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Chi Bi (Red Cliff)

I never really liked John Woo as a director. Well I'm sorry, but this film doesn't change my opinion.

Too bad I only got to watch the American version, which was dubbed in English. Although dubbing lets your eyes focus more on the onscreen action, the dubbed voices have no character. Deep inside, you will know that the voice you're hearing doesn't belong to the face you're seeing. So subtitles are better.

John Woo again does his trademark "white dove", which now gets an exaggeratedly long screen time. But the white dove just made me roll my eyes and mutter, "Ugh, John Woo."

This is supposed to be an epic, and it does succeed in giving us that Cecil B. DeMille-epicness. Of course this film had a hundred thousand extras dressed in first century Chinese army uniforms, and another hundred thousand horses, and a vast naval fleet, so if it failed to give you the epic feel, blame John Woo.

The story was okay, since it was adapted from a centuries-old Chinese text, but the editing didn't quite work for me. Frankly, it had too many dissolves, it was distracting. And most of the time, the dissolves weren't even called for. I think John Woo just used the dissolve for lack of a better transition. But I believe the cinematic rule is: When in doubt, cut.

Anyway, this film's saving grace was the male stars. True to the essence of patriarchal ancient China, this film only had two female stars. But it was seeing Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tony Leung, and Chang Chen onscreen at the same time that made me temporarily gay. Talk about man power. But Tony Leung didn't look as alpha male without facial hair.

So, is this film worth watching? Yes. Is it worth watching again? Probably. But I'd most likely go see the Asian version, which I've been told has more story arcs than the American one.

*some info from IMDb
pic from filmofilia.com

Chi Bi (Red Cliff). China. 2008.

Rating: Seven out of ten.
Tony Leung without facial hair: Six out of ten.


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