Review: (Taken from IMDB) ***Caution: May or may not contain spoilers. ***
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.
Dong-Kun Jang ... Kunlun Hiroyuki Sanada ... General Guangming Cecilia Cheung ... Princess Qingcheng Nicholas Tse ... Wuhuan
Ye Liu ... Snow Wolf Hong Chen ... Goddess Manshen Cheng Qian ... The Emperor Anthony Wong ... (voice)
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