Though one might think that physical media desire is waning with Walt Disney no longer shipping new discs to sell in Australia, cinephiles and genre fans aren’t going to stop buying discs anytime soon with boutiques like 88 Films putting out first-time high-definition releases of legacy media. Receiving such a first-time release is writer/director Wong Jing’s (God of Gamblers) The Last Blood (驚天12小時), an action film of the heroic bloodshed gunplay variety, that’s also known as 12 Hours of Terror and Hard Boiled 2, starring Alan Tam (Armour of God), Andy Lau (A Moment of Romance), Leung Kar-yan (The Postman Fights Back), and Eric Tsang (Infernal Affairs). Though it’s light on bonus materials, if you’ve been looking to add The Last Blood to your collection, 88 Films is at the ready to save the day.
On the same day as the 25th Singapore National Day, renowned religious leader Daka Lama (Law Shu-Kei) is set to come to Singapore. Assigned to protect Daka is agent Lui Tai (Tam), a forward-thinking and intelligent officer who’s equally deadly with a fire-arm and has gotten wind of a threat against Daka’s life. Upon arrival, the organization known as the Japanese Red Army (JRA) makes their move, killing several and wounding Daka, as well as the girlfriend of Big B (Lau), May (May Lo). It seems that both Daka and May have the same rare blood type, P, and there are only five people registered with that type in Singapore. With only eight hours until both patients hit a critical point of care, Lui and B race against the JRA to find the living blood donors, each second more precious than the last.
Let’s clear one thing up: there’s no connection between The Last Blood and Hard Boiled, which should be clear as The Last Blood was released one year ahead of John Woo’s seminal gunplay film featuring Chow Yun-fat (The Postman Fights Back) and Tony Leung (credited as Tony Leung Chiu-wai) (In the Mood for Love). The interesting thing being that the prefix Hard Boiled II was added to the United Kingdom release, likely to build off the success of Woo’s film. There is, of course, a great deal of similarity between the films from their focus on gunplay, protagonists working often at odds with each other though on a similar mission, and a finale that takes place in a hospital, so audiences without the awareness of the lack of connection between the titles would be forgiven for thinking they are thematically connected like the films in the In the Line of Duty series.
That said, The Last Blood is a lean and mean machine; running at 90 minutes, it establishes the characters, the stakes, and gets everything in motion so that blood spills by knife, by gun, or by explosion. Tam’s portrayal of Lui Tai is both strong and fun because the performer works beautifully with the script to make the intelligence of the character believable, thereby making his successes in combat equally so. Lau’s performance of Big B is fun because the character gets to poke fun at itself (he’s a big deal in his triad but suffers from acrophobia making things like being in a plane, trying to escape via gondola, or brawling in an apartment building several floors up silly in execution), but Lau also manages to make his character fierce when it counts, either by accuracy with a firearm or martial arts. Most interestingly, the script from Wong Jing continuously highlights how the selfishness of Big B and the laser-focus of Lui puts *more* people in danger than if they’d work together. Perhaps it’s growing up on American action, but the number of civilians (including children) who are killed in gunplay films showcases the seriousness and amplifies the tension of the narrative in ways that reduces the glorification of guns. It’s disquieting at times, which is why sometimes the comedy from characters like Tsang’s Fatty (a character whose blood type matches and makes him a target for both police and the JRA) play well before the body count rises too high and the casualties become less personal for the characters. That said, at least the film understands that the more morally corrupt the bad guy, the better the death scene needs to be and the way the head of the JRA’s on-site leader goes out would easily earn one of these. (Amusingly, that gif comes from the Chow Yun-fat-starring, John Woo-directed A Better Tomorrow (1986) which is credited as being a landmark picture in the “heroic bloodshed” genre of Hong Kong (HK) cinema.)
When it comes to the release, be advised that this is just a 1080p release, not a restoration. There are several moments where there’s plenty of visible artifacting (especially in the day time shots), which could be grime, dirt, or just general aging from the source materials. None of its distracting, but it’s not as clear or clean as one would expect from a restoration. Knowing that going in will help with expectations. The sound experiences no flimsy audio or out-of-sync issues, so, even though a mono presentation, everything is right where you want it to be in terms of balance for a 2.0 audio track that may be coming through a 5.1 system. I have no thoughts on the English audio as I did not view the film with the dub on.
Even though this is only a 1080p HD release, 88 Films still treats it like a high-profile edition with a heavy duty double-walled matte finish slipcover, called an O-Ring in the features list, with new artwork by frequent 88 Films collaborator Sean Longmore (The Postman Fights Back/Magic Cop). What I like about 88’s slipcovers is that they actually have weight to them, suggesting that they could do more than just be potentially aesthetically pleasing, but actually protect the disc case. If you like the O-ring artwork from Longmore, the outer liner features the same design, while the reverse showcases the original HK design. As with prior releases, the disc case is black-tinted clear case so that you can see the reverse liner when the case is opened. Also inside is a double-sided foldout poster featuring the original HK art on one side and Longmore’s design on the other. Additionally, there’s a single commentary track from frequent 88 Films collaborator Frank Djeng (In the Line of Duty set/Magic Cop).
A point worth noting about this release regarding the on-sale date: MVD Entertainment has The Last Blood with a street date of October 10th, 2023, whereas 88 Films lists it as September 25th. Sellers like DiabolikDVD are listing it as available for purchase (versus pre-order) so the street date of Oct 10th may be specific to MVD *or* it was moved up and their internal data wasn’t updated. DiabolikDVD does cater to international and region-free releases, so their info may be based on the 88 Films release data.
All in all, there’s not a lot included with this release, but it checks all the boxes of the quality that 88 Films is recognized for: hard-to-find films on disc, packaging that can take a beating, and bonus materials that extend the experience. This may be enough for fans of the film who’ve been wanting a 1080p HD edition or folks who have no background with the film but are looking for engaging gunplay action. If, however, you’re less versed in HK cinema, perhaps wait to see if MVD Entertainment runs a sale on 88 Films releases before picking this one up.
The Last Blood Special Features:
- Double Walled Matte Finish O-Ring featuring new artwork by Sean Longmore
- Double-sided foldout poster
- High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentation in 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
- 2.0 Cantonese Mono with English Subtitles and Optional SDH
- 2.0 English Mono
- Audio Commentary with Hong Kong Film Expert Frank Djeng
- English Trailer
- Hong Kong Trailer
- Stills Gallery
- Reversible cover with new design by Sean Longmore and original Hong Kong Art
Available on Blu-ray October 10th, 2023.
This piece was written during the SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.