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The Promise directed by Chen Kaige, who directed the excellent but
depressing Farewell My Concubine, is pretty much being hated by people
everywhere on this database. Everybody claims that it's not a real
martial arts film, that the cast is terrible, the special effects are
cheesy, the story is garbage and the directing is just plain awful.
Well, there is some truth in some of those comments. But instead of
looking at it a negative way, one should look at those negatives with a
glass half-full approach, and one realize there is a very enjoyable
movie underneath all this massive criticism.
Yes, The Promise is not a martial arts movie, i'll be the first to
admit that. It's such a shame that this movie is being compared to
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero because this movie is not at
all like those films. For starters, this movie is less Jet Li and more
Lord of the Rings, but with an Asian influence. That being said, i
found that element of the movie quite intriguing, for the costumes and
the cultures of the characters in the movie made me feel as if i were
reading a fantasy novel rather than merely watching a martial arts
film. Furthermore, since this movie is not a martial arts film really,
one should realize that this movie isn't about China, contrary to what
many people think. So it makes sense that there is a range of other
Asian actors in this film, despite what everyone else making it out
that it is ludicrous. The director Chen Kaige wanted to present a story
in a land that was just limited to Chinese people, Japanese people or
one simple Asian people. He wanted to create his own land, with his own
people, perhaps his own mythology one could say. I find it quite
intriguing when people create their own mythology, after all, it works
for Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino, why can't it work for Kaige? So
the story excels, not perfect, but it is still intriguing enough. So
what about the acting? Not superb either, but still quite solid. Though
i was a little disappointed in Cecilia Cheung, i was surprisingly
enamored with Nicholas Tse. For some reason, his character had me
hooked, intrigued, and his role at the ending may be either clever or
stupid depending on your openness to this movie. Hiroyuki Sanada was
also quite a surprise, but i felt a little let down by his performance
as well, expecting perhaps too much from a character that was limited.
As for the slave Kunlun, he perhaps had a very stellar performance as
the slave turned hero, but to me, he didn't compare to Nicholas Tse.
The effects of the movie aren't the greatest, at times they are cheesy
and some part even had me chuckle a bit, making me feel as if i were
watching an anime film and not a real movie. Yet contrary to what many
people say, it doesn't take anything away from the movie. And as far as
the directing, i believe Chen Kaige did a fantastic job. He is a very
underrated director, which is hard to say for a guy that won the 1993
Cann Palm D'or, but i believe he needs to have some supporters with all
the critique he gets from movie audiences all over the world.
The Promise is a glorious film and i was enamored with it from
beginning to end. It may not be one of the best Asian films out there
(Wong Kar Wai is still the king of Asian Cinema), and i'm still
scratching my head on why the government of China would sponsor a film
like this (considering it really is about any Chinese history
whatsoever), but it is enjoyable. If you're looking for a fun, fantasy
romance that has a little bit more substance than the simple hack and
slash fantasy film, this is your call. If you're looking though for a
dramatic martial arts film in the mold of Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon, you might be a little disappointed. But nonetheless, it's a
good film that deserves recognition.
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