Starring: Hiroyuki Sanada, Jang Dong Gun, Cecilia Cheung, Nicholas Tse, Liu Yeh, Chen Hong
Director: Chen Kaige
Studio: Enter One (Korea)
About This DVD
At the start of the pic, a goddess offers a young female war orphan, who defied the son of a warrior, a life of riches -- with the caveat that she's destined to lose every man she falls in love with. The only way to break the bond is to reverse time, or as some term it, "make the dead come to life."
From the enchanting if bittersweet opening, the film moves ahead 20 years to an extended and frantically edited battle sequence intro'ing General Guangming, played by Hiroyuki Sanada ("The White Countess," "The Twilight Samurai") leading his trapped and outnumbered army against barbarian hordes. But slave Kunlun (Jang Dong-Gun, showing a portion of the intensity he fired up for Korean war epic "Tae-guk-gi") saves the day with superhuman speed that defies a stampede of bulls. Kunlun so impresses the General, now the wearer of crimson armor for his triumph, that the General makes him his personal slave.
Pic's narrative pivot occurs during a nocturnal encounter in the woods between the General and Kunlun, en route to rescuing their King (Cheng Qian) from attack, and black-cloaked assassin Snow Wolf (Liu Ye). Kunlun, disguised as the General, races to save the potentate from arrogant invader Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse), but finds Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung), the former orphan who's now a princess, being verbally upbraided, then physically attacked by the King for being strong-willed.
Kunlun's rescue of Qingcheng from the King sends "The Promise" into an ever-thickening maze of plots twists as both master and slave fall deeply in love with the princess, and Wuhuan works his evil ways with ambushes and betrayals.
In many respects, Chen's and Zhang Tan's script (based on Chen's story) relies on common motifs from innumerable "wuxha" fantasies, and spins around the basic idea that until very late into the action, Qingcheng is unaware that the hero she truly loves isn't the slightly pompous General, but rather the gutsy Kunlun posing as the General.
Despite employing a thousand extras -- expanded to many more through digital trickery -- the film is really an intimate affair about a doomed concubine and the three men who pursue her: a fierce general, a ruthless usurper and a magically gifted slave. In the movie's opening minutes, a hungry orphan girl encounters a goddess (Chen Hong with her long hair blowing upward). This creature offers the little girl a life of riches with the understanding she will always lose the men she loves. What child wouldn't foolishly agree to that bargain, though?
Twenty years later, the grown woman, Qingcheng (Hong Kong star Cecilia Cheung), is the concubine of the emperor, protected by warrior general Guangming (Japan's Hiroyuki Sanada). In a huge battle against an invading horde, Qingcheng has no qualms against buying slaves to use as disposable bait to lure the enemy into a trap. But he is impressed by one slave, Kunlun (Korean star Jang Dong-kun), who can run faster than Forrest Gump. The only explanation for his otherworldly powers is that he comes from the "Land of Snow." The general makes Kunlun his personal slave.
When news reaches the army that the emperor is surrounded by yet another enemy army -- it must be the season for invasions -- the general and his slave rush to the capital. The general is waylaid in a forest by a shadowy, sad-eyed assassin, Snow Wolf (Liu Ye), who lets him go when the slave intervenes. Wounded, the general orders Kunlun to don his crimson armor and go to the capital in his guise.
However, instead of saving the emperor, Kunlun actually kills him when he realizes the emperor is willing to sacrifice the beautiful Qingcheng to appease the arrogant usurper Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse). So now you have a classic case of mistaken identity with everyone including Qingcheng believing the general rescued her. For the rest of the movie, the heroine is in love with the wrong man as both slave and master fall for her. Later revelations about the past of both Kunlun and Snow Wolf in that Land of Snow hint at deeper meanings than this film aspires to.
The movie plays out in a series of fantasy set pieces where people fly, fight and escape captivity through cheesy CG effects. Where the martial arts films of Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou are so careful to make their gravity-defying moments credible, the effects here are exceptionally fake. The acting is forceful but necessarily one-note. Sets look like sets, while Klaus Badelt's music is more Western than Eastern. "Crouching Tiger" cameraman Peter Pau does achieve moments of exquisite beauty in painterly shots of enchanted landscapes and magical interiors.
|Audio Format:||DD 5.1, DTS|
|Video Format:||Widescreen 2.35:1 (Anamorphic)|
- Deleted Scenes
- Making of
- Behind The Scenes
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