Saturday, June 03, 2017

God of War

AMC Boston Common has taken to using a holding pen for movies that don't start within the next 25 minutes, which frustrated me a bit last night, as I had my 7:20pm ticket at 6:40 and would really have liked to use the restroom and concession stand upstairs before they got crowded with Wonder Woman folks. Ah, well.

Pretty small audience for this one, and I wonder why that is - have the students left for the summer, did this already get pirated despite only being released in Beijing a couple of weeks ago, or is the audience for Chinese movies here skewed toward romantic comedies (two of which also opened Friday)? Probably some sort of combination of the three, but the shame is that, despite mostly having trailers for Hollywood movies attached to it, I don't think I saw a preview for God of War on anything but Chinese movies at the Common, and I have to think that some people there for an action movie might have given it a look based on some of what we see in the final couple of battles, which are absolutely top-notch. Sure, they're speaking Chinese, but fists and swords are pretty universal.

Dang kou feng yun (God of War)

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 2 June 2017 in AMC Boston Common #13 (first-run, DCP)

Chinese military epics can have a bit of a tendency to blend together after you've seen enough of them, especially if you're in them for impressive action more than any sort of strong affinity for Chinese military history - there are a lot of forces pushing them to fit a standard script and prioritizing style over clean execution. God of War certainly falls into that trap for for a time, but makes an incredibly strong recovery at the end, serving up some darn impressive old-school action.

The year is 1557, and China is besieged by Japanese wokou pirates. General Yu Dayou (Sammo Hung) has been trying to rout a particularly dug-in group for months, but his predictable attacks are rebuffed by the pirates, mad dog Kohata (Ryu Kohata) making jokes about how disciplined the Ming Army is after surviving the latest noon attack. High commander Hu Zongxian (Wang Ban) thus opts to bring in younger, more creative general Qi Jiguang (Vincent Zhao Wen-zhou), and though the pair clash, they soon come to appreciate each other's skills. The innovative new opponent does not go unnoticed by the wily samurai secretly commanding the pirate forces (Yasuaki Kurata), who begins to plan a daring three-pronged attack as Yu is caught up in politics and Jiguang seeks to train a new type of soldier.

Director Gordon Chan Ka-seung and action director Qin Peng-fei open the film with a few strong sequences that do a fair job of establishing tone and the general atmosphere without a lot of fuss: It's fast-paced and bloody, not shying away from the ugliness of war even as the audience gets a good look at the glory of its pageantry: The highly-detailed armor and demon-faced shields that the Ming Army sports, the pirates' fans that ripple like water as they hold the up to dazzle their enemies. The early scenes do a nice job of setting up enough interesting details to keep the film from just being heroic Chinese versus evil Japanese invaders, with interesting conflicts in both camps.

Full review on EFC.

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