story of the Yang Family Generals and their noble sacrifices has been told on
film before, including twice by the Shaw Brothers. Still, Ronny Yu finds and
his co-screenwriters, Edmund Wong and Scarlett Liu, give it a fresh twist and
an English title obviously intended to evoke Spielberg’s post-D-Day blockbuster.
They certainly have plenty of tragedy and bloody warfighting to work with. Death comes swiftly but the stain of dishonor
is eternal in Yu’s Saving General Yang (trailer here), which releases
today on DVD and BluRay from Well Go USA.
is more celebrated throughout the Song Dynasty for keeping the Khitan at bay
than General Yang Ye. That also means he has made plenty of enemies, the
fiercest being Yelü Yuan, the Khitan commander, who blames Yang for his father’s
death in battle. However, Yang’s more
politically astute rival Lord Pan poses a greater snake-in-the-grass
danger. Despite Yang’s proved military
leadership, the emperor appoints Pan as supreme commander of the Imperial Army,
essentially demoting Yang to frontline general.
He will regret that decision.
course, the first chance Pan gets, he retreats, leaving General Yang in the
lurch. Rather than moving in for the
kill, Yelü allows the wounded Yang to regroup on Wolf Mountain, fully expecting
the Yang Brothers will try to rescue their besieged father. It is not just war
for him, it is personal.
the Yang clan is in for a lot of mourning, but at least the brothers die
spectacular deaths. Yu and action
Stephen Tung Wai know how to stage a battle scene, emphasizing brutal realism instead
of super human heroics. These might be
some of the roughest, least exaggerated action sequences you will see in a year
of wuxia films. On the other hand, when it comes to romance, Saving largely punts. At the least we briefly meet Ady Ang as
Princess Chai, who definitely seems like the sort of Imperial royalty you would
consider taking home to meet your parents. (Unfortunately, both Yang and Pan
have a son who had that same idea, which is how most of this trouble starts in
the first place.)
the titular general, veteran HK actor Adam Cheng is aces at projecting a commanding
presence. Likewise, Young & Dangerous franchise alumnus Ekin Cheng is appropriately
steely as the first Yang son, Yang Yanping.
However, numbers two through seven are largely indistinguishable from
each other. All we really know about Vic
Chou’s Yang Sanlang (#3) is his prowess with bow-and-arrow, but frankly that’s
good enough, considering his role in a massive third act archery duel with Yelü’s
Saving’s big battle set pieces are quite impressive,
with set designer Kenneth Mak and cinematographer Chan Chi-ying crafting a
first class period production with epic sweep and down-and-dirty grit. If you
like hot-blooded war films circa 986 AD, this one delivers. Just don’t ask for any extraneous
characterization or whatnot. Recommended
as red meat for genre fans, especially those who appreciate the enduring story
of the honorable Yangs, Saving General
Yang is now available for home viewing from Well Go USA.
Labels: DVD, Ronny Yu, Yang Family Generals