Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Review - The Children of Huang Shi

The Children of Huang Shi directed by Roger Spottiswoode is a true story set in 1937 when Japan held control over China. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays George Hogg, a british journalist who saves a group of chinese orphans with the assistance of a australian nurse and a chinese resistance fighter played by Chow Yun Fat.

This film could have been so much more. It has the makings of a very moving historical drama that would have the viewer riveted from beginning to end. Unfortunately the film falls flat because of a choppy script and poor use of the actors talents that were casted. The film under uses Hogg's legacy instead focusing more on the military involvment and war in the background. Very few scenes really protraited how much Hogg inspired the entire orphange and others he befriended along the way. Furthermore, the film does a poor job displaying Hogg's greatest legacy. The 1000 mile trek he takes over sixty orphans from the trecherous mountains of Liu Pan Shan through to the edge of the Mongolian desert. Their three month journey is only represented as twenty minutes in the film.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is good in the film, although it felt weird seeing him as George Hogg. Meyers is much more suited playing a sinister character. I am sure that he has wanted to step outside of that shadow of always playing a villain, but I found it odd. I have a much easier time watching Meyers when I have contempt for his characters, instead of respecting or admiring them. Chow Yun Fat was great as the rogue ressistance fighter who helped protect Hogg and the children throughout the film. His dialogue with Meyers was generally pleasing and was some of the better dialogue throughout. Radha Mitchell as, Lee Pearson, the australian doctor was extremely lacking. Mitchell herself wasn't so bad, it was her dialogue and overall character. Here again the choppy script which never fully developed any of the many aspects to the film, left Mitchell's character to suffer. On a positive note, all of the orphan chinese children were expectionally good. They conveyed a range of emotions all of which added to the overall enjoyment of the film.

The film was shot on location in China and has some amazing cinematography. Unfortunately, like most of the film, the cinematography is underdeveloped and choppy. Along the thousand mile journey Hogg takes the orphans, Spottiswoode direction could have used some beautiful long grasping shots of China, but instead they are chopped, faded, and do not allow the viewer to really take in the grace and beauty.

Ultimately Children of Huang Shi was a cheap impression of epic historical drama. It had all of the right pieces to be an epic, just didn't know how to utilize them.