Red Cliff (Chi Bi) (2009)

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Critic Consensus: Featuring some impressively grand battlefield action, John Woo returns to Asia and returns to form in the process for this lavish and slick historical epic.

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Movie Info

The first chapter of a two-part story centered on a battle fought in China's Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.).

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Cast

Takeshi Kaneshiro
as Zhuge Liang
Fengyi Zhang
as Cao Cao
Chen Chang
as Sun Quan
Wei Zhao
as Sun Shangxiang
Jun Hu
as Zhao Yun/Zhao Zilong
Lin Chi-Ling
as Xiao Qiao
Yong You
as Liu Bei
Yong Hou
as Lu Su
Dawei Tong
as Sun Shucai
Jia Song
as Li Ji
Zang Jingsheng
as Zhang Fei
Zhang Shan
as Huang Cai
Wang Hui
as Cao Hong
Xie Gang
as Dr. Hua Tuo
Shi Xing Hong
as Jiang Gan
Xu Feng Xian
as Zhang Liao
Guo Chao
as Yue Jin
Xiaoguang Hu
as Xia Hou Jun
Ma Jing
as Wei Ben
Yi Zhen
as Cai Mao
Wang Ning
as Emperor Han
He Yin
as Lady Mi
Ye Hua
as Tian Tian
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Critic Reviews for Red Cliff (Chi Bi)

All Critics (116) | Top Critics (29)

The director's magnum opus.

Jun 29, 2010 | Full Review…

The result is an awfully big and powerful movie, even in abbreviated form.

Dec 18, 2009 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

A formidable prelude to an epic battle with resplendent effects and action spectacles.

Dec 11, 2009

Woo has re-embraced his Chinese roots with brutal commitment.

Dec 10, 2009 | Rating: 3/4

Flaws and all, you can't watch a frame of it without feeling that it has been generations since Hollywood tackled anything on this scale.

Dec 10, 2009 | Rating: 3/4

It's hard to know what we're missing from the extended cut, but this Red Cliff feels awfully complete to me.

Dec 7, 2009 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Red Cliff (Chi Bi)

½

Red Cliff is an epic retelling of the battle of Red Cliffs in which a power hungry politician attempts to invade the peaceful lands of the south to unite the kingdom under his personal rule. Although clearly a historical epic, the film I was reminded of the most whilst watching Red Cliff was The Two Towers, mainly because of the fact that it is pretty much just one huge battle sequence in which two vast armies of pixels kick the crap out of each other. It's basically the story of a game of military chess between two strategists rather than anything as mystical and romantic as Crouching Tiger or House Of Flying Daggers, and as such it is much more of a "boy's film". Woo does in fact try to inject some of this sweeping romanticism, but it falls short of Ang Lee's poetic vision because it relies entirely on one character; unfortunately she is criminally underwritten and Wei Zhao plays her with a constant vacant semi-smile that just made her look a bit retarded! On the other hand Takeshi Kaneshiro clearly relishes the role of wily tactician which makes a change from his usual action man persona and the best sequences come when the personalities of the characters are stamped onto the surrounding battle; namely the involvement of their feisty spy and Kaneshiro's ploy to steal arrows from the opposing army. The opening sequence featuring a general protecting his master's baby (a clear reference to Hard Boiled) also raises a smile. Maybe not fully rounded, but as a visual spectacle it is an absolute feast and it makes me wonder how good it would've been if Woo had stayed in China to create projects like this instead of spending the last 20 years sucking Satan's cock in Hollywood...

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

A decent big battle epic film by John Woo. The fight scenes are good and on a huge scale. Sadly there wasn't a great deal of plot, just waiting for the next big battle to take place, so it did become repetitive in that sense which isn't helped by a long run time.

Dean King
Dean King

Super Reviewer

½

John Woo's epic movie about the historical Chinese battle at the red cliffs has everything you expect from a film of such a scale: interesting characters that grow on you, a great soundtrack, huge spectacle and gorgeous shots, lots of (surprisingly unbloody ) fights and battles, some of which are of course as exaggerated and silly as expected from Asian cinema. Even the shorter cut of the film feels a bit long in the middle part. But the final battle and all the tactics that come with it are really great and offer very enthralling entertainment. It all culminates in an almost Tarantino-esque standoff between the main characters that literally has you on the edge of your seat. Thankfully, while some of his trademarks can be found throughout the film, Woo does not go overboard with his slow-motions or dramatically flying doves. Of course he still had to add a dove, though. Still, great and huge historical cinema.

Jens S.
Jens S.

Super Reviewer

½

*Note* I watched the U.S. theatrical version, which runs 158 minutes, and is a combination of varying amounts of parts 1 and 2 of the original Chinese version. John Woo, after a string of less than stellar Hollywood films, decided to return to China, and, armed with one of his largest budgets ever, came out with this sweeping historical epic based on an epic battle that occurered during China's Three Kingdoms period, during the end of the Han Dynasty (208-209) CE (aka AD). Being into history, yet not very familair with this particular event or section of history, I wasn't able to go into all out historian mode, instead having to spend a lot of time just sitting back and enjoying myself. And enjoy myself I did. This is a lavish, epic historical drama/war film. The action setpieces are well done, and cgi is used as a tool and not a crutch. The music and cinematography are wonderful, and there's some top notch set and costume designs. My real issues here is with the story. I don't know why they felt the need to condense a two part film into a single volume that is the length of either individual part. Doing this makes for some jarring editing, confusing story transitions at times, and some jumbled chronology and character development. I would have been happy watching two separate and unjumbled parts, just like I did with Che and Mesrine. This doesn't ruin things, but it does take away some of the impact, and it might not make things easier on audiences who aren't aware of the actual events and that sort of thing. I could follow things, yes, but still, they could have done a better job assembling this cut. At least the film isn't really dull, so that's good. Since this is Woo, I don't need to get into too much detail about the action and violence. It's well done, awesome, and delivers the goods. Despite how this version handles it, the story is good and intriguing too. Seems very Shakespearean. The performances are good, and honestly, it was a little hard for me to decide which side to root for. Maybe that didn't matter so much since this isn't a depiction of events that really had any bearing on my own life, country, and history. Still though, it's good to have a side to root for once in a while. All in all, a really decent film. I'd give it a far higher rating had I gotten to see the two individual parts, as opposed to this Frankensteined version, but I still think this is a solid enough effort to merit a Strong B to light B+.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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