Ever since John Woo came to America he has made movies that are so bad that even with the taste of Tarantino could like them. They suck. Hard Target-sucked. Face/Off-blew. Windtalkers-both sucked and blew. You get the idea. I had pretty much written Mr. Woo off. Fin. I wasn't expecting much of anything from the man ever again.
Then I heard drums in the deep about Woo returning to China to make an epic of such sweeping proportions even Ang Lee and Yimou Zhang said, "Damn! Now that's a sweeping epic!" I've read that Woo's Red Cliff was released in Asia in two chunks for a total of four viewing hours and has outgrossed Titanic in China. Outside of Asia Red Cliff has been edited down to two and a half hours. The movie is not due in theaters until later this month. I downloaded a copy from XBOX Live and watched it with the missus last night.
I tell you what-Red Cliff is awesome. While there were one or two weird editing problems I noticed I was quickly distracted by all the awesome. I don't know if Red Cliff is as pretty as a Yimou Zhang (Hero, Curse of the Golden Flower) movie but it has an excellent look of its own. I don't recognize the movies the cinematographers (Zhang Li & Lu Yue) have worked on but I want to track those movies down. Red Cliff is blessedly 99% free of spastic camera work allowing the viewer to watch the action. The action director was Corey Yuen, stunt supervisor Dion Lam, and stunt coordinator was Jian Yong Guo (all have impressive backgrounds to say the least). Red Cliff is a top notch action movie (at least this version was). When the main ass kickers are let off the chain they seriously dish out the Mu Shu Pain. One awesome move I haven't seen before was: impale a guy with a spear, keep running, yank the spear through the guy and keep fighting. Amanda and I were actually cheering because some of the action was so awesome. Cheering, in the house, I shit you not. At one point the action got me so riled up I started whistling the action theme to Better Tomorrow II.
The basic story of Red Cliff takes place during the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" period c208 BCE. If you're familiar with the story (or played any number of the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" KOEI games) then all the major players will be familiar-Cao Cao, Liu Bei, Sun Qian, Zhang Fei, etc. Zhang Fei (played by Jinsheng Zang) captures the image and personality I had of him in my head perfectly; plus it was fun to watch him bodyslam a horse. For viewers not really familiar with the story Red Cliff does a perfectly decent job of introducing the characters and their roles in the grand scheme of things.
Wow. I gotta say Red Cliff is so damn enjoyable. I'm still excited by seeing it. I would see it again and will probably buy the complete cut if and when I see it for sale. John Woo, I love you again, please don't make shitty movies in America any more. xoxo Joshua
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