to boredom when the audience doesn’t know why anyone is fighting in the first place. For two hours straight, the director Qunshu Gao shows the audience all the different crazy stuntwork that could be accomplished in the desert mixed with some clichéd cowboy stuff like duels and cars chasing each other in a circle a la cowboys and indians. There was almost hope for this film once the assassins stumble across an ancient cave full of rusty war weapons from a war from the past – I was hoping that Wind Blast would turn into those out-of-the-blue “what-the-f” movies (as in From Dusk to Dawn) where the good and bad guys would have to team up together in the third act to fight some aliens or vampires that were hibernating in an ancient cave, but nope – nothing surprising or interesting ever happens – just more shooting, more explosions, and more chases until the end credits.
One of the main negatives of the film is the marketing of Wu Jing on the cover of the Blu-ray cover. I thought that Wind Blast starred Wu Jing. For anyone that doesn’t know Wu Jing (or known as Jacky Wu), he’s a martial artist extraordinaire who has displayed his talent in Hong Kong movies such as Kill Zone (aka SPL), Tai Chi II, and Fatal Contact. In Wind Blast, he has about two short fight scenes but the majority of his action scenes revolve around him driving his car as if he’s in The Fast and the Furious. The funniest line in the whole movie comes at the beginning of the movie. In his first appearance as he steps out of his car after doing some crazy car stuntwork in order to stop some goons in another car, the goon angrily asks Wu Jing, “Who do you think you are? Jay Chou?” International star Jay Chou starred in a Fast and the Furious-type movie called Initial D which was the film that made him famous. Wind Blast should have hired Jay Chou or any other generic actor instead because Wu Jing does not really get to fight here, just drive.
I was hoping that Wind Blast would have stunning, three-dimensional video quality since a bright movie filmed in the desert would usually have that advantage on Blu-ray, but the 1080p 2.35:1 image just has solid respectable video quality. From this Blu-ray from Well Go USA, you get a handsome picture with plenty of detail and richness. Whether it’s the nighttime shots or dark interiors of tents and caves, or the glaring moments in the desert sun, the Blu-ray image offers consistent detail, bringing out even the most subtle textures and gradients. Close-ups and medium shots stand out much better than far shots of the sweeping desert cinematography scenes which come across as soft and not quite sharp. Even though black levels are decent and rarely cause characters and surroundings to lose definition or shadow detail, those dark scenes show up more as grey and grainy.
Perfect! The one thing I loved while watching this movie was listening to the Mandarin DTS-HD 5.1. This audio is reference quality. Wind Blast is the type of film that perfectly balances scenes where environmental sounds bring out the beauty of the Gobi Desert and scenes where a very aggressive soundtrack takes hold of the audience’s ears with a full-on assault of the senses. During the plentiful action sequences of car chases, horse chases, gun shots, explosions, knives whizzing all over the place, Wind Blast fully takes advantage of all six channels and subwoofer. The sounds of the tires zooming and screeching on the desert highway and the galloping horse hoofs on the desert rocks really felt life-like and intense. The dialogue is always clear even in the loud moments.
Only English subtitles are included.
Offered on Blu-ray here is satisfying enough for this type of action flick. We get a 25-minute Making-of-the-film featurette which includes clips of the film and interviews with the cast and crew. The Behind-the-scenes extra is another 25-minute featurette just showing clips of the movie being filmed which looked like a major pain in the butt since they were on location in the Gobi Desert. I do appreciate the movie more seeing the process of how it was made, but it’s just too bad that they didn’t find a better screenwriter. Trailers include other Blu-ray releases from Well Go USA and the original trailer for Wind Blast.
- Making of Featurette
I’m happy that Mainland China has released a very commercial action movie for a change from the propaganda or art-house films they usually produce. Wind Blast is comparable to any other typical action film from the Hong Kong film industry. Other than being a movie that is marketed to everyone in the world, Wind Blast still comes across as being dull and vague with its overkill amount of action and poor screenwriting (or lack of it). Still, diehard action fans may appreciate watching a movie just for its outrageous stunt work, high-speed car and horse chases, and brief martial arts scenes. Those looking for a decent story, a movie starring Wu Jing, or an original kung fu western can skip this movie. But I recommend Wind Blast for diehard action movie fans who have sweet home theater setups, especially since this Blu-ray has excellent video and reference-quality audio.