Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Condensed Red Cliff still delivers stunning battle scenes

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 3:42 PM

click to enlarge RED CLIFF: Fengyi Zhang as Napoleonic Prime Minister Cao Cao
  • RED CLIFF: Fengyi Zhang as Napoleonic Prime Minister Cao Cao

The Chinese war epic Red Cliff loses something in the translation. Specifically, it loses about half of its running time. In its native China and other countries, Red Cliff comprises two sprawling parts totaling well over four hours, but the American edit clocks in at 148 minutes. The compression particularly punishes Red Cliff’s first half hour, a baffling series of introductions and combat scenes, scarcely clarified by English-language narration and titles identifying rival generals.

The Red Cliff viewing experience resembles seeing one of the latter Lord of the Rings movies without having seen the first one. But since Lord of the Rings was awesome, that’s not such a bad thing. Red Cliff marks an explosive comeback for director John Woo, who crafted deliriously operatic Hong Kong shoot-’em-ups before going Hollywood in the 1990s. After peaking with Face/Off, Woo shot a lot of celluloid blanks, but Red Cliff celebrates the return of the king.

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(Photo Courtesy Magnet Releasing)

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