Like a tuneless Broadway Musical that leaves you ‘humming the scenery,’ Kar Wai Wong’s tale of three flawed swordsmen (one heart-broken, one going blind, one inexperienced) expires from visual overload. And Wong must have known it since he gave this overpraised pic what he must have hoped would be a clarifying once-over for re-release in ‘08. At first, some of the heavily manipulated imagery is captivating, with the posterized feel of a classic children’s graphic tale, you could stage THE LITTLE PRINCE on Wong’s Pop-Up desert. But he never lets up, and the washes of color start to lose specificity. We might be ‘tripping’ at ZABRISKIE POINT/’70. The interlocking stories and choreographed fights (usually one or two against two-hundred & two! . . . all on horseback!) can only be tracked in a generalized fashion, so we clutch at the occasional quiet patches of intimate confession, staged, acted and shot with Wong’s signature refined passion. It’s not enough.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The recut edition was only trimmed by about seven minutes (down from the original 100), but the pic feels as if a mini-series had been hacked into incoherence for a feature-length theatrical release.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Not seen here (yet), but Wong’s latest, THE GRANDMASTER, is another whack at kinetic filmmaking and swordplay. This time in a bio-pic format.