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1911 (1/10)

by Tony Medley

Run time 118 minutes.

Not for children.

All through this long, boring, convoluted, confusing, feeble attempt at an historical epic, I kept thinking about Serge Eisenstein's long, boring, convoluted, confusing feeble 1938 attempt at an historical epic, Alexander Nevsky, which was a Soviet Communist propaganda film, trying to latch onto the 13th-Century Russian hero as an early Communist. I didn't think that Jackie Chan would be involved in a Chinese Communist propaganda film, but there it was in the final graphic at the end of the movie that says that the Chinese Communist party is "following the spirit of Sun Yat-sen." Talk about ridiculous! Sun Yat-sen was for free elections, a democrat. The Chicoms run a brutal dictatorship; freedom is discouraged, to put it politely. This raises a troubling question, to wit, is Jackie Chan a supporter of the Chinese Communist dictatorship?

But, propaganda aside, this is a horrible film. It starts with a scrawl that is supposed to explain what is going on in China in 1911 as a setup for what follows. But the scrawl is in white and the background is in white, resulting in a scrawl that is impossible to read. It goes downhill from there, like being filled with innumerable unidentified battle scenes. What battles we're watching is never told, and they appear throughout the film like clockwork.

Worse, there are long scenes of Jackie, who plays Revolutionary leader, co-founder of the Kuomintang and the Republic of China, and Yat-sen confidant Huang Xing, and other characters in the film looking and thinking. There's one long, almost interminable surrealistic scene of Jackie walking down a bunker with no sound but the audience can see battle mayhem occurring all around. What battle is this? Where is it? What's the point of the battle? No clue. But Jackie keeps walking and the camera keeps zooming in on Jackie's face apparently to reflect that the man can, in fact, think.

All the actors seem to have graduated from the Sean Penn school of acting because there are lots of crying scenes, but nary a tear. Many scenes are actually laughable.

Directed by Zhang Li, Chan has a credit as "General Director." He should rethink this and have his name taken off the credits. Maybe they can loop someone in to play his character. This will do his reputation no good, although there's not really much to harm here because he has a string of rotten movies to his credit.

Sun Yat-sen (Winston Chao) is shown as basically a Chinese doctor living in San Francisco whose only contribution to the Revolution was to go to Europe to convince the European banks to not give a huge loan to the Qing Dynasty for the ostensible purpose of saving their railroad, but would, in fact, be used to defeat the Revolution. That's a calumny.

This movie doesn't deserve all the time it would take to point out all its flaws. Suffice it to say that it's an embarrassment to all involved. Sun Yat-sen and his revolutionaries deserve much better than this clumsy agitprop. In Mandarin.

October 3, 2011