Thursday, January 22, 2004

REVIEW: Revenge Of The Shogun Women

* * ½ (out of four); * * * (out of four) seen in 3-D

Seen 17 January 2004 at Coolidge Corner #1 (Midnight Kung Fu Madness); print shown was dubbed in English and presented in 3-D using polarized glasses, with an intermission

Revenge Of The Shogun Women isn't a great movie, not really. It's not a bad one, though, and for a movie that didn't feature any real names for the Coolidge to advertise, the action scenes were pretty good. Without the gimmick of 3-D, this would be a definite B movie, kind of fun to catch on late night TV but otherwise unremarkable. Add the 3-D, though, and it becomes something special, or at least unique.

The plot is remarkably straightforward - the Chinese countryside in the 18th century is best by bandits, who rape, steal, and kill with abandon. The girls they rape are sent to convents, since they are apparently unsuitable for marriage, no longer being virgins. There, they learn martial arts to defend themselves (and hopefully others) while serving and honoring Buddha. One attack takes place before the opening titles. Then, after the credits roll, there is a brief period where we meet a merchant's daughter, the doctor she fancies, and the artist who fancies her. The doctor is betrothed to her for a hilariously contrived reason (her dizzy spells can only be cured by accupuncture of the breast, and it wouldn't be proper for anyone but her husband to perform it), and at their wedding, the bandits attack. The doctor is then sent to escort the women of the village to the convent, so that the nuns can protect them, and the ass-kicking begins.

(In the 3-D print I saw, all of this goes on with dubbing that is actually a decent lip-sync match, but is rather unemotional. It's funny/campy, in a way)

The use of 3-D in this film is actually quite good. Although there are obvious scenes where things are thrown or stabbed at the camera for cheap "jump" moments, director Mei Chung Chang also has a knack for framing in 3-D, as well - objects are often placed in the foreground to create the impression that we're looking into a room, rather than actually on the inside, or simply to create depth of field. In a martial-arts movie where the people fighting each other are sharing space, it's actually important to get a sense of where they are in relation to each other, and the 3-D enhances that. I would, actually, really like to see more 3-D martial arts films - I'm trying to imagine what Jackie Chan or Sammo Hung, with their nifty use of environments, could do with the medium.

Aside - it's worth noting that I had a little trouble viewing it, especially things in the background. I didn't hear anyone else complaining, so I figure it's me (I have sort of the same problem at IMAX films and, to a lesser extent, at Spy Kids 3-D). If I closed my left eye with the glasses on, I could see fine; close my right eye and everything's fuzzy. It led to the picture not necessarily resolving itself completely.

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