Actors: Zhang Hanyu, Lin Gengxin, Tong Liya, Tony Leung Ka-fai
Director: Tsui Hark
Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, THX, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Well Go USA
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Run Time: 136 minutes
The Taking of Tiger Mountain uses history as its starting off point, and then switches to the realism of a superhero film for the action sequences. Laws of gravity and what the human body is actually capable of are dismissed in favor of spectacularly stylized fight scenes that are far more fun than the plot demands. However, somehow seasoned filmmaker Hark Tsui manages to do this without losing any of the emotional resonance in the film’s non-fiction material.
Tsui was born in Vietnam, went to film school in the United States, before returning to Hong Kong to build a respectable resume of action epics (Once Upon a Time in China, Seven Swords, Detective Dee), giving him an well-rounded understanding of what makes an internationally entertaining movie. The energy from Tsui’s action choreography alone makes The Taking of Tiger Mountain worth viewing, and it moves fast enough from each sequence to prevent thinking too much about the flaws in-between the fighting. Based on the popular adventure novel by Qu Bo, Tsui is able to make the narrative his own with the visual style, without losing what made the adventure story popular in the first place.
The film follows a small outgunned squad of the People’s Liberation Army going up against a powerful gang of bandits in northeast
during the Chinese
revolution. A captain of the Liberation Army (Gengxin Lin) sends one of his
most trusted soldiers (Hanyu Zhang) into the gang of bandits undercover, hoping
to intimidate and fool them into believing that the Liberation Army’s numbers
are far greater than they actually are. In reality there is only a ragtag group
of soldiers and some impoverished locals who have tired of the bandits stealing
all of their resources. China
Despite being somewhat of a war movie and based on actual historical events, much of the film’s action is filled with slow motion shots and CGI that makes it look more like the opening scene of the latest Avengers movie. As the plot moves forward there are even villainous bandits with gadgets and tactics that resemble something out of an early James Bond film, providing some levity and fun to the narrative. The head of the bandits is hardly ever much more than a caricature, which may detract some of the historical resonance while keeping The Taking of Tiger Mountain fun to watch. If you would like realism with your war epics, this is probably not the film for you. But all of those who appreciate Tsui’s signature style will rejoice in the grand scale of his spectacle.
The Blu-ray release provides the best presentation of the film, especially with the high level of CGI used in some of the sequences. Special features include interviews with the director and select cast members, as well as a trailer.
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10
Historical Significance: 6/10