Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan
Rhys Meyers, Radha Mitchell, Matt Walker, Guang Li, Ping Su,
Anastasia Kolpakova, Imai Hideaki
1 hr 48 mins
Released By: Shaw
Rating: PG (Some Disturbing Scenes)
Official Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/thechildrenofhuangshi/
Opening Day: 10 April 2008
ESCAPE FROM HUANG SHI is a US$40 million Australia-China-Germany
joint production, a World War 2 movie inspired by a true story.
It starts with an Associated Press reporter, George Hogg (Jonathan
Rhys Meyers), sneaks into Nanking, the Chinese capital city,
and witnesses the killing carried out by the Japanese troops.
He is then captured by the Japanese and is later rescued by
Jack Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) a guerilla leader. George is arranged
to stay at an orphanage, where he becomes the guardian of
over 60 psychologically shattered war orphans, with help from
an Australian nurse Lee Pearson (Radha Mitchell) and a wealthy
widow Mrs. Wang (Michelle Yeoh). To protect the children from
the advancing Japanese and conscription from the Chinese authority,
George, Jack, Lee and the children start marching toward the
snowy mountains and endless desert.
After finishing his duties fighting pirates as Captain Sao
Feng in Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Chow Yun Fat takes on
new responsibilities a guerilla leader. Before Michelle Yeoh
fights it out with Jet Li in The Mummy 3, she takes some time
off as a wealthy widow. Quite a respectable cast, if you ask
us. That’s not all, because joining the two Asian superstars
in this historical epic are Jonathan Rhys Meyers, fresh from
romanticizing Kerri Russell in August Rush; and Radha Mitchell,
tired out after fighting off monster reptiles with Michael
Vartan in Rogue Crocodile.
many familiar faces here to watch out for, yet so easy to
forget that such a potentially good movie shouldn’t
be relying on its stars.
by true events, the story’s protagonist is a young British
journalist George Hogg (a very earnest Rhys Meyers) who leads
a group of orphans to safety amidst the harsh nature conditions.
He gets help in the forms of a courageous Australian nurse
(a very gung-ho Mitchell), a Chinese partisan leader (Chow)
and an aristocrat (Yeoh) who contributes to his mission to
save this group of orphaned children during the Japanese occupation
plot makes for great material, especially if it involves grand
sweeping sceneries of the Chinese mountainous and desert regions.
These you are going to get – the magnificently majestic
visuals of China and the impressively splendid shots of the
picturesque landscapes. It almost makes for a brilliant tourism
video for the Chinese government.
you are not going to get, however, is an engaging story to
sit through the movie’s 114-minute runtime. You see
Rhys Meyers going about trying to fit into the local community,
spouting Mandarin and having locals miraculously understanding
every word he says. We would have no idea if not for the subtitles.
Joining him in speaking undecipherable Mandarin is Mitchell,
whose blend characterization makes her forgettable no matter
how much effort we can see the actress putting in. Then we
have the pride and honour of Asian film – Chow and Yeoh.
Despite the two veteran actors’ intentions to play their
characters as authentically as possible, you can’t help
but notice how their performances seem somewhat showy. On
the other hand, it is lesser-known cast playing the supporting
characters more tolerable.
Roger Spottiswoode (Tomorrow Never Dies, Stop! Or My Mum Will
Shoot) can also look to his writers Jane Hawksley and James
MacManus’ screenplay to understand why the movie will
fail to engage audiences. Tackily predictable lines, flimsily
uninteresting character developments and stereotypically bland
depictions make this multi-national joint production just
eye candy for those who dream of stepping foot into China
for a sightseeing trip one day.
pity this production is, because storylines exploring themes
of love, responsibility and courage are aplenty throughout.
The human triumph against diversities and difficulties always
make for great drama, but in this case, what we get are miscast
characters who read their scripted lines against the glorious
backdrop of beautiful mountains and deserts.
visuals are fabulous, but it’s a pity that the rest
of the movie isn’t)
Review by John Li