Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon


Directed by: Daniel Lee
Screenplay: Ho Leung Lau & Daniel Lee
Action: Sammo Hung, Yuen Tak
Starring: Andy Lau, Sammo Hung, Maggie Q, Andy On, Rongguang Yu, Ti Lung, Quanxin Pu, Hua Yueh

Based on the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of China’s most famous pieces of literature, Daniel Lee’s good looking, action fuelled interpretation is a noble and entertaining attempt to condense a huge book down into an hour and a half of entertainment. However, at just under ninety minutes, this “epic” often feels truncated, rushed and lacking meat: like a condensed version of the famous story. Andy Lau (making his third historical epic in as many years: along with The Warlords and Battle of Wits) does a commendable job playing famed hero Zilong, a humble man who rises through the ranks of his army to become one of the fiercest and feared generals in the land. The film somewhat rushes through his rise, the narrative often hopping from once incident and battle to another with barely time to breath. Sammo Hung (arguably the best of the cast, showing once again he is just as good at serious drama as he is at bumbling comedy and crazy action) plays Zilong's overshadowed loyal friend and unfortunately is sidelined for a good chunk of the film only to pop at the end for a final act revelation. Fortunately it is the final act that delivers the most in terms of story and drama. An aging Zhao makes one last stand to rid his land of corruption, going into battle against the daughter (Maggie Q) of a fallen enemy.

Lee brings his film into focus in this last half hour, dispensing with zipping through history and focusing on the emotional impact of the last stand of a great warrior. Here, the film is engaging, the action fierce and the actors really get stuck into their characters. If the rest of the film had been this way, then Three Kingdoms may have been a much more satisfying experience. Not to say it is bad: just rushed and often not what it could have been. As mentioned the principals do good, even Maggie Q, and while a lot of the supporting cast are reduced to a few scenes Andy On (New Police Story) and Rongguang Yu (Iron Monkey) make an impact in their small roles. The film is lavish to look at, having an expensive gloss and slick photography. Sammo Hung and Yuen Tak deliver some big action and while it may be over-the-top and resorts to flights of fancy at times, it’s still delivered with breakneck ferocity and sharp choreography. The film is fairly packed with grand scale action not least a scorching 10 minute set piece where Andy Lau, with infant attached to his back, takes on a whole army with a spear and wins.

Not the best Chinese historical epic to come along of late but not that bad either. The critical establishment may not have been as kind to it and it could have been a good bit longer to flesh out characters and incidents but on its own terms, Three Kingdoms is very entertaining. The action is good, the cast solid and everything always look epic and is beautifully captured. Not bad.

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