John Woo. JOHN WOO! Yeah. Used to be a time when the name John Woo meant something: Glorious action, slow motion symphonies of leaping, shooting and fiery explosion, doves (he’s a Christian, you know) and over-the-freakin’-top John Travolta. But that was then.
Now, it’s 2009 and America’s love affair with John Woo–a brief fling that launched with Broken Arrow, culminated in Mission Impossible: II then quickly hit the skids with Windtalkers— is on the backburner. Woo’s done some producing and gone back to Hong Kong where his style remains unique and appreciated. It’s here that he crafted Red Cliff, a historical epic about a pair of rival warlords teaming up to defeat the encroachment of the Han dynasty– a defeat which shaped a future China. The plot sounds very boilerplate, but with the recent spate of epic Asian films rooted in dynasty battles, it can’t help itself. To its credit, Red Cliff is the most expensive Asian film ever made, was a huge blockbuster overseas and has a sequel that’s already been released in China. Of course, this is the U.S.
Judging from the trailer and despite its Asian clout, I don’t think Red Cliff is anything US audiences are going to run out and see (it’s subtitled– ew!). Thanks to a steady stream of films like Hero, The Golden Flower, etc., the Chinese epic genre is seen as a dime a dozen (“Oh, another one?”)– even with John Woo’s name attached. Still, it’s ‘UGE in scale and marks the US return of John Woo in a directing role, even if by proxy. So, enjoy.