When I was sitting down to plan all of my entries for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I tried to think about what happened last year that worked. Last year, I reviewed a movie named City Under Siege for the third day of the challenge and he letter C. I picked the title at random because it was available on Netflix and fit a letter that I had no other plans for. I went into the movie blind and ended up loving it and highly recommending it. I scrolled through my Netflix list and tried to think of movies that would be fun to review this month. I never want my blog to be a chore and I never want to post anything that was not genuine. I ended up picking today’s movie because I was intrigued by the title and, like City Under Siege, it is an Asian film. I am always looking to expand my horizons so how about we see how that worked out?
I usually go for dubbed versions of these movies if I can help it but this was not an option this time. I am totally alright with that though because I have watched a lot of subtitled movies in various languages as well. This is Chinese which has rules that automatically make it a short of musical language with a particular staccato rhythm. I like it, I just do not speak it. It is sort of a period piece which I am not as experienced in beside movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It looks like we’re looking at maybe the early 1800’s but I really don’t know Chinese history very well. Add on to that the fact that this is a stylized movie much in the way of the Sherlock Holmes movies or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Time period means less than the general look of the movie.
The movie stars Andy Lau who you may know from movies I still want to see like House of Flying Daggers and Infernal Affairs and an upcoming Matt Damon movie. He plays a disgraced dissident who must solve why important people are suddenly spontaneously combusting. He has a comic but serious air to him that is pretty charismatic. I am surprised that he has not been scooped up by Hollywood before recent events. His Co-star is Bingbing Li who actually has been in some minor Hollywood films. She plays the Empress’ right-hand woman, Jing’er, who is responsible for Detective Dee and also the Empress’ safety. Her face and voice depict even more than her lines do and she’s a great match for Lau. They are joined by a lot of good side characters like the Empress, Donglai, Wang and many more.
As expected, there’s a lot of martial arts in the movie. It is a Hong Kong film so it is not surprising that there is brilliant fight scenes with weapons, wire stunts and a lot of choreographed chaos. My favorite thing about Hong Kong movies is the fluidity of motion and the elaborate movements that people use sometimes to accomplish simple tasks. It makes every moment seem important. I also expected there to be mystery elements in the movie since the word is in the title and the main character is a detective. I did not expect the mystery to be so intricate and well written. It reminds me of Sherlock Holmes, Poirot or other similar logic-based mystery stories. There is even rudimentary forensics without getting too outlandish. What I was not prepared for was the politics. There are some interesting political motivations going on that underly everything. Some of them even have parallels to early 2016 US politics but it’s all really well done.
The movie is silly in places and some things do not make sense but I chalk that up to cultural differences. There are probably references that I am not catching which is fine. I really liked this movie quite a bit. There were a lot of surprises that I just cannot get into here for fear of spoiling the movie. The movie also had a lot of interesting innovations for old devices that I really enjoyed a lot. The characters were complicated and difficult to predict. I really, really liked that. This movie has been on Netflix for forever so I hope it’s there when you go looking for it.