Reign of Assassins (Review)

Reign of Assassins

aka Jianyu

Directed by Su Chao-Pin and John Woo

Reign of Assassins left me angry, not because it is a bad film, but because it could have been an outstanding film. Reign of Assassins had the potential to be an awesome and unforgettable film experience. Instead, we have just a good film, with parts I remember more because of how they could have been and not what they are. Yes, there are some great sequences in Reign of Assassins (RoA for those of us who are cool), mostly the action sequences (which is where it looks like John Woo just completely took over), but there are many other parts that look great in screencaps and as stills.

Interesting characters are introduced, only to be barely in the film or have suspect motivations, while other characters get far far too much screen time. Why we had like 30 minutes of the land lady vs. five minutes of the Magician I will never know. The villain’s big secret reveal was a let down, as was his secret identity. Why does the undisputed master of the biggest circle of thieves need a secret identity? And it isn’t even a secret identity that he uses to get information no one else can get, he’s just… Gah!

One is tempted to compare this to John Woo’s Face/Off, what with all the face-switching, but he didn’t write the film and seemed to be just hanging around the set all day telling Su Chao-Pin what to do. I guess he just sort of took over and Su Chao-Pin was so impressed that John Woo is hanging around he just let him. John Woo’s daughter Angeles Woo even shows up near the beginning of the film! So we can say that Su Chao-Pin got Wooed. Big time.

Just imagine one day you are directing a film, and then Steven Spielberg walks in and says he loves the script and wants to hang out on set. Of course you’re stoked, you are in the presence of a master and probably learn a lot. Then the next day, Steven comes back. And that’s cool. And he has tips and helps out your crew. Then he comes back again the next day. And the next. Soon your crew starts deferring to him and he virtually takes over directing most of the major scenes. The press gets wind, and suddenly your film is now “Steven Spielberg’s…” and his daughter is suddenly cast in it. Soon, no one even remembers who you are. Your star asks you to go get coffee. Spielberg is sent on a ten city tour to promote the film, while you get yelled at for forgetting the hazelnut syrup in the latte. Bitter and dejected, you then log onto TarsTarkas.NET, only to find even he is making fun of you. Your life is ruined, and there is nothing left to do but jump off the Empire State Building. But don’t despair, I think they got suicide nets now. Try the Golden Gate Bridge, it is still net free at the moment.

Now, I’m not saying that’s what happened on this film, I’m just saying they need to get the barriers on the bridge built faster.

So let’s start the Roll Call for John Woo’s Reign of Assassins!

Zeng Jing aka Drizzle (Michelle Yeoh) – Change your face, change your life. Also steal half of a dead body and realize you can’t really leave the underworld unless it is on a trail of dead bodies. Michelle Yeoh is famous enough I shouldn’t have to explain who she is.
Jiang Ah-Sheng (Jung Woo-Sung) – Zeng Jing’s husband with a secret of his own. He’s a delivery guy who enjoys hiding from the rain and being rejected by Zeng Jing. Until she finally marries him because we’ve wasted enough time in the village and the plot demands we continue on. Jung Woo-Sung was in Musaand The Good, The Bad, and The Weird.
Wheel King (Wang Xue-Qi) – Leader of the Dark Stone, the super thieves gang that rules the Chinese underworld. He has a secret identity and a secret. He also has a goofy nickname. Just because he did awesome on Wheel of Fortune and even scored a date with Vanna White, he’ll never live it down….
Turquoise Leaf (Barbie Hsu Hsi-Yuan) – Barbie Hsu plays a good crazy woman, you almost forget she can play likable characters (cough cough Adventure of the King), or characters that are the living embodiment of a gloomy rainy day (cough cough Future X-Cops).
The Magician (Leon Dai Lap-Yan) – The coolest character who is completely ignored and quickly eliminated. That’s what you get for not being a boring guy who likes noodles!
Lei Bin (Shawn Yu Man-Lok ) – The needles guy likes noodles. This guy is pretty boring, and throwing needles is something that you usually see women doing in martial arts films. Another Dark Stone assassins. Did you know Dark Stone members are called “Dark Stoners”? Now you do! Shawn Yu has been in the Infernal Affairs trilogy and tons of other films I have seen but not written reviews of.
Drizzle (Kelly Lin Hsi-Lei) – Here is Drizzle pre-face surgery, because she was played by someone famous so we’re namedropping her. Largely because Kelly Lin was in Asian Charlie’s Angels.

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Asian Charlie’s Angels (Review)

Asian Charlie’s Angels

Christy Chung! as An Qi
Kelly Lin Hsi-Lei as ???
Annie Wu Chen-Chun as ???/Zheng Ke Ren
Cheng Jutsi as ???
??? as Feng Ming
??? as Zhong Wen
??? as Pan Jai Xi

It seems America is not the only country where guys named Charlie hire beautiful women to solve crimes. Hong Kong has joined the fun, and their Charlie follows in his American counterpart’s footsteps. What results is a television pilot for a failed Chinese TV series (as best as I can gather from the few available sources) complete with all the bad parts left in that show you why it wasn’t ordered as a full series. Lots of bad spots. A few bright spots show up, but the show mostly contains some odd elements, some things left completely unexplained, and two main characters developed so flimsily that the VCD case this movie came in is thicker. The three Angels are played by some well known actresses, which puts the failure entirely on the shoulders of the writers/directors/producers. How you can score some big names and then fail in every other aspect must take some skill. Well, Uwe Boll pulls it off, but China should be emulating good directors. Christy Chung is the biggest name here of the three, not only is she super hot, but she’s pretty well known internationally. Kelly Lin is also known a bit outside of Hong Kong, as is Annie Wu, but neither to the extent of Christy Chung (Chung was previously seen here in Red Wolf.) Still, they are all big names in Hong Kong, and star power alone should have guaranteed a hit, even moderately. That it didn’t should be a warning sign. A big warning sign. Billboard size. Billboard seen from space size. Billboard seen from outside the galaxy size. What I’m saying is, pretty big. This is technically Part 2, seeming to be the second half of a two-hour pilot, yet it’s pretty stand alone as it is. If I ever run across Part 1, I’ll update this review, but there is no need to wait, especially since there is plenty of pain to go around for this episode, mixed with the guilty pleasure of seeing the hot Angels run around. From what little I’ve found of the missing first half, it has nothing to do with what happens here, anyway. So let’s sail away on the Angel train of adventure. Grab your halo and wings, it will be a bumpy ride…

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