Co-directed by and featuring Jackie Chan (in what was apparently his 100th film), this is a sweeping historical epic about the 1911 Revolution, released during the event's centennial anniversary.
In the early 20th Century, China was in a state of turmoil. There's all kinds of poverty, social unrest, and recent reforms that were designed to help, have instead made matter worse. The ruling Qing Dynasty, at that time led by a 7 year-old emperor and his ruthless mother, are greatly out of touch. The power of this dynasty had been unquestioned for about 250 years, but right around the end of the first decade of the 20th Century, the tide began to turn, and a revolution to overthrow the old regime began to rise. And this is the story of that revolution.
The basic leader of the revolution is Huang Xing (Jackie Chan). He returns to China after spending time in Japan studying modern warfare. And, after seeing the sorry state his country is in, he feels no choice but to revolt, using his newly acquired skills and knowledge.
I really wanted to like this. It looked immense and epic and thrilling, and I'm almost always down for a historical drama. The film is supposed to have a run time of 125 minutes. For whatever reason, the version I saw was only 99 minutes. There's some deleted scenes on the DVD that would help beef up the run time, but even then, I feel like there's a lot missing. And for what is supposed to be an epic, it feels like anything but.
It feels rushed, and that's not good for a film about a complex and important event. Some context is given for the big players, major events, and all that, but all of the title cards are written in extremely tiny font, and flash by the screen all too quickly. Another bad sign. The film is apparently relatively faithful to the actual events in terms of portraying how it all went down, and the period details are quite nice. The film was given support by the Chinese government, but at the same time, the film cuts out some of the more sensitive and less flattering material that led to the revolution.
What I'm trying to say is that this is a condensed, neutered, half-assed film that is worse than it should be.
Like I said though, the period details, sets, costumes, etc. look great, and there are some decently done action scenes with good effects. It just makes me mad that you need a lot of prior knowledge (and/or excellent vision) to really figure out and appreciate what is going on here. Chan downplays his usual shtick, and the results are pretty strong. Joan Chen is also decent as the Empress Dowager. Everyone else though just kinda exists and does only as much as they're required. It also doesn't help that I struggled to care or get invested.
All in all, I'm unfortunately not impressed. This was a real let down. It has it's moments, but they're too few and far between for me to give this a higher rating.