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Thursday, March 22, 2012

CHI BI XIA: JUE ZHAN TIAN XIA / RED CLIFF II (2009)

The Three Kingdoms of ancient China remain at Civil War in John Woo’s follow up to RED CLIFF/’08. As Part II begins, the warring parties are already in place, which plays right into Woo’s strength for staging fierce, kinetic action sequences; as if the entire film were one long Third Act. There’s a formidable host of characters & allegiances to reacquaint yourself with, but it’s easier than you might imagine thanks to a few well-chosen clips from Part I, and because the actors are so miraculously ‘right’ for their roles. Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro & Wei Zhao are just the stand-outs among the thousands & thousands of good, bad, ugly . . . & ambivalent. And if an element of surprise is less apparent in this second outing, there are more than enough well-staged military strategies, tricks behind enemy lines & imaginative meteorological gamesmanship to feed your rooting interest, and keep you guessing. Woo certainly doesn’t stint on the flames, violence & technical razzle-dazzle, yet there’s more emotional pull then you expect to find in this sort of thing. Rousing stuff. (NOTE: A combined ‘International Cut’ of Parts I & II looks suspiciously short. In the full cut, each film runs about two & a half hours; you won't be bored a minute.)

DOUBLE-BILL: And the answer is - Yes, you will be lost if you don’t watch RED CLIFF first.

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