STUDIO: Magnolia Home Entertainment
MSRP: $26.98
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Featurettes

The Pitch

The Imperial Ching Army and the Taiping rebels have spent an endless amount of time with their Civil War. General Pang wants to end it now. 

The Humans

Jet Li, Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Jinglei Xu and Bao-ming Gu

The Nutshell

The Chinese historical epic has been getting quite the workout over the last ten years. Zhang Yimou perfected it, John Woo attempted it and now we have an army of imitators trying to put their stamp on the country’s pre-commie origins. Chang Cheh tackled the subject of the Tai Ping Rebellion in the far superior Blood Brothers, which actually addressed the real issues in the matter. While Japan was entering the Meiji Restoration, China was having bloodier growing pains. The traditionalists wanted a near-theocracy that held onto the religious ideals of the past. The younger citizens wanted to break away from tradition and forge a new nation that actually resembled the rest of the 19th Century World. When the two sides met to discuss the matter, folks had to die.

Give that man a Stovepipe Hat and he could be Abraham Rincorn.

The Lowdown

The Warlords is another historical epic that comes across as China’s answer to the American Western expansion propaganda of the 1950s. The period piece is always a tricky movie to make, as hindsight tends to screw with factual reporting. Some might say that cinema isn’t meant to be truth at twenty-four frames per second and that we should embrace the fantasy of the commonplace. I take issue with that, as I feel it’s bullshit to ignore history. When we first meet General Pang in this film, he’s playing dead among the bodies of his fallen soldiers. Far from the war hero of old, this is the face of the new Chinese military might.

Jet Li is really trying to break out of his action mold with these stronger roles. General Pang allows Li to develop a character that isn’t noble, but he’s not without purpose. Teaming up with two bandits, Pang transforms from mindless warrior into a cunning vessel of vengeance. General Pang is a newly born realist that sees the failure of his traditional past. When he meets with his two new Bandit Warlord compatriots, they want to fill his head with new ideals of social change and revolution. But, Pang sees through that too. What Pang has come to terms with is the futility of human existence. Mankind only exists to perpetuate basic function with true excellence only arriving by accident.

The Tai Ping Rebellion was one of the bloodiest battles in history. If you’ve seen the American cut of this film, you couldn’t tell. Fifteen minutes were cut from the film, but there were plenty of Martial Arts influence gore shots to pad out scenes that didn’t involved deep soul-searching. There is a serious side to this film, but we never get to see it past a few brief scenes of character building. General Pang is far different from Nameless or any other Jet Li hero. Pang is the face of a changing China that dares to question its past, while bravely marching into the future. It’s also bullshit.

General Pang is a rejection of the Dynasty rule of Ancient China, but he’s just another goosestepping pawn for Red China. The only times we see Pang question himself is to allow the character to slip in sound bytes that would make Chairman Mao swell with pride. By the end of the film, Pang is all too willing to take up the reins of his former masters. As long as there’s a new philosophy to spew, there will also be a rebel to squash. Under every rock, behind every door…there’s a threat to your government. Back to the DVD, the
A/V Quality is pretty clean for an international historical drama. But, I wonder why Magnolia didn’t make the longer cut of the film available on DVD.

Dynasty Warriors: XVIII – Who Cares? Edition

The Package

with the basic mix of featurettes and production materials. There’s a ton of deleted scenes and you get the typical HDNet feature for a Magnolia release. The A/V Quality is pretty strong for standard definition. During my three viewings, I didn’t notice any digital noise or other artifacting. Hell, the Dolby 5.1 mix was stronger than most of the major studio releases I’ve seen recently. In the end, the film suffers because it’s so mediocre. There’s nothing onscreen that hasn’t been seen before. Nothing changes and everyone leaves the film wondering why they should give a shit about Chinese history.

5.5 out of 10