Friday, April 11, 2008



Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Radha Mitchell, Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh
Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Time: 118 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? This movie is titled "Children Of Huang Shi" for international release but it was changed here (and in Singapore) to give it more commercial appeal, rather than having it sould like a family movie. Its main attractions are of course Chow Yun-Fat and our own Michelle Yeoh who plays a 'war entreprenuer' and drug-dealer.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Inspired by real events, this is the story of a British reporter George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers of "Bend It Like Beckham") who was in China during the Japanese invasion of in 1937. He rescues 60 war orphans by leading them on a perilous thousand-mile journey across the snow-bound Liu Pan Shan mountains to a village near the end of China's Great Wall with the help of a local leader of a partisan group (Chow), an aristocrat-turned drug dealer (Yeoh) and an Aussie nurse (Radha Mitchell) he falls in love with.
HITS & MISSES: For actions fans, the first half-hour is captivating, with scenes of atrocities and mass murders committed in Nanjing by the Japanese. Things soon settle down when protagonist George meets the orphans holed up in a deserted village and is persuaded by Lee Pearson (Mitchell as the 'Aussie knight' on a horse) to help run the orphanage and even conduct English lessons. We get to learn more about do-gooder Lee later on.

However, the same cannot be said about Chow's and Michelle Lee's characters. It is a mystery why Chow's communist agent Chen Han-sheng is roaming around Lanzhou, when all the fighting was in central and eastern China. Why is he spending so much time with the kids? Yeoh's Mrs Wang is even more of an enigma. Imagine a 'war trader' like her playing 'philanthropist' to a bunch of orphans when there are thousands dying in the midst. There are other disturbing questions too, like, where did George get fuel to run the power-generator for the orphanage? Why would the authorities of a war-torn town give away four trucks and scarce fuel to help the kids' journey? Were these documented, or just poetic licence on the part of Spottiswoode? Yes, "Escape From Huang Shi" has that exaggerated 'glossed-over' sheen that makes it more of an old man's tale than a real gritty adventure.

THE LOWDOWN: For those in need of a feel-good tale from a brutal, nightmarish war.


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