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The Wrath of Vajra (Blu-ray Review)

The Wrath of Vajra - www.whysoblu.comBefore the West entered World War II, a Japanese death cult called the Temple of Hades is ordered to aid in the spiritual destruction of China. Their method: abduct their enemies’ children and train them as killers for the Emperor. Young Vajra was especially gifted, but swears a secret oath of revenge when his brother dies. Now the greatest assassin in the temple, Vajra escapes to China and begins his quest to protect the innocent, and destroy the ones responsible for making him a living weapon. A former Shaolin monk, martial arts action star Xing Yu (aka Shi Yanneng) stars as Vajra in his first leading role.  

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Film 

The Wrath of Vajra focuses on the “Hades” cult who kidnaps children and turns them into deadly fighters. They are a Japanese cult and the film is set around the WWII era. The Hades cult seems to be stuck in a time of archaic rituals as the rest of the world, from what we gather via newspaper clippings and the female reporter whose only job is to cover the events of Hades, while technology spreads. All of the kids are branded with tattoos that represent their order. Our main protagonist is K-29 (Shi Yanneng) who was obviously kidnapped as a child, trained, but eventually left the cult to fight for those who could not defend themselves. He has returned to the Hades temple to settle some old scores. K-28 is the new leader of the Hades cult and goes by the name Hades Khan. Sprinkled throughout the film we also have POW’s who were subsequently drafted into the Hades cult by force. The Wrath of Vajra is a U.N. of sorts.

I first the trailer for The Wrath of Vajra a few months ago and was blown away by the visuals and martial arts. It looked vicious and action packed. I’m happy to say that both of those qualities translated very well into the final product. What didn’t translate well into the final film was the story. It’s a bit hard to follow and not clear enough. I think it the ambitiousness of the project got in the way. The martial arts scenes are spectacular and it was a real treat to experience them in high definition. I had previously made some comments that after seeing The Raid 2 in theaters and then coming back to American action films, there would be few and far between films like The Raid 2. While The Wrath of Vajra is nothing like The Raid 2, some of Vajra’s martial arts and stunt work is spectacular.

The action scenes in The Wrath of Vajra are grounded in Chinese Kung-Fu (according to the making-of featurette) and certain elements are enhanced by wirework. The wirework is kept to a minimum and certain scenes of wirework are only used to enhance the level of brutality. There are many wipeouts that made me cringe due to how hard these people were hitting the pavement – usually face first. Ouch! I do think that the longwinded mythology that Vajra tries to establish is what ultimately brings the overall film down a bit. The film runs under 2 hours, so maybe an extra 30 minutes could have done some good. I’m not sure.

One could go so far as to say that The Wrath of Vajra is all style and no substance but that wouldn’t necessarily true since it does try. Some flicks don’t even do that. It may also have to do with the many characters that introduced. You have the two main leads, K-28 & K-29, then the foreign POW’s, this giant man who is also part of the Hades cult and its current #1 fighter, and then you have the supernatural-horror element with Crazy Monkey, who looks like he ditched the latest Ringu film and found his way into Vajra. Crazy Monkey is bloody awesome. He combines horror, with parkour elements, and just decimates opponents. Have you ever seen a full speed fight under water? Well, The Wrath of Vajra has one and it is awesome!

I give The Wrath of Vajra an in-between 3 out of 5, because the film means well even if the overall product gets dragged down a bit by the plotting. It’s the amazing and brutal martial arts action that you came to see, right? Well, it’s here and in abundance! Strap yourself into your chair and prepare yourself. Hades has arrived!

 

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Video 

Encoding: AVC MPEG-4

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: Sharpness and contrast levels were kept in check, with just a few anomalies spread out here and there.

Depth: In terms of video reproduction and overall depth of field The Wrath of Vajra looks great. It features a rich and dark palette, with hints of gold, reds, and emeralds. I remember watching the trailer for the film and thinking that it would be shot in 3D due to the animated logo but that was not the case.

Black Levels: Black levels were pretty great and I did not notice any crush or distortion in those scenes.

Color Reproduction: The Wrath of Vajra takes place mostly indoors and at night, so the color palette is very muted at times but there are nice spots that have been low-lit that look great. I did not detect any instance of banding or pixilation.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones stay natural and never look sickly unless it’s Crazy Monkey. He’s very pasty and ashy but that’s his character design. Everyone else has a healthy olive tan.

Noise/Artifacts: There’s just a smattering of noise and artifacts but those limited to the scenes of obvious cgi like the flames and whatnot. Still, it’s nothing distracting.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): Mandarin & Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (dubbed)

Subtitles: English, French

Dynamics: First things first…The Wrath of Vajra is a reference disc. The lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 is a thunderous display of what a well-mixed Blu-ray can do. It’s subtle when it needs to be and explosive when unleashed. You will definitely feel every hit, bone snap, and crunch that our fighters dish out. I’m getting flashbacks as I type this.

Low Frequency Extension: The subwoofer doesn’t need to be told twice. The bass on Vajra is super-low and rumbles in all the right places. Every hit and blow carries a hint of LFE, so when that punch makes contact with someone’s face you too will feel the hit.

Surround Sound Presentation: The rear channels provide some spooky atmospheric effects especially when we meet Crazy Monkey down in his lair. It’s pretty much the “horror” portion of the film and the way his movements and voice travel through the rear channels is downright creepy.

Dialogue Reproduction: There’s a lot of dialogue and exposition and the center channel does its thing by reproducing some stellar dialogue levels.

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Extras 

The Wrath of Vajra has several featurettes that are broken up into mini-featurettes. I’m not sure why this was domes since the entire thing runs under 30 minutes all the way through. The awesome theatrical trailer rounds out the extra features on this Blu-ray.

Making Of (HD, 25:46) – This is a pretty solid featurette focusing on just about everything that went into the making of the film. I did find fascinating that the choreography and stunt work was pretty much full on contact. Some of the actors did wipe out and hit each other for real on more than one occasion. It’s all in the featurette.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3:00) – This trailer is presented in high definition and is pretty badass!

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Summary 

The Wrath of Vajra is not a great film by any means but it is one of the best martial arts films that I have seen in recent memory (not including The Raid 2), and I was surprised at how violent it was all things considered. The Blu-ray has great video and stellar sound; however, the extras are kept to a bare minimum. I give The Wrath of Vajra a hearty recommendation. You can go either way in terms of renting or buying, because you really have nothing to lose.

 

 

 

 

Order The Wrath of Vajra on Blu-ray!

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Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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