Monty Cristo reviews THE ASSASSINS starring Chow Yun-fat (with an exclusive clip!)
"Monty Cristo" here once again,
The good folks at Well Go USA sent over an exclusive clip from THE ASSASSINS for us to run, and I figured I might as well run a short review in the same breath, since I just watched this one the other day. Twitch ran the trailer yesterday. Here's the clip:
THE ASSASSINS stars Chow Yun-fat as warlord Cao Cao in his later years, some time after the Battle of Red Cliffs. For those who don't follow ancient Chinese history (Three Kingdoms period specifically), I would compare his characterization and mindset here to be rather like the portrayal of Che Guevara in the second part of Steven Soderbergh's CHE, to some extent.
Cao Cao is a revolutionary constantly watching his back, trusting no one, and with the blood of thousands on his hands. He is beloved by his underlings and those who live on the grounds of his estate, whom he treats as family, but he is feared and hated by those surrounding the current Emperor, as well as the orphaned children of his many slain adversaries.
The movie's protagonist and narrator is Gong Ling Ju, a young woman who has been raised and trained to one day assassinate Cao Cao. She and many other orphaned children around her have been given the single purpose of destroying the "tyrant" Cao Cao.
Our heroine falls in love with another orphaned assassin-in-training, and before she is sent off to pose as a mistress for Cao Cao, a tragedy befalls the would-be lovers that does not take either of their lives, but rather...something that makes any possible future they would dream of have together impossible.
In many adaptations of this period in history, Cao Cao is portrayed as the power-mad tyrant that these imprisoned young adults think him to be. THE ASSASSINS goes to great lengths to flesh out his motivations and character, so he is presented here as the revolutionary with the weight of the entire nation on his shoulders. His nobility and honor as portrayed here do not clash with the historical accounts I've read, and instead seem to further prove that history really is written by the winners.
Ju starts out focused on nothing but her mission of murder, but as in so many stories of this type, she starts getting to know the heart of the warlord and sees the good that he does. Cao Cao suffers from tremendous headaches and night terrors, and she seems to somewhat ease his suffering. His mind is spread across multiple concerns: his son's affair with the Empress, the incompetence of the Emperor (who bides time singing Opera to himself), and the entire royal court plotting against him.
Though Cao Cao may seem distracted or oblivious early on, we quickly get the impression that much more is going on in his head than we initially assume. Chow Yun-fat's keen mind makes the multi-layered thought process of Cao Cao entirely believable, even though it is staggeringly, almost superhumanly formidable. I've seen him in many (probably most) of what is considered Chow's greatest work, and this performance absolutely ranks alongside them.
Where many characters in the film believe Cao Cao vulnerable to attack and only focused on himself, the warlord's true focus is always on maintaining the viability of the Han Dynasty and the unification of China.
The story includes plenty of trademark Chinese costumed melodrama throughout, but the philosophical and internal struggles within the man whom history has painted a villain make for great viewing on top of the excellent action sequences...even the one that almost goes a bit too goofy with a net of bouncy grappling rope. You don't have to be a Chinese history nerd to enjoy the movie on its own terms, but that doesn't mean you may not enjoy watching the two-part RED CLIFF as well as WHITE VENGEANCE alongside this. The stories of both films concern this general era of history and some of the same characters.
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Dec. 27, 2012, 3:39 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 3:40 p.m. CST
Berry fat Berry erry fat
Dec. 27, 2012, 3:52 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 3:56 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 3:57 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 4:11 p.m. CST
Been watching a lot of Chinese and Japanese fantasy movies lately from late 90's onwards. Common themes: big budgets, decent production values, international, market potential, but melodramatic acting and dull scripts. Frustrating.
Dec. 27, 2012, 4:19 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 4:57 p.m. CST
by ames prather
...understood why Chow Yun-fat has never been more of a star here in America. ??Pseudo?? Out.
Dec. 27, 2012, 5:56 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 5:56 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 6:20 p.m. CST
Wow nes game from waaaay back. Wasted two full days straight playing that one. Sending the ninja to burn crops and assassinate ppl. Sweet. Id see a movie based on that game. Ditto on chow yung fat though. Always solid performance and excellent in action yarns He'd be a bigger a bigger star if hes name was long yung dong.
Dec. 27, 2012, 6:26 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 8:09 p.m. CST
by angry kitty
Played a ruthless, powerful emperor to perfection. A real terrifying bastard. If this movie is only half as good, it will be pure awesome.
Dec. 27, 2012, 9:09 p.m. CST
Dec. 27, 2012, 9:15 p.m. CST
I know it's the holidays but nervertheless, we're talking about the death of Gerry Anderson for crying out loud!!!
Dec. 28, 2012, midnight CST
I don't care about obits. Even if Steven Spielberg died or something, I wouldn't care if AICN ignored it. Death is not "cool news"
Dec. 28, 2012, 12:29 a.m. CST
Looked like I was watching Lost there for a bit. sheesh.
Dec. 28, 2012, 5:52 a.m. CST
Tequila, what happened to you man?
Dec. 28, 2012, 10:42 a.m. CST
But an obit gives us Talkbackers the chance to reminisce and reflect on the individual who's passed and talk about our fond memories of their work.
Dec. 28, 2012, 1:58 p.m. CST
by Norman Colson
?I would love to see a mordern revival of the hong kong gun fight cinema we havent seen in years. movies is missing something... Where the hell is john woo anyways?
Dec. 28, 2012, 2:09 p.m. CST
Even in Crouching Tiger, I never bought him as a person from that period. Just something about CYF that I can't put my finger on when he plays these roles. I do, however, think he fits more with modern and contemporary characters. I would love to see him do another Hard Boiled tough guy role.
Dec. 28, 2012, 2:44 p.m. CST
by Norman Colson
Or maybe when we was introduced to him he started off in odern movie settings? IDK. it just feels that way.
Dec. 28, 2012, 4:34 p.m. CST
by Monty Cristo
He fits in this a lot more naturally than he did in CTHD and CotGF if you ask me. He may be my favorite actor to portray Cao Cao on film when all's said and done.
Dec. 29, 2012, 5:27 p.m. CST
Let's hope so. I'm not going to entirely dismiss him in The Assassins as I haven't seen it yet, so I'll give Chow the benefit of the doubt in his role as Cao Cao. It does sound entertaining, nonetheless.
Dec. 30, 2012, 10:07 a.m. CST
That's what this reminded me of immediately.
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