God of War movie review
Vincent Zhao Wen Zhuo was once poised to be the next martial arts sensation but he never got the recognition he deserves. He possessed phenomenal martial arts skills, with a good build and handsome boyish looks yet sadly he has been lingering in B movie and TV serials for a long period.
In 2010 Yuen Woo-Ping cast Zhao as the legendary Su Qi Er in True Legend but it sadly flopped. Next was Corey Yuen’s 2012 Wu Dang that also failed to make an impact. His next few ventures in Jacob Cheung’s The Bride with the White Hair (2014 ) and Jing Tao The Boundary (2014) all failed to make an impression.
Vincent Zhao’s latest leading role is Gordan Chan’s war epic God Of War. Zhao serves as General Qi Jiguan, a well-versed battle tactician and martial artist. His skills and past battle have won himself recognition among court officials leading to his recruitment in battling the Japanese.
General Qi is bought in to aid General Yu Dayou (Sammo Hung) after Yu’s several predictable and clockwork failed attempts in attacking a Japanese stronghold that resides strategist Sensei (Yusaki Kurata) and his band of pirates (consisting of Samurais and Ronin). After a quick victory by Qi, Yu is placed in lock-up being accused of conspiring with the Japanese in there escape.
General Qi is promoted to Yue’s position but is disappointed with is a current selection of soldiers and request for some recruits to train. He finds a favorable small band of villagers protecting there mining operations lead by the hot-headed Timmy Hung (Son of Sammo Hung).
After some quick training Qi’s army is forced to disperse his army to 3 different locations to counter Sensei’s maneuvers. Qi leads his portion of the army in an attack on a small Japanese occupied town eventually chasing Sensei and his army to their ships for the final confrontation. While back in Qi’s hometown his wife (Regina Wan) is mounting a defense from a Japanese attack.
Gordan Chan has been notable in directing some classic Hong Kong action films such as Fist of Legend, Beast Cops, King of Beggars and Thunderbolt to name just a few but his more recent features such as The King of Fighters, Mural and The four trilogy have all been uninspiring and boring.
Comparisons to Red Cliff and A Battle of Wits is apt for they both are about war tactics opposed to full-on battle. Both fore mentioned films are more successful in conveying strategic abilities. God of War fails to demonstrate General Qi’s intelligent and leadership believably; we rarely witness him planning any battle tactics except for the brief moment during the opening.
The film is rather exposition-heavy but none of it compelling enough and there is not nearly enough action beats to entertain and those that do occur are mediocre marred by a bit too many edits. The story meanders all over the place instead of focusing on the main problem at hand, the pirates.
Midway through the director places the pirate threat in the background and focuses on random elements. With such an imminent threat its seems like they have a lot of time to train a band of new soldier recruits. Zhao’s wife is also very annoying having fits of anger towards her mild-tempered husband for little reason. It feels like the Chan wanted to hint that there is more about her hence her husbands respect towards her but it amounts to nothing.
During the latter moments, there was an allusion at her battle prowess but sadly it is not to be. Characters and situations are introduced needlessly such as the capture of Sammo Hung’s character which does not progress to anything, in particular, the recruitment of Timmy Hung’s character that never adds much and an honorable Japanese Yamagawa (Keisuke Koide) samurai protecting a Chinese woman that serves little purpose.
The musical score is also a bit odd as the music does not fit the moment. Though this has been a problem that plagued Gordon Chan’s career, his musical choice has always been questionable from Fist of Legend to 2000AD it always failed to deliver the right cues. The production design is top-notch, the sets are lavish and grand complemented by some great cinematography.
Credit has to be given to Gordon Chan for not treading the easy route of portraying the Japanese as evil and conniving villains. Doing what he did with Fist of Legend, he presents some of the Japanese with honor-bound by the code of a samurai. We are given more than just one variant of Japanese, the Ronin is a horrible bunch whereas the Samurai has a sense of duty.
The fights are more grounded affair thankfully with little wirework involved. The likes of Zhao and Kurata are exciting choices of talents and as a martial arts fan, those hoping for a confrontation between the two can be thankful that Gordan Chan gives just that.
The fight is serviceable if a bit lacking in creativity there are brief hints of good choreography as the 2 goes from sword vs sword to hand to hand combat but its all a bit short-lived. Not helping matters is a bit too much editing and close framing. Zhao also goes toe to toe with Sammo Hung in a rather pointless throw down between the two. The fight itself is serviceable but somehow lacks excitement.
Vincent Zhao gives a fine performance as a righteous and upright man. Zhao’s soft smile and boyish looks present General Qi with a kind nature but at the same time contains an air of authority.
Yusaki Kurata his in a fine form he gives his character a sense of pride and honor also shows great intelligence. His band of Japanese soldiers also give fine performances in there rather brief screen time. Sammo Hung shows up too briefly to make any significant impact but does just fine as a respectable leader and a man of principle and respect.
Presenting too little excitement to recommend and not as intelligent as it thinks it is. With more successful period films to choose from God Of War is a hard sell.