Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
White Vengeance: The Birth of the Han Dynasty
corrupts and the pursuit of power corrupts just as absolutely. This is the lesson an ancient mystery man has
for a pompous scholar and his students, startled paying their respects in the first
Han Emperor’s tomb. He will tell them
the real story of the Hongmen Banquet and the struggle to succeed the fallen
Qin Dynasty in Daniel Lee’s mistitled White Vengeance (trailer
is now available on DVD and BluRay today from Well Go USA.
tyrannical Qin Emperor is dead and nobody misses him, least of all Han leader Liu
Bang and Chu nobleman Xiang Yu, rival generals who forged an uneasy alliance against
the Qin. Of course, the emperor’s death
prompts a rather obvious question: who will succeed him? Fearing for his own neck, the caretaker
emperor decrees the first to control the Qin capitol of Xianyang wins the throne,
hoping to play the warriors against each other.
sworn brothers turned bitter rivals, there are still a lot of unresolved issues
between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu, particularly concerning the royal consort Yu Ji,
the latter’s lover entrusted to the former for safekeeping. Among many things, Vengeance is an elegantly austere, almost chaste, love triangle.
is also plenty of period warfighting in Vengeance,
rendered with grit and scope. Lee is definitely
in his element staging huge clashes of armies.
He really shows viewers exactly what it means to be outflanked and why
it is a bad thing. Yet, the film’s real
battle is that between the military strategists, Xiang Yu’s longtime family
advisor Fan Zeng and the freelance Obiwan Zhang Liang, who sides with his rival
because of Liu Bang’s professed lack of ambition. When the two counselors match wits during a
game of weiqi, the stakes are significant and bloody.
an all-star HK and Chinese cast, Vengeance
features memorable supporting performances from top to bottom. Not surprisingly, Anthony Wong dominates the
film as the blind but all-seeing Fan Zeng, instantly bringing the gravitas necessary
for the cunning yet classically tragic figure.
Still, as the crafty Zhang Liang, Hanyu Zhang holds his own with the
recognizable Johnnie To veteran.
neither Feng Shaofeng nor Leon Lai displays the same commanding screen presence
as the rival generals. Actually, they
are rather bland. In contrast, Jordan Chan packs quite the late
inning punch as Han loyalist Fan Kuai, while (Crystal) Liu Yifei is appropriately
orchid-like as Yu Ji, but she also makes the most of a bigtime dramatic
close-up down the stretch.
Lee rather dexterously shifts viewer sympathies
in ways that might even be considered subversive. Indeed, there is a definitely a point to Vengeance about the high cost of taking
and keeping power. What they say about
good intentions still holds true. An
ambitious historical epic with plenty of action, White Vengeance is recommended with considerable enthusiasm for
fans of Hong Kong cinema. It releases
today (9/4) on DVD and BluRay from Well Go USA.
Labels: Anthony Wong, DVD