There's something about a good, solid, epic tale told well that can't help but produce an audience-grabbing movie. With his recent endeavor THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI, Canadian director Roger Spottiswoode proves he's still got what it takes to make just such a film. This surprisingly over-looked and underseen "true" story about British "adventurer" (according to Wikipedia) George Hogg may be hagiography riddled with questionable events, sentimentality, and not a little Hogg-wash, yet it is put together so professionally, pushing all the right buttons at all the right times, written and acted well enough by its star cast (check out the faces on the poster above: Radha Mitchell, Jonthan Rhys-Meyers, Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh) plus good work from all its non-stars -- especially those "children" -- that it pulls you along from beginning to end without seeming to exert undue effort. And it works beautifully, if typically.
|So why did not this highly enjoyable movie find an audience in the U.S., particularly since it was released by Sony Pictures Classics, whose films usually hit their mark--and their audience? Along with the riveting story, we get at least a fair sense of the politics and pressures that were going on in the China of that era: Japan invading and massacring Chinese civilians, with the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek fighting with the Chinese Communists, thus making fruitless any strong resistance to Japan. We also see the horrors and destruction of wartime more clearly than in many films of this type. The loss and unrelenting grief that accompanies war is brought home with particular force. And a couple of the wartime "action" scenes, such as the one shown above, are handled briefly but spectacularly.|
|All concerned seem to know Hollywood moviemaking (and moviemakers) like the back of their hand (which, appropriately, they give them). What's more, they appear to actually appreciate the kind of games that are forever being played, even as they realize the ridiculousness of all this. For some, this "both ways" view will render the satire a tad toothless, but for me it simply made the film more fun. The light, sweet touch that the filmmakers and their cast apply to the entire endeavor makes for sheer pleasure much of the time. That cast includes Macy (this time playing a schlub with real smarts) and Meg Ryan (who is so very good here), both shown above, plus Elliott Gould and LL Cool J (below, with Fiona Glasgott)-- who nearly steals the movie as the black action star suddenly gone "Jewish."|