American audiences are picky, hence why international films are often truncated, edited, or “remixed” as it goes. Brett Ratner was given free reign to re-edit Kites for an American audience, trimming around 30-minutes of content including an entire dance-related prologue.
The edits are mostly jarring. Did Kites need some culturally-influenced dance, especially for the wider audience? No, not really. However, Ratner cuts/trims numerous shots, the type of stuff that is mere seconds, and it simply becomes incomprehensible at times. Kites is a basic romance, tied up with gangsters, forbidden love, and Las Vegas.
It’s jumbled though, the whole thing jumping from one timeline to the next, the jittery feel inescapable no matter how much Jay (Hrithik Roshan) and Natasha (Barbara Mori) try to light up the screen with their overwhelming good looks or on-screen chemistry.
In-between all of the romantic babble and jumpy edits are some legitimately absurd action scenes, but wholly entertaining. Watching Jay drop cars off a carrier truck at some oncoming police cars is action bliss, the flipping and smashing quite kinetic. The idea of a hot air balloon escape is equally stupid, probably the slowest escape in the history of action movies, but it’s how they get there, not how they get away.
The remix certainly loses Kites’ flavor, something most of these clipped American versions always seem to do. It’s unavoidable when you’re chopping up someone’s work, and it’s a shame that it always comes down to this. Kites can look great, the drenched neon Vegas scenes that build the romance gorgeous, and the style all Bollywood. Was Kites a great movie in its original form? Not really, but it was very much a cultural piece that lived on its own terms.
Image releases the film on Blu-ray with both versions of the film crammed onto one disc and within 33GB. These are individual encodes that share almost identical traits aside from the color saturation. The Bollywood cut has notably subdued colors in comparison to the US version, so any intent obviously lies with the original. Ratner must have felt all American films are given that overly bronzed look and did so via digital intermediate.
Someone also thought audiences hate grain, and removed every single trace of it. This goes for both versions, and the results are complete disaster. The presentation is then a non-stop assault of smearing with any motion, so awful is looks like the movie is being played on a first generation LCD screen. Since the camera keeps in a fairly consistent sate of motion, this affects every shot of the movie, the faster paced action scenes simply making it harder to see because of the editing and such.
Detail is all over the place, as if some scenes did not get the full processing treatment. Close-ups are firm and well defined… generally. With only one edit, all of that can disappear into a smoothed over, flat, and wholly digital look. Anyone thinking this was shot digitally is wrong, the occasional bit of frozen grain and some light print damage proving otherwise.
Sharpness is meager, the healthy layer of manipulation removing any traces of firm definition. That’s been replaced by other artifacts, like edge enhancement or ringing. While the lesser of all the evils plaguing these encodes, it’s still very much evident. Contrasting images are littered with the results of sharpening, awfully obvious as Jay first exits the home he was treated in near the beginning of the film.
Some of the problems could be from the encode, but the bitrate never dips quite that low to introduce artifacts on this scale. True, it’s 210-minutes of AVC compression and dual DTS-HD tracks that don’t take full advantage of the disc space, but it’s obvious in motion that there is something far more sinister behind this mess.
Both DTS-HD mixes blend various languages on the fly, at times quite jarring. Light volume fluctuations are not user friendly either. Still, the dialogue is clear, any dubbing seamless and carefully constructed.
The action scenes are what’s here to please though, and they are loaded with extravagant surround use. Car flip over the viewers’ head with a natural flow, and smash into others with a satisfying jolt of bass. Engines rev, carrying some nice low-end weight with them. Gunfire has all of the same qualities, the bar shoot-out at 56:45 the highlight here. Each shot catches the sub, while splintering wood falls all around the viewer.
There are subtle moments too, including a nice, satisfying rain effect. The design is wholly enveloping. A number of shots take place near a train station too, the vehicles immense engines producing enough of a low-end push to compete with any of the action.
There are no extras on the disc, not even a trailer.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.