Friday, January 1, 2010

Red Cliff (Rhoades)

“Red Cliff” Called Chinese Braveheart
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

My buddy John Hang likes to joke that he’s a minority, but I point out there’s more Chinese in the world than anyone else. You’ll certainly get that idea with “Red Cliff,” the Chinese-made movie that’s now playing at the Tropic Cinema. The well-choreographed battle scenes feature a cast of thousands.

The year is 208 A.D., the narrative tells us as the film unfolds. After years of civil war a deathly calm has fallen over northern China. Even the Han emperor bows to Prime Minister Cao Cao’s tyranny. Not satisfied with his power, Cao Cao declares a new war against the peaceful people of the south.

What makes this more than another subtitled Chinese import is its director, John Woo. All of you action fans out there know Woo’s work, from his two-gunned “Hard Boiled” to the testosterone-driven “Mission Impossible II” with Tom Cruise.

Now after 15 years in Hollywood Woo returns to his Asian roots with this epic story centered on a famous battle fought during China’s Three Kingdoms period.

No guns in this period piece. Just swords, flashing with blood. And lots of arrows.

Thousands of peasants flee with their leader Liu Bei from Cao Cao’s million-man army, escaping, across the Yangtze River to take refuge in the south. Cao Cao plans to send his huge navy after them.

“Rather than strike directly with his navy, Cao Cao tried a sneak attack with his cavalry,” strategizes Liu Bei’s trusted advisors Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu. “A wrong move. Now he will switch tactics and use his navy.”

So Liu Bei’s men devise a plan to destroy Cao Cao’s 10,000 ships by setting fire to them.

The plot is filled with clever ruses on both sides of the battle lines, from Cao Cao’s sending typhoid corpses into his opponent’s camp, hoping to pass along the plague … to Liu Bei’s sending Sun Shangxiang to infiltrate Cao’s camp as a spy, sending him messages by pigeon and wrapping her body in a hidden strategic map … to using straw dummies to draw the enemies’ arrows, depleting their weaponry supply … to using the wind’s changing direction to send fiery missiles against Cao Cao’s troops.

“I never guessed I’d be defeated by a gust of wind,” Cao Cao laments.

Fengyi Zhang and Yong You make good opponents in the roles of Cao Cao and Liu Bei. Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro are outstanding as Liu Bei’s chiefs, Zhuge Liang and Zhou Yu. Wei Zho does well as the spy. And Chiling Lin is notable as Zhou Yu's wife.

But it’s the film’s fiery finale and arrow-filled battle scenes that mark this as a new chapter in Woo’s action-packed body of work.

“Red Cliff” (original title “Chi bi”) is based on "Romance of Three Kingdoms," the most famous novel in Asia. Rather than trying to chronicle all 120 chapters of this book, Woo concentrated on the historical record to reconstruct the Battle of Red Cliffs. It has been called “the Chinese version of Braveheart.”

Bring your spectacles. The subtitles are small, even for those of you with eagle eyes.

No, you won’t find John Woo’s familiar anti-hero Yun-Fat Chow with blazing twin pistols in this one. But “Red Cliff” is certainly Woo’s filmmaking at its finest.
[from Solares Hill]

1 comment:


Who You Gonna Call
Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
Fax 44-(0)208 323 8080

Hi Shirrel,

On behalf of Magnolia Pictures and the movie’s producers, many thanks for plugging "Red Cliff" ... .. thanks also, on behalf of the distributors and producers, for not posting any pirate copies or non-trailer clips of “Red Cliff” and if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, previews, then the official trailer for “Red Cliff” is available for fans and bloggers to post/ host / share etc at ... .. for further details of on-line promotions for this movie and Magnolia releases generally, check-out and their official YouTube channel at .

Thanks again for your plug.