Tag Archives: chow yun-fat

The Assassins – Review

28 Oct

Historical epics can make for some of the most entertaining and cool movies you could ever see. Just think of movies like Gladiator and Spartacus. These are just two examples that really stick out in my mind. However, there are some that really just suck the big one, and The Assassins is one of those movies. It really hurts to say this because it is such a beautiful film and the history involved is really cool, dealing with the end of the Han dynasty. Unfortunately, a lot of the film just feels boring and disconnected, characters are wasted, and I feel like I’m not getting all of the history that I should be getting.

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Set during the end of the Han dynasty, Lingju (Liu Yifei) and Mu Shun (Hiroshi Tamaki) are two assassins sent to the Bronze Sparrow Terrace to kill the King of Wei, Cao Cao (Chow Yun-fat). While dealing with their own feelings towards each other, they are also witness to a volatile political and familial conflict between the ruling powers. As Lingju becomes closer to Cao Cao, she sees him less as a god among men, but as a man surrounded by corruption and betrayal, which forces him to heighten his guard as attempts on his life come from all sides.

This is a time period that I’m not too familiar with, but one that I’ve always wanted to know more about. I thought that this was going to be a good opportunity to start learning more, but there really isn’t a lot of legit history going on in The Assassins, more so a really bland romantic version of what sort of happened. There are moments that are taken from actual history and is completely changed into something a lot less exciting than how it all went down. I understand that many film makers take dramatic license with fact, but that’s usually to make a movie more intense. The license taken with the history in this movie actually made it more boring than it should have been.

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I have to say, that this is am amazing looking film with excellent production values and talent that went into the visual aesthetics of the movie. The costumes are flawless and really help capture the period that this movie takes place during. The sets are also great. The design of the Bronze Sparrow Terrace is very believable and all of the other scenery outside the Terrace looks beautiful. There aren’t to many action sequences, but when they do happen it’s a wonder to look at. One scene at the end uses slow motion very well, but still remains believable. Unfortunately, for all of this good stuff, it isn’t part of a better movie. Still, it does save the movie from becoming a total waste.

I can’t even buy a lot of the performances. Chow-Yun-fat seems into his role as Cao Cao, but the two assassins, who I assume the movie is named after, are completely wasted. The whole romance between the two is completely unnecessary and it seems like the film makers knew that because they don’t spend to much time on it. The most interesting stuff is the political intrigue concerning Cao Cao and the emperor, but the intrigue is pretty much all fabricated so that makes what is actually interesting feel wasted as well.

The Assassins is pretty much a waste of a movie that had so much potential. The only thing the film has going for it is the visuals, costumes, and Chow Yun-fat’s performance. Even these things can’t completely save the movie. Before seeing the film, I read that it really wasn’t anything impressive, but considering the subject matter, I couldn’t really believe it. Well, after seeing it, everything I read was true. If you want a blandly romanticized version of history, check out The Assassins.

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The Killer – Review

27 Jan

Here’s a formula to know: John Woo + slow motion + doves + guns = excellence. Woo has over the years become synonymous with Hong Kong action films, and action in general. When talking about his movies, two generally come up when debating over his masterpiece. There’s a group who will say Hard Boiled is his best. The second group will defend The Killer for the number one spot. Which side am I on? Let’s take a look.

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Ah Jong (Chow Yun-Fat) is an expert assassin working for the Chinese Triads. After a hit takes a sour turn and a beautiful lounge singer (Sally Yeh) damages her corneas from the violence, Jong feels responsibility for her. It doesn’t take long for the Triads to realize that Ah Jong has compromised his identity, and soon betray him. Amidst the gunfire and bloodshed stands Detective Li Ying (Danny Lee) who is determined to bring the mysterious assassin to justice all the while becoming more and more intrigued in with his motives.

What can I say about John Woo films? They’re totally awesome, and The Killer proves it. You don’t see action movies like this anymore. This movie doesn’t care how realistic it is nor does it want you to take it too seriously. Hundreds of people fall to the barrage of bullets this movie has to offer, and it couldn’t be more fun. Still, the movie is serious at points and offers some really intense scenes of drama that will leave you thinking long after the movie is over. It’s fun, dramatic, and unpredictable all at the same time.

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It was actually really surprising how The Killer affected me emotionally. I went in expecting a huge shoot ’em up without too much depth, but just enough to get by. That’s what Hard Boiled is like. There definitely is good drama in it, but nothing that matches The Killer. It almost plays like a Shakespearean tragedy with tortured heroes who seem to be spelling out their own downfalls. They all recognize their faults and what they have done wrong in their lives and honorably try to fix them. It adds layers to characters who would otherwise be pretty stereotypical. Of course, the performances also help bring the characters to life, and not just the writing and directing. Chow Yun-Fat is especially great, as always. The only detraction is that some of the writing doesn’t translate very well and definitely comes off as way too melodramatic at points.

But don’t go into this movie thinking it’s just a drama because when the bullets start flying, you’ll remember that you’re watching one of the best action films to ever be made. The guns sound excellent and this was thankfully made in a time when squibs were still the norm and digital blood wasn’t even thought of yet. The body count in this movie is outrageous. The elongated action scenes literally just have henchman after henchman charging at our heroes only to have them be dropped in slow motion with doves flying across the scene just to make sure it’s as cool looking as possible.

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If I were to rank The Killer and Hard Boiled, I’d still  have to put Hard Boiled on top. The Killer is a lot more dramatic, but Hard Boiled‘s action scenes are just out of this world. Don’t get me wrong, the action in this film is also great, but sometimes the pacing just slows down a bit too much. At least when it does slow down we are treated to an excellent storyline where we really want our heroes to pull through. You can also observe how this movie has inspired contemporary film makers like Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, and the Wachowskis. The Killer will truly go down as one of the best action films ever made, and is a whole lot better than anything we may have seen recently.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – review

7 Sep

Wuxia has been a genre of Chinese martial arts literature and film for many years. For a long time, however, most American viewers weren’t even aware of its existence. In 2000, Ang Lee brought this style oversees with his film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Its emergence on the scene cause much hype and expectations that was not only met, but exceeded.

When Li Mu Bai’s (Chow Yun-Fat) sword, Green Destiny, is stolen by a thief and his old arch-nemesis, violence and treachery erupt in Peking. Along with an old friend, Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), Mu Bai wages a personal war with Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei). They also meet a governor’s daughter, Jen (Zhang Ziyi), a young woman with a romantic past and sword skills that are entirely unexpected. How the paths, histories, and conflicts of these characters intersect will determine the fates of them all.

The real star of this film is the fantastic choreography of the fight scenes. Instead of these intense frenetic battles, we are treated to a violent dance of fluidity and grace. These excellent scenes can be attributed to master choreographer Woo-ping Yuen, who also choreographed the action sequences in The Matrix Trilogy. The action is nowhere near as intense as it is in those films, but you get the idea that this guy is a master at his craft.

This movie reminded me a lot of another Wuxia film that became popular in America, Hero. There are a lot of comparisons to be made, but never enough to say that Hero ripped off Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What Hero succeeded in more was the visual design and color schemes. Crouching Tiger beats Hero when it comes to story, character development, and drama. In fact, this film had some of the best character development I have ever seen and I never felt like I was left in the dark about any aspect of a main character.

I really got a feeling for Chinese culture from this film. The surroundings, how they spoke to each other, class differences, and gender roles all play a big part to the narrative. In fact, without them this story wouldn’t have been as great as it was since the history and culture play such an important role in how people interact with each other and are treated.

 

One point where this movie kind of hurts itself is in the middle when Jen’s past is told through a flashback. I understand that it is a crucial part to the story, but it went on for a very long time and I felt like it could have been trimmed down. Once the main plot was back on track, I was so relieved. More relieved than I should have been. In fact, I shouldn’t have felt relief if the segment was paced right. Still, this is the only part of the movie where I was bored. Think of it as your bathroom break. A “what did I miss” should cover you.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an epic martial arts masterpiece that has to be seen to truly be appreciated. The story is so captivating and multilayered that it rivals the excellence of the action sequences. If someone asked me which I prefer: Hero or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I would probably say Hero. Still, this can easily be ranked as one of the best films of all time, whether you’re new to the genre or a Wuxia fanatic.