Rating: PG-13 for stylized violence and sexual content. In Mandarin with English subtitles
Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Director Chen Kaige has amassed a wildly impressive body of work that unfortunately does not include this messy fairy tale that speaks to tainted ambition and destiny.
Chen’s fantasy walks a fine line between celluloid beauty and the cheesy old school serial, spinning a cluttered yarn of an enigmatic child princess who makes a pact with the ethereal Goddess Manchen (Chen Hong) to forsake true love for the promise of a pampered life of beauty, riches and power.
Bad news for the three men who ultimately fall for the adult Princess Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung). The first is fierce warrior General Guangming (Hiroyuki Sanada), a red-robed hero who sends a band of slaves into battle and conquers his enemy with unusual skill and grace.
But the proud Duke of the North (Nicholas Tse) has a different destiny in mind for Guangming, forcing his men to desert him and leaving him to suffer a vision of the aforementioned Goddess, who claims that only an authentic God of War will win the heart of the Princess.
Not to be
outdone Guangming defies the Goddess and vows to win the heart of Qingcheng.
His trusted slave
Confused? I was. The narrative is a mish-mash of character commotion that takes its sweet time sorting itself out. Chen goes all out in his attempt to tackle the martial-arts fantasy (“Hero”, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” etc.), wallowing in mistaken identity themes and a kaleidoscope of vision and color that scream cinematic circus act.
violence, dense scripting and staccato pacing take their toll on the biggest
budgeted movie ever made in
“Love is forever out of your reach” declares one of our heartbroken heroes. So it is with the essence of the overly long fever-dream that is “The Promise”.