I guess I’ve been watching movies out of Hong Kong since the late 1980’s, that is movies outside of Kung Fu flicks, but I’ve was never a big fan of actor Andy Lau. In the movies I’d seen in him he always seemed to overact, mainly to cover up the fact that I thought he could barely act to begin with, and though I’m happy to see anybody get paid and live the dream I was curious how this cat became a movie star outside of the fact that he’s unique looking. Then came ‘Infernal Affairs’, and quite honestly I thought he was the best thing in that movie, a movie that in my worthless opinion was damn near perfect. Now I can’t think of anything bad to say about the guy. With bravura performances in movies such as ‘House of flying daggers’, ‘The Warlords’, ‘A World Without Thieves’ just to name a few Andy Lau is now my go-to-guy. In Daniel Lee’s truncated rendition of the Chinese epic ‘The Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ titled here ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’, again Andy Lau does not disappoint as he commands the screen as the legendary general Zhao Zilong. The movie itself was entertaining, even though it felt like a fast food version of a tale that required a seven course presentation.
Sammo Hung narrates ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ as the character of Lou Ping, a veteran of the brutal wars in third century China who has a strong desire for greatness. One particular day, in what I’m guessing is an old school recruitment office, a young man named Zhao Zilong approaches Ping to join in the fight. Ping takes an immediate liking to this young man because he hails from the same home town as he does and because his reasons for joining the army are the noblest of the all in that he just wants to see China at peace.
It doesn’t take long Zilong to prove his value on the battlefield or his loyalty to his friend Lou Ping as Zilong proves to be a most fearsome warrior, eventually leading to a
spectacular single handed battle in which Zilong saves the infant prince of his king Liu Bei (Hua Yueh) against the seemingly unlimited forces of warring king Cao Cao (Damien Lau) which elevates his status to near mythological proportions. As Zilong’s star has risen, his good friend Lou Ping is relegated to the background, though his admiration for his former understudy never falters.
The film then jumps ahead in time a good thirty or so years with Zilong long entrenched carrying the title of the Invincible General and the unquestioned leader of armies of the Shu dynasty. A General who has never lost a battle, but his dream of seeing China at peace is no closer than it was when he joined the army so many years ago. Lord Cao’s granddaughter Cao Ying (Maggie Q) has assumed control of her late grandfather’s kingdom and has learned well the ways of war at the side of the old man as General Zilong prepares his forces in an epic showdown against the overwhelming numbers of Cao Ying’s troops and resources. It is in battles such as this that legends are created and written about until the end of time itself, even should the battle end in defeat.
A lot of us who follow the Hong Kong film industry know that the legendary John Woo has his own ‘Romance of the Three Kingdoms’ epic style movie being released in ‘Red Cliff’. I saw the first installment of ‘Red Cliff’ which was a grand production if ever there was one and am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to see part II considering part one ended on a cliff hanger. Though at the core both ‘Red Cliff’ and ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ are based on the same events in time I don’t know if you can really compare the two. ‘Red Cliff’ is focused, in depth and is taking five hours over the course of two films to tell a story of a specific event and is in service to a multitude of characters. ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ is basically an action flick about one man. It’s almost like comparing the WWII mini-series ‘Band of Brothers’ to one of those John Wayne war movies. The only similarity is that they both take place during WWII.
That being said ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ is a good action flick however. The fight battles were choreographed by Sammo Hung who did a good job designing the fight sequences, the film is gorgeous to look at with its excellent cinematography, great sets, and wonderful costuming. I was curious about the decision to place a supermodel in the role of a warrior queen but Maggie Q acquitted herself quite well as the cunning Cao Ying creating a character with an eclectic combination of borderline evil, loyalty and overconfidence.
There are other fine performances in limited capacities by Andy On, Ti Lung and Sammo Hung, but the movie is owned by Andy Lau who all by himself makes this worth watching. You feel the hope that he gives the young Zilong, the desire he infuses into his character as he speaks to the woman that he plans to marry once the war is over, and as the older General Zilong you can easily sense his majestic overpowering presence, his weariness and frustration with the decades of the seemingly pointless and never ending battles, and finally the General’s dogged determination to finish the job he set out to do so many years before until the bitter end. This is Andy Lau’s film.
The problem with ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ is that director Daniel Lee just doesn’t have enough movie to support the subject matter. When one is crafting a film that is practically a biography with our subject being twenty eight in one scene and in the next scene he’s sixty five, one gets curious what happened in those three decades we missed, and a few lines of narration just doesn’t adequately fill those gaps. ‘Resurrection of the Dragon’ is worth watching for the spectacle of it all and of course for the majestic performance given by Andy Lau, it just seemed like it had so much more story to tell.