Film review: Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain
Starring: Zhang Hanyu,Tony Leung Ka-fai, Yu Nan
Director: Tsui Hark
Category: IIB (Putonghua)
It is not often that a new movie by a pre-eminent Hong Kong director is released in China nearly five months before it opens locally. Then again, it's just as hard to picture anything more at odds with the city's current political sentiment than The Taking of Tiger Mountain.
Finding inspiration from an unlikely source, Tsui Hark's action-adventure film is loosely based on Qu Bo's 1957 novel Tracks in the Snowy Forest, which most famously lent its story to Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy, one of eight yangbanxi (or model operas) produced during the Cultural Revolution.
Set in war-ravaged northeast China in 1946, this story about the efforts by a small squad of the People's Liberation Army to exterminate a fortress of bandits presents a clear dichotomy of good and evil. In Tsui's hands, the communist propaganda classic becomes a handy platform to showcase his craftsmanship.
A top-notch spectacle that's shot to make the most of its 3D format, the film features a range of sensational fight sequences — including one between a soldier and a CGI Siberian tiger — interspersed with espionage plots that bring thrills and giggles with a knowing touch of irony.
Buried under its twists and turns is the understated performances of its ensemble cast. Only Tony Leung Ka-fai's almost unrecognisable turn as the bandit leader and Zhang Hanyu's portrayal of a fearless PLA agent leave more than a faint impression.
The Taking of Tiger Mountain opens on May 14