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Monday, December 26, 2005

The Promise

I walked out of the cinema laughing. The ending of The Promise was so abrupt and absurd that it left all audiences in the cinema bewildered. “I can't believe I spent 23 bucks and two days struggling to book tickets for this!”

What went wrong? The special effect was impressive, the cast was made of beautiful people and it was helmed by acclaimed director Chen Kaige.

At first glance, I would like to blame it all on Nicholas Tse. If there is an award for fakest acting in 2005, I would gladly hand it to him. Strange enough, I don’t hate him because I laughed uncontrollably (and still do at this moment) every time he went over-melodramatic, specifically his crying scene; or rather those Optrex eye drops scenes. Gawd… I'm cringing AND laughing at the memory of two damn eye drops running down his pretty cheeks. Coupled with his sissy monologue, that was more than enough to spell disaster. What was Chen Kaige thinking?!

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Chen Kaige: Oh dear... think I made a casting error. But he does look pretty, and throw one hell of a tantrum!

Later, I realized the main problem lies in scripting. The concept of the story was good, but the weak script made the movie fell apart midway into the story. By the way, it is just me or the movie really run more than 2 hours? Because it felt long (or maybe I just wished it ended sooner). Before this, it boasted that both Jang Dong Gun and Sanada have to learn Mandarin before starting filming. And the results? JDG mandarin was good enough but he has very, very limited dialogue. Not more than two pages of script, I bet. While Sanada's Mandarin proficiency does impress me, his sometimes comical acting does not. In some way I pity Nicholas because he has to cope with cheesy monologues which maybe more than all his past crummy movies dialogues totaled up. For the record, I do like his acting in Time and Tide.

The Promise, after all, is a love story. In fact, the characters in the story were in love with somebody, even from same sex. Hmm… let's see:

1. Kunlun (JDG) was in love with Qing Cheng (Cecilia)

2. General Guang Ming (Sanada) was in love with Qing Cheng

3. Wu Huan (Nic) appears to be in love with Qing Cheng, but I think he's obsessed with Guang Ming

Snow Wolf, the creepy assasin.

4. Snow Wolf was in love with Kunlun. Our fears were confirmed in that embrace scene before Snow Wolf’s demise. The cinema was cringing and guy behind me says “That is so GAY!” (Note: I have nothing against gay people but that scene gave me goose bumps!)

5. Qing Cheng was in love with the Master of the Crimson Armor (which is both Kunlun and Guangming)

Does this look like the most gorgeous woman on earth? Nope.

Oh yeah, just in case you're curious, Cecilia's gratuitous nudity and sex scenes were censored off but we still get to see her smooching Sanada countless times. Now, speaking of Cecilia, she’s pretty but she does not embody the drop dead gorgeous Qing Cheng, who was supposed to be the most beautiful woman walking on earth. Chen Kaige shouldn't try to shove that down our throats when she first appeared. “See! The men are weak on their knees just at the sight of her! Behold, her cape falls and the soldiers collapsed in a heaps from her scents! SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!”

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This looks better. But that dress got to go!

Again, due to scripting, The Promise reduced a competent actress like Cecilia into a very confused character. One moment she was cold hearted, split seconds she was very happily in love, next she was a maniacal slut.

Hiroyuki Sanada, looking very macho in his red armor (which is made of fresh crimson flowers)

The character General Guang Ming does have a lot of room for character development and I feel that it was a pity that Sanada was somehow put aside from the limelight. I mean, who will notice him when other big stars like JDG and Cecilia was around? Even Nicholas got more media coverage than him. Frankly I like this character but not enough to be most favorite because of one scene. The scene where his deputy general came to invite him back to the imperial city and he agonizes over the fact that he Qing Cheng disallowed him to. Come on, he is the mighty general, the Master of Crimson Armor, for God's sake! Why is he whimpering behind that woman?!

Despite his acting capabilities, JDG couldn't save The Promise. First; his very limited dialogue which leads to having him having to use his facial expression as means to act. Second; his face was filthy 90% of his screen time so you can’t really see much apart from his big eyes. The only time you see him clean with Pantene straight hair was in his flashback scene back in Snow Country.

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This is how JDG look 90% of his screentime.

Ah... truly a rare moment.

I wonder if JDG regretted agreeing to work on this project now because it's a total waste of time, money and talent. Anyway, only his character was consistent but I really hope for character development and more dialogue because he was suppose to be the leading actor! Somehow feel a little cheated because we want to see his handsome face and all we see is a dark face with very bad hair. Hmmph!

I always save the best for the last. Dum…dum… dum: Nicholas Tse!

Nic: Admiring my head armor? I pose pretty, too!

What?! We thought you said his acting is terrible?! Hey, I still do think he couldn't act, and shouldn't act – period. Okay… I like the character Wu Huan, which is a totally kick ass villain but of course Nicholas (bad) acting ruined it for me. Wu Huan is my favorite character based on his characteristics alone. But I couldn't hate Nicholas because while his acting is so terrible, instead of wanting to throw bottles at the screen, we actually laughed! I mean, there it was, a serious scene but we were all breaking into laughter! In another word, his badly timed expression actually made me enjoy the movie for all it's worth.

Wu Huan: Life is too short to drink cheap wine and wear ugly clothes. Learn from me, see how nice I look.

By the way, his character reminds me of two people, which are Versace and Elton. His wardrobes are enough to make Versace turn green with envy in his grave while totally exceeded Elton diva-ness with Wu Huan's constant hissy fits. Oh, by the way, both men were gay as well. Ahemm…

Overall, IMO The Promise was a big flop though the box office records indicate otherwise. I'm think maybe because it's the hype that it was Asia's LOTR. Or even JDG & Cecilia crowd pulling capabilities.

I still don't get it.

So… about the ending of The Promise… I don't want to spoil you all by putting the ending here but I would really appreciate it if someone else who have watched it can share with me their interpretation(s).


Kidd said...

Haven't finish reading your review yet since I'm too sleepy. Will continue 'tomorrow'. But I have to say, I really like this movie. There is not a boring moment (to me) in the movie.

"4. Snow Wolf was in love with Kunlun. Our fears were confirmed in that embrace scene before Snow Wolf’s demise. The cinema was cringing and guy behind me says “That is so GAY!” (Note: I have nothing against gay people but that scene gave me goose bumps!)"

I don't think Snow Wolf is in love with Kunlun. Gosh, I thought Asia people will be more acceptable of guys having close contact than the homophobic westerners and not cry gay on every such contact. I guess we see too much hollywood movies. I think he hug Kunlun before he dies is because Kunlun is the only one of his race left. So, him feeling attachment to Kunlun is natural. It's more family than romantic love, and Kunlun is the one who made him realise he has been betraying himself all this while.

sehseh said...

I wish it was a more brotherly manly hug than Snow Wolf embracing, while rubbing his face stroking lovingly at Kunlun's nape. That stroking part is truly err... scary.

Funn Lim said...

Sehseh, you're not wrong to think that. But frankly I do think it was just overacting. There was never a boring moment? Probably because most of the time I was far too busy being confused and dumbfounded. I just wish JDG had more of those pantene moment.

Kidd said...

Initially, I was cinfused too. But the movie slowly explain everything as the it goes along. So, after a while, I understand what's the story is talking about.

No, from his interview, JDG is not regreting taking this movie. I think JDG will be really dissapointed to know that viewers just want to see him for his pretty face instead of his acting. From his reply to the 'The Sun' interview, I get the impression that he want viewers to see him beyond his good looks.
Btw, if JDG has anymore dialogue, the film will be able to be released on next year. Him and Sanada are such perfectionists that they took hours to record 1 line. JDG actually took 15 hours to record one of his lines.

Btw, do u guys know that only Cecilia's voice is dubbed. Both JDG and Sanada speak their on dialogues.

Also, u needn't worry about Hiroyuki Sanada being put aside. He left the most impression of viewers. I read the reviews on imdb, and his name came up the most.

My favourite character is Kunlun, but I think Nic Tse did well as WuHuan. I like his campy, crazy acting here. My favourite scene is where he pretended to be all defeated and sad (when he was tied up) and then became the one in control again.

"Come on, he is the mighty general, the Master of Crimson Armor, for God's sake! Why is he whimpering behind that woman?!
This show how much he is in love with Qin Cheng. Qin Cheng is suppose to be the most alluring woman in the world. It's like how Suen Bak Yeung went under the spell of Yuk Ying.

"Does this look like the most gorgeous woman on earth? Nope."
Ok, she not Helen of Troy. But her character is destined to be the guy magnet and get all the goof things in the world except true love. That's what the Goddess said in the beginning. It's her fate. Even if she is not the most beatiful person in the world, she will attract a lot of admiration. The Goddess didn't say she would be the most beautiful person in the world, just that she will attract lots of guys.

I don't see how Qin Cheng is confusing. U mean a slutty person cannot fall in love for real? She loves no one before the Red Armored General saved her. After that she fell madly in love with the General. Btw, which part is the maniacal slut part?

The ending, Kunlun break the curse put on Qin Cheng by the Goddess and they live happily ever after. The Goddess said Qin Cheng can only break the curse if time goes backward, a dead person came alive and flower blossom something (forgot the last condition). Kunlun successfully achieve that 3 conditions.

sehseh said...

Kidd, think you misunderstood something here:

I like JDG acting and I think I said more than once that he is a great actor. It's just that we want to see a good looking side as well.

Since when did I said Qin Cheng cannot fall in love because she was a slut? I said meant her character was messly written. Instead of a complex character, it came to me as a very badly written character.

Yes, Guang Ming can agonize over Qin Cheng all he want but did he really need to grimace like that, waving his hands wild in the air? Over acting lah.

I know the ending but I just can't get it. Chen Kaige could have shown us a more proper ending than to have the leads shooting up into the space.

By the way, Funn mentioned being dumbfunded. I remember one scene where QIn Cheng was flying in the air in that bird suit... I don't where whether I'm dumbfounded or just embarrassed by the fact I'm sitting there watching this ridiculous scene. And I'm 100% sure that all the audiences in the hall agrees with me, judging from the sound they made.

Reading back my review, I do agree with Funn saying that i'm lenient with The Promise. I'm expecting a terrible trashing in Funn's version.

Kidd said...

Haha. That's why I don't plan to read her review. Don't want to get high blood pressure. :p

Anyway, I prefer JDG's in the his slave outfit and maggie mee hair more than his pantene look. The slave look is more rugged. The pantene look is too feminine for him.

Kidd said...

But my favourite JDG look is the one where his hair is tied up. It was only for a short while when he told Qin Cheng to tell the court the next day that it was him who kill the King.

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