Wu Xia, directed by Peter Chan and starring Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jimmy Wang Yu, was worth the wait, and a welcome change from some of the mediocre wuxia films I’ve been seeing.
Dear Takeshi Kaneshiro,
I feels like forever since I’ve seen you. Like I could ever forget your face:
Don’t you remember how we met? I know you may want to forget Returner, but you should fondly remember that crazy film. I saw our potential even as you worked your way through the alien time travel. Don’t remember the subsequent good times?
Red Cliff? This warrants a brief pause, because you KNOW my love of Zhuge Liang.
I even watched you in Fallen Angels and you KNOW how I feel about Wong Kar Wai. So where have you been?
While one might assume you have been up to no good, you clearly have been doing good stuff, starring in Peter Chan’s Wu Xia. Ok, let’s say it together: WU XIA! Just the name makes me giddy. And just when I think it can’t get any better, IT HAS DONNIE YEN ALSO! And just when I think my mind can’t take anymore. THEY TAKE IT OLD SCHOOL WITH JIMMY WANG!! Really?! YES, REALLY!
Don’t believe me? Look here! (I know since you are in the film you already know. I’m just telling the people).
How could I have ever doubted you? Ok, I will wait patiently for your return. The end of 2011 seems so far away. 😦
And it better be good. Just sayin’.
Ok, I’ve put it off long enough. Some may be aware of my luv for Red Cliff, and now that I’ve seen the second half, I feel I can speak on it. First, I have to re-declare my fandom for John Woo. Let’s face it, he had us worried with those Hollywood “projects” (Face/Off, Mission Impossible 2). Don’t get me wrong, I liked both of them, but they were no A Better Tomorrow, The Killer or (sigh), Bullet in the Head. David Bordwell has a chapter on Woo in his book Planet Hong Kong called “Enough to Make Strong Men Weep,” and that’s what Woo did to perfection! We know Woo is excellent with the betrayal in the brotherhood theme, but I was not convinced that he handle the sweeping epic. So you can imagine my trepidation: would Red Cliff mark a triumphant return of Woo to Hong Kong film, or just make me cry?
Happy to say, I welcome John Woo back with open arms!!! I taught a class on Asian film, and had them read Three Kingdoms (I’m talking the unabridged, 2200 page version my kids don’t skimp!), and ended the class with Red Cliff 1. I waited to watch it with them, and I did literally jump up and down at the end. (If they want to see Red Cliff 2, they have to take the class next year!) I liked seeing the three brothers (although I still think Liu Bei is still the punkiest of the three; Chang Fei is out of control, my money is always on Gwan Yu), but I really liked seeing Zhuge Liang, played by Takeshi Kaneshiro. In the book, yeah, the soldiers are out with the swords, but nothing beats a good advisor by your side, and I like smart, so I was down for Zhuge, especially since he seemed to bring just a little bit of very understated sass to his. And I am very glad that Woo gave more substance to Lady Sun other that inevitable love interest of Liu Bei.
A lot of people are saying that they liked the second one better than the first (apparently, so are the box office profits in China), but I’m going to stand up for the first one. Why? Yeah, we expect to see some spectacular battle scenes and smack talking among generals, but what I liked about the first installment is that you got a sense of these men: Sun Quan, who is so obviously still suffering from “not good enough” syndrome, Zhou Yu and his benevolent and honorable approach to war (doesn’t hurt that Tony Leung plays him, so easy on the eyes), Cao Cao and his shear domination and bad-assness.
So yes, I liked this film, right down to the lovely soundtrack.