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Review The Taking of Tiger Mountain a.k.a. Zhi qu wei hu shan (2014): A Tsui Hark light!

genre: action, adventure, biography, war

Believe it or not The Taking of Tiger Mountain is based on a historic novel concerning an incident between the PLA (People Liberation's Army) and a group of bandits called the Kuomintang. That is about as much history you are going to get. Because everything else plays out like a serious fantasy drama.

I don't really know what to think of this film as it doesn't feel like a Tsui Hark film at all. It's devoid of humour for one thing and the action while good is not that special or creative. The good guys are pretty likable even if we don't really get to know them well. But enough to learn that they truly are good people. It seems like Hark really was trying to be true to telling this story and take him seriously. But how can I if the villains of the story look and act like cartoon characters. It doesn't make sense for the leader played by Tony Kai Fai Leung to look like Heihachi Mishima. But he really doesn. Why?

However at the end of the film footage is shown of the original 1960 film. Seems like Tsui Hark has mimicked the style and atmosphere of that film. And from the little that is shown it plays out like a play where the actors wear thick make-up and prosthetics. It's commendable but is exactly one of the reasons why I was unable to take events that seriously even if the entire cast take the material seriously. Sure I did find myself rooting for the good guys. How can you not be? They are so wholesome and caring who wouldn't side with them? And this brings me to my other complaint. None of the characters have any depth. What you see is what you get. Apart from some surprises almost every character and event is predictable. There are some moments that are touching and thrilling but I wished there were more of them. That and I would have really like some more context and info on the factions and soldiers involved. Why are the bandits rebelling against the PLA? How significant was this battle? I mean I get it's huge. But how huge in the grand scheme of things?

I tuned into this film solely for the action and spectacle I know Tsui Hark can deliver. And to a certain extent he provides good action. But spectacular, wacky and insane?  Not in the slightest. Overall I found the whole viewing experience to be underwhelming. While I get that we are supposed to believe the main characters were heroic it doesn't feel like that. 

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