Initial D—Tai Seng Entertainment (Blu-ray)
Awhile back I was caught by surprise with the last installment in the Fast and the Furious franchise, Tokyo Drift. I thought the second film was the end of the line for great entertainment but the third installment ended up being quite good. Well you can tell they borrowed a lot from this film. Initial D is a live action imagining of the Manga by the same name and brought to the big screen by the creators of the popular Infernal Affairs series. The film centers on some street racers and the ever popular "drifting" so prevalent in street racing culture today. Two racers stumble upon a local Tofu delivery guy who just happens to be the master of a local downhill track and bring him into their world. The film is a bit corny at times, mainly do to the rather crude dubbing and comic-like acting, but it was also a lot of fun and the racing sequences are very well done. Anyone looking for a racing fix should definitely give this one a look.
This is the first Blu-ray release from Tai Seng entertainment and it's a decent entry into the format. The source print looks to be in good shape but the film doesn't have quite the polished feel of some of the newer films out there. Detail is on the better side though with great fine object detail and character dimension. Blacks are slightly elevated which hurts depth a bit but shadow detail is pretty good and the nighttime race sequences all look quite good. Some of the daytime sequences have whites that are slightly over cooked, but this is rarely a problem. While it may not look as good as some of the best Blu-ray releases out there, I was rarely disappointed.
The audio is a different animal. The main soundtrack is presented in uncompressed PCM 5.1 but the dubbing is horrible. Even though it is the original language soundtrack, the film's dialogue has been re-recorded and the ADR is really bad. The only time the dialogue matches up with the characters is during extreme close ups, and even then it sounds like it was recorded in a dub stage, not the actual filmed environment. This not only makes for a distracting experience, but the voice work sounds a bit comical. I tried to ignore it though since this is based on a comic and it probably lends to the original feel of the material. The rest of the sound design is solid though and I was impressed with how aggressive the surround mix was. The rear soundstage is quite active and really helps draw you in. Even the film's music is delivered from the surrounds, which is rare. Dynamics are outstanding and deep bass response was clean and tight though a bit laid back compared to the bigger budget racing films here stateside. Overall though this was a very enjoyable mix if you could get passed the dialogue.
There are a few good extras on this release. We get a couple of trailers, a TV spot and some outtakes. On the production side there are some behind the scenes features including a look at the making of the film, the characters and some outtakes.
I'm glad I picked this one up. The story wasn't the best one out there, but we had a lot of fun with it. I wish the audio presentation was a bit tighter, but the sound design and visuals were far better than I expected. Fans of the genre should give this one a look.