Veteran Blu-ray Review

An overlong Korean import

Director Ryoo Seung-wan’s name is familiar to fans of Korean cinema, having made a number of action thrillers the past two decades. Veteran represents his return to lighter action fare after a series of darker and more intense films. Pairing with long-time collaborator Jung Doo-hong, one of Korea’s best action choreographers, Ryoo Seung-wan delivers a police thriller with some action and light laughs starring Hwang Jeong-min. The slickly made film is a crowdpleaser that has dominated the Korean box office.

An experienced detective in Seoul that truly believes in bringing criminals to justice, Seo Do-Cheol (Hwang Jeong-min) is an occasionally reckless loose cannon that gets the job done when taking down criminals. Veteran goes out of its way to paint him as an ordinary but effective cop, right down to a loving wife that nags him and a boss that likes to bust his chops. After a lightly funny police raid patterned after Jackie Chan’s better slapstick work, the cop learns of a friend that has inexplicably attempted suicide. Little does Seo know the investigation will draw him into a conflict with powerful corporate forces in Korea.

This isn’t quite the white-knuckled action thriller it has been touted by marketing…

A truck driver protesting the Sin Jin Trading Company, Seo’s friend Bae has crossed paths with the real villain of Veteran, an arrogant and spoiled corporate executive. Cho Tae-Oh is a high-ranking senior executive at his father’s powerful company, protected and insulated from his obnoxious behavior by his birthright. He is a cartoonishly over-the-top antagonist, extravagantly indulging his every whim. Cho lords his power and prestige over subordinates and friends alike. The nearly psychotic executive is behind Bae’s “suicide” attempt and has his lackeys deal with the honest detective when Seo starts snooping around the incident.

One of the most successful Korean movies ever at the box office, Veteran’s success is surprising and feels like the right movie being released at the right time. Surprisingly light on action despite a few fun scenes, the thriller runs far too long for its predictable tale of a rogue cop overcoming all obstacles in taking down a powerful criminal. I guess its nice mix of light action and comedic relief is vaguely reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s better movies, but the narrative drags at over two hours. There is little reason why this movie should have run longer than 90 minutes.

Veteran is a reasonably entertaining two hours with tightly crafted action sequences and likable primary characters. This isn’t quite the white-knuckled action thriller it has been touted by marketing but generally satisfies with a blend of predictable drama and solid comedy. Clearly derivative but in some aspects enjoyable.

Veteran Blu-ray screen shot 8

Video

CJ Entertainment presents Veteran with a brilliant video presentation. The scope presentation at 2.40:1 drips with perfect clarity and razor-sharp detail. Filmed using the RED digital camera, the Korean movie possesses world-class picture quality.

The 124-minute main feature is presented in a superb AVC video encode on a BD-50. Averaging nearly 25 Mbps, this is fully transparent encoding, replicating the digital intermediate perfectly. Its outrageous depth and unfiltered fine detail epitomize the best the Red can produce.

A rich contrast and crisp, cool colors fill up Veteran’s palette. It also has striking black levels with incredible shadow delineation. Asian cinema has mostly avoided the skewed color grading of modern Hollywood, preferring natural flesh-tones and balanced colors. If there is any problem, astute videophiles may notice the faint signs of aliasing, a remnant of the RED camera’s technology.

Veteran has video quality made for a nice Blu-ray home theater. This is demo material all the way.

Audio

Veteran can be heard in its native Korean language in a fine 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack, or an English dub in 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Before commenting on the English dub, the surround mix is mildly immersive with decent low-end extension. The action scenes take most advantage of the surround field, but other dramatic audio cues get spread out as well in a coherent audio mix. Dialogue is crisply delivered in intelligible fashion.

Please skip the English dub unless you hate reading subtitles. The native Korean soundtrack sounds so much more authentic than its poor English cousin.

The English subtitles are forced to play if you choose the Korean soundtracks. They display in a white font inside the scope framing of the movie at all times. Both the Korean and English soundtracks are also offered in stereo options, heard in 2.0 PCM sound.

Extras

CJ Entertainment provides a glossy slipcover for Veteran. The disc has no special features aside from a few trailers for the distributor’s other releases.

Veteran Trailer (00:31 in HD)

Several CJ Entertainment Trailers (All in HD) – No Tears For The Dead, The Divine Move, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, The Piper #1 (standard), The Piper #2 (creepy).

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Summary

A Korean police thriller with solid action and enough comedy to lighten things up.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.