The Last Blood Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: October 10, 2023
Audio: Cantonese and English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 94:09
Director: Wong Jing
When terrorists target the Daka Lama on a visit to Singapore, they also wound the girlfriend of vacationing mid-level triad Big B (Andy Lau). Both victims are rushed to the hospital where it is discovered that they share the same rare blood type. Big B joins Interpol officer Lui Tai (Alan Tam) in a race to find a suitable donor. But those terrorists haven't finished yet… (From 88 Films’ official synopsis)
While not a recognizable name outside of Hong Kong on the level of John Woo or Tsui Hark, Wong Jing had his fingers in a lot of pies, working as writer, director, producer, and/or actor on a wide range of genre releases. His filmography is so diverse and his skillset so varied that it’s hard to mark a single movie or even franchise as his trademark work, but it seems to me that his career took a turn in the late ‘80s, when he hooked up with rising star Andy Lau for the 1988 sequel to the romantic comedy The Romancing Star (1987). Wong & Lau continued collaborating on a variety of comedies, dramas, and action films, including The Crazy Companies and its sequel (both 1988), Perfect Match (1989), Casino Raiders (1989), Crocodile Hunter (1989), and God of Gamblers (1989), which also reteamed Wong with his Romancing Star lead Chow Yun-fat.
Meanwhile, Chow had his own career boost as an action hero and leading man, thanks to Woo’s watershed crime drama A Better Tomorrow (1986) and Ringo Lam’s City on Fire (1987), noted for its influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (1992). Woo’s film had an immediate effect on the industry, leading to shift in style for action movies and, along with the rising popularity of Jackie Chan stunt-fests, like the Police Story films, this led to sort of arms race among Hong Kong filmmakers to see who could concoct the biggest, most explosive, and most violent shoot-outs and car chases. Wong and Lau joined the bandwagon with The Last Blood (1990), aka: 12 Hours of Terror – a combination of comedy and over-the-top action set against the backdrop of peak paranoia about the upcoming UK’s upcoming handover of Hong Kong to China (an issue is somewhat muddled by the villains being members of the Japanese Red Army). It’s not a huge stylistic shift from God of Gamblers, but definitely marks an escalation in violence and absurdity from a Wong Jing action movie.
Wong lacks the grace of Woo and the impact of Lam, but he does an admirable impression of the two masters at their neo-noir best and tends to make up for his shortcomings with ridiculous spectacle and a strange, unbalanced brew of humor and grim violence. The early screwball romance between Lau and May Lo isn’t very funny, the potty humor is intrusive, and Eric Tsang is one major character too many (it would be better to stick him in his own Midnight Run type movie, rather than forcing him to tag along here), but such trivial concerns are easily overlooked the second Interpol engages in a massive firefight with pink-clad, Uzi-packing stewardesses. Other highlights include an incredible sequence where roughly two dozen heavily-armed motorcycle henchmen chase the heroes across town and loveable goofball Tsang cold-bloodedly shooting a bad guy in the dick. Amusingly abrupt tonal shifts and creative violence aside, Wong’s screenplay is so by-the-numbers that it often feels like a sequel to a technically nonexistent Lethal Weapon rip-off starring Alan Tam and Bryan Leung’s characters, which might be a plus or minus, depending on your preferences.
The Last Blood didn’t completely change the trajectory of Wong’s career as a filmmaker, but he might not have continued veering into loony action and cult-friendly exploitation movies. His high-profile ‘90s output includes dick-stabbing thriller Naked Killer (1992; directed by Clarence Fok, written and produced by Wong), Jackie Chan’s cartoonish manga adaptation City Hunter (1993), wuxia adventure Legend of the Liquid Sword (1993, co-directed with Yeung Wai-yip), and Future Cops (aka: Super-School Tyrant, 1993), which I can try to describe as Street Fighter meets The Terminator meets shônen school comedy, but it really needs to be seen to be believed. He also developed relationships with Jet Li and Stephen Chow on the onset of their recognition outside of Hong Kong. As for Lau, he continued working with Wong (he’s the lead of Future Cops, actually, as well as its 2010 pseudo-sequel Future X-Cops) and enjoyed international acclaim as co-lead of Andrew Lau (no relation) & Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs (2002). Today, he may very well be the biggest movie star in the world, next to Tom Cruise, Tony Leung, and Shah Rukh Khan.
As far as I can tell, the only English-friendly VHS release of The Last Blood came from the UK, where it was retitled Hard Boiled 2 to cash-in on John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992). In their defense, both films do climax in a hospital. There were region-free NTSC DVDs produced by Mega Star and Universe Laser, so it wasn’t impossible to see the film in North America, but you’d have to seek it out and import it. This Blu-ray marks both Last Blood’s HD debut (the same disc is being released in the UK and Canada as well) and its first official stateside availability. 88 Films doesn’t mention anything specific about the production of this 1.85:1, 1080p transfer (i.e. there isn’t a 2K or 4K restoration or talk about negative or positive sources), so I assume it’s an older print scan made for the DVD release. It has the hallmarks of an earlier master, such as softer details, mushy and/or absent grain, and blown-out white levels. It’s not the worst I’ve seen by a longshot – colors are clean, edges are neat, and black levels are strong, in spite of the boosted whites – but there is room for improvement, assuming someone else finds a clean negative to work from someday.
The Last Blood is presented with Cantonese and English dub options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio mono sound. During the early ‘90s, Hong Kong films were still largely shot without synced on-set sound, so most of the film is dubbed either way, but the cast was speaking Cantonese on set, so the Cantonese lip sync and performance quality is better. A couple of the actors, including Lau, dubbed their own performances as well. The English track is free of obvious distortion and damage, but is notably more muffled than the louder and crisper Cantonese track. At the same time, the various elements of the English dub are better balanced, though, sound effects are limited either way. The Casio keyboard-style synth soundtrack is credited to Tats Lau, Patrick Lau, and Choi Hon-tuen, and does a decent job driving action the few times the film slows down for expositional reasons.
Commentary by Frank Djeng and John Charles – Because we all love him, Hong Kong film expert and all around sweetheart Frank Djeng is back with Video Watchdog’s John Charles (who isn’t listed on the box or menu as a co-commentator). The duo discusses the making of the film, the careers of its cast & crew, Wong’s trademarks, historical context (Djeng mentions that a modern HK movie would be forbidden from mentioning a Tibetian spiritual leader), plot holes, quirks with translation, and international re-titling.
English export and Hong Kong theatrical trailers
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.