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Weinstein Co. Sits On Reign of Assassins Starring Michelle Yeoh, Early Reviews

Weinstein Co. Sits On Reign of Assassins Starring Michelle Yeoh, Early Reviews

Thompson on Hollywood

Talking to The Lady star Michelle Yeoh in Toronto reminded me. Where is Reign of Assassins, which I saw at the Venice Film Festival in August, 2010? Weinstein Co. has been sitting on the elaborate martial arts fantasy from directors Su Chao-Pin and John Woo, which is a well-executed period action flick. The romance between Yeoh and my fave Korean star Jung Woo-Sung (The Good, The Bad and the Weird) works well—Yeoh’s playing the role of the veteran gunfighter (or sword-flying assassin) trying to go straight who falls in love with a regular guy. The overall film is not at the Woo level–he basically produced it. But the movie has elements of a Hong Kong Mr and Mrs. Smith. What are they waiting for? These two early reviews are mixed:

Deborah Young at THR:

“Little logic prevails over the final action sequences, which take place near the speed of light. Just when Zeng Jing is overcome and all looks lost, her clumsy husband retrieves his rusty sword and reveals his true identity. His heroic transformation doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but it is an exhilarating moment that makes the last scenes exciting as well as touching, when the husband and wife open old wounds, fight each other and test their love and spirit of self-sacrifice…The ending is moving and poetic, confirming the acting depths of the two principals, who are much more than martial-arts stars. Another nod goes to the character actors, who round out the film with unexpected humor. Like the cast, the top-grade technical staff comes from all over Asia.”

Guy Lodge at InContention:

“Indeed, while a number of pejoratives could be applied to Su Chao-Pin and John Woo’s elaborate martial-arts fantasy Reign of Assassins – silly, plasticky, just barely acquainted with notions of narrative coherence – “dreary” is not among them…Reign of Assassins lacks the technical grace and advanced set-piece conception of, say, Woo’s Red Cliff but it does boast a goofy sense of humor, as well as a certain elasticity of genre as endearing as it is initially bewildering: this is the rare fighting film that takes sideways strolls into supernatural video-game territory and meet-cute rom-com…The stupid dial is turned way up – this is a film where actors deserve bouquets for belting out dialogue like “Let me reap the consequences of karma!” without corpsing – but so is the good humor, and that counts for everything in a bauble like this.”

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Former Tsui Hark fan

REIGN OF ASSASSINS played at Subway Cinema’s New York Asian Film Festival in July. I bought a legit DVD of this (HK import/R3) in Chinatown in May, along with legit DVDs of SHAOLIN and DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME, both of which recently opened theatrically in New York.

Of the three, I’ve so far only seen DETECTIVE DEE, which I didn’t like at all. All the wire-fu stuff had a “been there done that” effect on me and I really objected to the appeasement angle in the finale designed to please the Commie censors in Beijing. (Support the oppressors despite their tyrannical behavior because they bring stability, unification and prosperity.) At a time, when real artists in China are desperate to be free to express their dissent (read Liao Yiwu’s remarkable op-ed piece in today’s NY Times on how he “escaped” from China to Germany), the spectacle of Hong Kong filmmakers (and former banned Chinese directors like Zhang Yimou) kowtowing to the Communist dictatorship is appalling indeed.

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