The story goes Bruce Lee moved too quickly for film cameras. Adjustments were made, and Lee became a worldwide icon.
Hydra exemplifies what potentially happened if Lee didn’t adjust. Fighters in this small, compact thriller showcase such skill, talent, and athleticism, following their movement is, at times, difficult. Yet, it’s amazing to see. Hydra contains two key fight scenes, and both display martial arts mastery that puts them in the top echelon of the genre. Their ferocious authenticity is unusual, their rawness building on a brief build-up.
Hydra is a rare breed
Hydra is a rare breed
With its opening frames, Hydra follows a murder and the clean-up. It’s scintillating in its calm and near silence. The draw is immediate. Then Hydra’s story shifts to Takashi (Masanori Mimoto), a man living in a constant state of seething quiet. His mystery becomes the basis for Hydra’s narrative, a figure clearly holding back, working as a cook in a tiny bar.
When locked down to a small selection of characters in a small selection of locales, Hyrda works. It’s compelling, moody, and involving. The mistake for first-time director Kensuke Sonomura is broadening things into a messy, convoluted tale about police corruption and rising crime rates. Focus goes wide, and flashbacks muddy the otherwise cohesive and engaging drama. Mimoto’s performance is stellar, projecting an exacting amount of emotional cold through his eyes alone. His lack of speech brings a sheltered personality to this hired assassin.
Sonomura’s credits include a litany of stunts, and his action direction shows clear understanding of what brilliant choreography can bring to a film. The mistake is attempting something grander than a miniature-scaled fight flick, using this story to address vigilantism and extreme policing. Even at a paltry 77-minutes, Hydra lumbers along past the introduction and Takashi’s revealed backstory.
Two fights – at this caliber – is too few. Rarely is a film critically battered for limiting action to tell more story, yet Hydra is a rare breed. Sitting in Sonomura’s brain is something equivalent to The Raid, if only he connects to a project that allows his skills to blossom.
Exquisite black levels suit the tone Hydra is aiming for. Shadow density frequently drives into pure black, giving the images significant weight. Rarely do they fail. Night is an impressive force in the cinematography, used well, and the disc maintains it perfectly.
A lower budget, digitally shot production, the source isn’t without issues. Smokey bars create an uptick in noise. Banding causes minor detail loss. Encoding might be a cause, but it’s just as likely happening at the source. Regardless, the obtrusiveness isn’t enough to sour this disc.
Hydra often aims for bold, brash color. Palettes vary scene-to-scene, opening on an intense orange/teal, moving into the warmth of bar, and outside into cold streets. Each is represented well, saturated cleanly, and not introducing any artifacts in the brightest hues. Good stuff from Well Go considering it’s not always a cooperating source.
No dub, but options are either 5.1 or stereo in DTS-HD. Go with the surround track to gain additional kick in the low-end. There’s not much to hear in the rears – even ambiance is restricted to the fronts – but the front soundstage offers a pleasingly wide space for the sound to play in. Action separates enough to notice and match the visuals.
Satisfying bass gives punches and kicks slightly added power. Impressive tightness and depth gives off a natural thud as shots connect.
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Two sensational, best-in-class fight scenes make Hydra worth it, even if the rest lacks an engaging story.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 35 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots grabbed directly from the Blu-ray: