This is just a quick report on two of the hot films currently playing in Asia. I picked up both of them as DVD's on my trip into Chinatown Saturday. Regrettably both films were in Chinese with no subtitles, which means I'm going to have to watch them again when I can do so with an English translation. For now here's a brief report on two really good films that hopefully will be coming to a theater near you in 2011.
Shaolin is (or is not, I'm not sure) a remake of a 1982 film that brought Jet Li to the attention of the world. Not having seen that film I can't be sure how close the films are. Here we have the story of the Shaolin temple and how it is caught between warring warlord. Andy Lau plays one of the warlords who is forced to seek sanctuary in the temple when one of his underlings plans turn traitorous. Lau eventually joins the monks and tries to find redemption. (I think, as I said I didn't understand a word). As an action film this film really delivers. There are several stunning set pieces that are capped by a climatic battle that was moving even though I didn't understand anything that was being said. Talk about the power of film to reach audiences beyond the language barrier, this is it. I'm not going to lie and say it's a perfect film, it's probably not, since things seem a little too clear cut, but it is an entertaining one, and as I said the action set pieces are fantastic. I'm really looking forward to seeing this again-hopefully on the big screen. (I should mention that Jackie Chan has a small but key role as a cook)
Let the Bullets Fly is the current box office champ across Asia. It's box office power is such that the Wall Street Journal is reporting that is may be the biggest grossing film of Asian origin of all time. For me the draw was Chow Yun Fat. The film also has a cast of some of my favorite actors, none of who's names have ever stuck with me. The plot of the film has something to do with three gangsters manipulating events in and around a town for their own ends. I'd like to be more specific but this time out the lack of English worked against me. I was fine for about 45 minutes until there was an extended dinner conversation, which was the point that I realized I was lost. I hung in there to the end but I knew I had missed way too much. Not understanding the details aside, I had a blast. the set pieces, the opening train piece, the ninja attack, the drumming, and many others are just wonderfully done. What I liked was that the rhythms of the humor is such that even though you don't know what they are saying you still laugh because the actors sell the joke. This is a wonderfully acted film that has performances that engage and move you simply because you buy what they are saying. I am really hoping this plays on a big screen here in the US because it's too good not to be seen. I'm kind of hoping that the NYAFF gets this one because it would be a crowd pleaser.