Return from the River Kwai (1989) Poster

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Mediocre follow-up to immortal film realized in low budget and poor acting
ma-cortes19 October 2008
By summer 1943 on the Asian mainland , Japanese troops had overrun much of the southeast Asia . They had conquered what is now Malasya and Burma . The British defenders and their allied had retreated north and west into India . The bridge of the River Kwai was placed on the so-called ¨Burma road¨ stretched north from the Burmese , Rangoon , into southern China . It combined a railroad with a winding track through the high mountains near the Chinese border . There had many valuable natural resources , including large large oil fields , and Japan's victory in 1942 cut off the only land route into China from outside. The mountain and jungle of Burma were some of the most demanding environments for fighting in the whole war . Burma and Thailand was strategically valuable , however , it guarded the supply routes to China where were a million Japanese troops, but in such a huge country even that number could not win a decisive victory over the Allied . The film's opening prologue states : "Planes from the 493rd Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps bombed and destroyed the bridges on the River Kwai in Japanese-occupied Thailand. This film is based on the true events which happened during that period" . In Thailand working for building a bridge over the River Kwai were a group of war prisoners , mostly Australian and Brits , Maj. Benford (Edward Fox , though Anthony Andrews was earmarked for this role) , Cmdr Hunt (Nick Tate) , Seaman Miller (Timothy Bottoms) , among others , under rigid orders of the camp of concentration's commandant Tanaka (George Takei) . Cruel conditions in the concentration camp make life very difficult and the climate also had a significant impact on the prisoners . Meantime , the bridge is bombing by an American aircraft piloted by lieutenant Crawford (Chris Penn , recently deceased) , but he's gunned down , being picked up by the Meo ,an indigenous tribe . The Meo have created a resistance group commanded by British colonel Grayson (Demholm Elliott) . Then , the convicts find many dangers and risks , as they are transported by rail and , later on , they shipped by sea to serve as slave workers . As they pass throughout several places and cities , Nonh Penh , Saigon , until embark on a freighter , but an Allied submarine sight the ship...

The film is allegedly the following to classic 'Bridge on the river Kwai' by David Lean with William Holden , Alec Guinnes , Jack Hawkins , but this Return to Kwai is not based on the novel written by Pierre Boulle and starts where the original terminated with the blowing-up of the famous bridge . However , not being an official sequel to 1957 original film , it was made in short budget about thirty years after ; in fact , it wasn't even released in the United States theatres because of legal reasons , and in Europe premiered in cinemas with limited success . It does supposedly follow-on from true facts as depicted in that film , though the roles , historical events , happenings and incidents in both films are essentially different . It displays a functional cinematography by Arthur Wooster . And evocative as well as original musical score by Lalo Schifrin but without the unforgettable melodies from the successful first adaptation . The motion picture results to be an inferior version and made in a television style , being based on true events written by Clay and Joan Blair . The picture was middlingly directed by Andrew V. McLagen , Victor McLagen's son.
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Decent Entertainment for War Film Fans
gus8126 February 2005
Though a far cry from the David Lean classic, I thought this film offered reasonable entertainment for anyone with a passing interest in war films. Admittedly, there is not a great deal to say critically in the film's favour, but I think the current voter average is a little too harsh.

The film does suffer from a large dollop of poor acting, a sometimes inane and amateurish script, and often allows itself to become bogged down in clichés. The stilted and often unimaginative direction makes the film seem like a television show. However, at times the director allows the film to shine with some snappy and economical moments. The music is by the great Lalo Schifrin, and though not one of his best works (a little too simplistic and drenched in military cliché) it is quite catchy. But the special effects are too lacklustre to make the action sequences truly exciting.

However, Return from the River Kwai does have at least an interesting premise, and a decent screenplay which helps carry the story well. The on location shooting makes the settings look authentic, and the costumes are fairly decent. The film offers more than enough thrills and spills to keep you amused on a rainy afternoon. And of course it is great to see the always dependable George Takei and Edward Fox, as well as the lovable, late-great, Denholm Elliot on screen.

By no stretch a great movie, but one I am content to pass the time with. I do wish that television stations would program a movie like this for a daytime matinée instead of that made-for-television rubbish about some murderer in Mid-West America. Return from the River Kwai is a much better effort than those kind of movies, and it offers good, simple, lunchtime fare. At least a 5/10.
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Unrealistic Mediocrity
Claudio Carvalho21 February 2016
"Return from the River Kwai" is a war movie that abuses of bad clichés and is disrespectful with films such as "The Bridge on the River Kwai" or "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence". The unrealistic story shows, for example, an American pilot with problem on the shoulder that is capable to climb, flee from a prisoner of war camp using a rope made from clothes or roll over the wing of a Japanese airplane. Another example is the soldier that spits blood on the face of a cruel Japanese lieutenant and is surprised when he takes his saber to decapitate him, recalling "Hogan's Heroes". The story is awful and a waste of time. My vote is three.

Title (Brazil): "Regresso do Rio Kwai" ("Return from the River Kwai")
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I wonder why it never got released in the US?
Michael A. Martinez16 February 2003
I just recently had the tawdry task of sitting through the Japanese version of this film, with all the English dialog subtitled in Japanese and all the Japanese dialog (and there is a lot of it) not subtitled, so admittedly I couldn't tell 100% exactly what was going on the whole time.

The film begins well, reminding me of an episode of "Black Sheep Squadron" with George Takei kicking around a band of misfit G.I.'s in Burma while they're constantly under attack by Allied planes. There's some good action sequences at this point, a staple of any of Andrew V. McLaglen's war films, but around the halfway mark the action dies down and it turns into a pretty dull movie about prisoners being escorted back to Japan. The climactic mutiny aboard the Japanese freighter and battle between a gunboat and an American submarine is just plain silly.

Chris Penn is totally useless this time around, and the subplot involving him and Denholm Elliott sneaking around behind enemy lines does nothing but distract us from the real story of all the prisoners. Edward Fox and Timothy Bottoms both come across as somewhat underused, but most of the Japanese cast, especially Tatsuya Nakadai (a Kurosawa regular), come off pretty well.

Overall this film comes across little more than an average TV war movie with minor action sequences, some better-than-average photography and special effects, but with a dull and meandering padded storyline. It's pretty dull, but the movie is decent enough to at least warrant some US distribution at some point in time.

Though RETURN FROM THE RIVER KWAI is not exactly terrible, this is a fairly unmemorable dud, and totally useless as a sequel to an undeniably great film.
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Quite silly
martin_humble14 November 2001
This World War 2 drama do not succeed in almost anything.The story is set in 1945, Americans and English are situated as prisoners at a Japanese POW camp at the river Kwai in Thailand. They are ordered to transfer to Japan. Can they escape before they reach Japan?

Edward Fox is good as usual and so are many of the supporting actors but this is no use when Christopher Penn massacre the movie with real bad acting. The manuscript is full with flaws and most of the Japanese soldiers are pictured as stereotype as usual. Some parts is amusing or exciting but not enough to help this film. I cannot recommend it at all.
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O dear o dear..
clinteastwoodcollector29 October 2005
Well well, my first post here on the IMDb, I didn't think I would ever register, been reading it for years and years.. Anyway, I just had to register after seeing this film (on TV) and if I can save just one soul from having to sit through the whole ordeal I'll be a very happy person, what went wrong?!?! I mean.. other than everything!! What an absolutely hideous film, avoid it, at all costs! Bad acting? We're talking wooden, Solid, as in solid mahogany!, the film looked absolutely terrible (of course this could have been down to the TV print)it looked panned, I'm guessing this was shot in panavision? Though i've not checked this yet on the technical spec. I thought I was going to enjoy this as soon as i saw Lalo Schifrin credited for the film's Score, but I'm sad to say I was pretty unimpressed with that, and i'm a big Schifrin fan. I kept thinking it was going to get better, and before I knew it, the end credits were rolling..
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screenman13 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This was a belated attempt to cash-in on the monumental and fully deserved success of 'The Bridge On The River Kwai'. So good was the original that even an advertisement for pile-dressing that contained the words 'River Kwai' could be sure of a substantial, if uncomfortable market.

But as a piece of cinema, this 'sequel' is shamefully inept in every way; quite literally tripe on a spool. The inclusion of two or three British character stalwarts like Denholm Elliot merely emphasises its comprehensive wretchedness rather than raising its status a notch.

I have to say, in response to another commentator, that being involved in its production is - like a dose of syphilis or a conviction for indecent exposure - not something one should mention in public. Quite the contrary; one's accidental exclusion from the credits should rank as extremely fortuitous.

Cherish the original as the Oscar-winning classic that it is. Don't even bother to read the blurb on the DVD box containing this tripe. Better to watch paint dry.
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Shameful waste of cinema resources
rayxt17 August 2002
Good money and talent squandered in badly scripted, acted and directed action. To even call this nonsense anything to do with the 'River Kwai' shames the original film and dishonors the memory of the atrocities which occured trying to build the ill-fated Burma Railway.
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Too Cliched
Theo Robertson18 August 2002
A sequel to BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI seems like a bad idea but RETURN FROM THE RIVER KWAI is unrelated to the David Lean classic apart from the title. This film does unlike the other Kwai film give us a realistic portrayal of Japanese P.O.W camps with amputations carried out on fully conscious patients and summary executions but that`s all it has in it`s favour . The characters are stereotypes with the British all stiff upper lipped while the Aussies call everyone " Mate " and say " P**s off " a lot
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Absolutely no relation to "Bridge on the River Qwai" except to cash in 20 years down the road
hippyhorn69-124 May 2008
A very average little war movie with no relation to the original "Bridge on the River Kwai" other than in name and a brief bit at the start. It's just a pure latter-day cash-in on the name of the original in fact.

The cinematography is decent and the colours are very good. A few sparklies are evident in the very dark scenes but with a decent sound free from any unwanted hiss or crackle the overall quality is pretty good.

As a bonus I found a few nice pseudo-surround effects using my Yamaha digital sound projector so I can't complain about anything other than the story.

Oh it's not quite family viewing by the way, containing as it does a few "bastards" and one "piss off" (for which the orator was beheaded with a sword by the Japanese officer to whom the remark was addressed).

My aged parents with whom I watched it on one of their weekly visits were not impressed though I thought it was an absolute hoot.

I nearly forgot to mention that there is a serious anomaly about 47 minutes into the film (which I'll submit for inclusion on the database).

The POWs are travelling by a rather ancient and decrepit train along a single-track equally decrepit jungle railway to their destination, housed in horrid old wooden box-car like trucks. At this mid-point we see a view of the train with colourful contemporary main-line passenger coaches, which look rather nice and comfortable and are certainly not made of wood. The film then reverts to the wooden box cars.
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Mickey Mouse creeps to the Kwai
drystyx16 November 2012
If the old guard and war purists thought the epic Guiness-Holden-Hawkins war film was unreal, they'd reconsider that film as being totally credible when compared to this.

One wouldn't think that a film made in 1989 would be devoid of realism in war. The seventies preached "realism", though refused to deliver it, instead trying to con audiences with tawdry, depressing scenes just to be under budget, then claim it was "realism". Nope, Then the eighties came, and producers couldn't get away from the heckling of the literate public, who saw through their con jobs.

However, "Reality" in war was still preached, only now not as contrived for bullets to find only likable characters.

Which makes this Mickey Mouse adventure a puzzle, and makes it even more embarrassing. By 1989, I guarantee you that three out of four people knew the POWs in Japanese camps were beyond malnutrition, and incapable of swinging an axe, let alone taking a knife and thrusting it into guard.

Overcoming Japanese soldiers is so rampant here, that it borders on comedy. True, in "Bataan" American soldiers led by Robert Taylor made a mockery of the enemy, but old timers form the era told me that it wasn't far off the truth, because American soldiers were nourished and strong, and of the Japanese, only the leading Samurai got more than a handful of rice a day. The Japanese soldier was weak from severe hunger.

However, while the soldier was weak from hunger, and mean from hunger, he wasn't in the horrid condition the POW was in.

This movie has POWs that make the POWs in Lean's epic look like skin and bones.

That said, a movie can still be "watchable". This one is slightly "watchable", but don't expect much. In the end, it's pretty much a waste of time, but it doesn't leave you depressed. Just look at it as Bugs Bunny outwitting Elmer Fudd again, or Mickey Mouse squeaking along at the river Kwai.
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POW life 'lite'
Warning: Spoilers
This was one of the late-night films on last night's TV and having seen it I was wondering if there were some pretty dodgy reviews on Although there were some fairly gritty scenes I could not 'escape' the feeling that years of internment in a Japanese POW camp had left many of the prisoners in remarkably good shape, thrown into sharp relief when the viewer was confronted by a dysentery case on board the vessel taking the prisoners to Japan, who looked rather more like one would ordinarily have expected the rest to have looked.

The production and acting were workmanlike enough for an at-heart TV movie and passed the time, but little more than that. However, it was only at the very end (at risk of spoilers!) that I had one of those 'they must have run out of film or something' moments which often is a pointer of a pretty below-average movie.

That said it did raise some moral dilemmas that would have happened in reality, so it wasn't quite 'dreadful', even though it ran quite close to it.
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Return from the River Kwai
Jackson Booth-Millard27 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Bridge on the River Kwai is a quality war film from director Sir David Lean and starring the Oscar winning Sir Alec Guinness, I'm not sure you can call this follow up a sequel, but it does almost continue the story, from director Andrew V. McLaglen (Shenandoah). Basically it has been two years since the bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand was destroyed, and now, still World War II, a new one has been built by a new group of PoW (Prisoner of War) soldiers. Soon enough though it is destroyed after the arrival of an American bomber, and camp commander Lieutenant Tanaka (Star Trek's George Takei) threatens to execute the ones who helped do it, but the prisoners are saved by Major Harada (Tatsuya Nakadai) who transports them by train and boat to Japan. It is difficult journey with allied forces keeping an eye on the transportation routes, the prisoners, including Major Benford (Edward Fox) are planning escape, and the shot down American bomber Lieutenant Crawford (Chris Penn) is joining them. Led by Colonel Grayson (Denholm Elliott), the PoW soldiers have joined with the indigenous people called the Meo in a resistance against the Japanese, and they will help in all battles and their eventual escape. Also starring Timothy Bottoms as Seaman Miller, Richard Graham as Sergeant Perry, Nick Tate as Lt. Commander Hunt, Etsushi Takahashi as Captain Ozawa and Michael Dante as Commander Davidson. The cast members are reasonable choices, and there were certainly some eye-catching moments of gun play, explosions and battle sequences, but of course the original film is much better, and this effort doesn't come close, but it's an alright Second World War action adventure. Okay!
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Very late and totally unnecessary sequel but is it bad as well?
Boba_Fett113816 October 2010
In short; yes, this movie is extremely bad.

It's best not to see this movie as a sequel to David Lean's "The Bridge on the River Kwai" at all, or else you'll be even more offended by this movie. And it's not even like this movie has much to do with the 1957 classic in the firs place. The movie is literately set at the river Kwai for about 5 minutes at most and it focuses on some totally different characters.

The movie tries to be like and adventurous WW II movie, with also some action added to it but it all got done extremely bad. It really doesn't get brought to the screen very well, due to its serious lacking directing, which is most notable during it's so called action sequences. Ultimate low is the extremely lame and laughable fight between Chris Penn and a Japanese soldier at the airfield. Or was it supposed to be a spoof of the famous airfield fight from "Raiders of the Lost Ark"? Even the music hints at this a bit.

The story is really all over the place. At times it's really unclear what this movie is trying to be. The one moment it's being a serious drama, about the horrors of war and the other it's being a simple mindless bad action flick. It also really isn't clear were the movie is heading to. There is a lot of traveling in this movie, which often add to the confusion and it really isn't made clear what is actually being the main plot-line for the movie. Characters are doing lots of silly and unlikely stuff, which doesn't exactly add to the movie its credibility. It all really doesn't make this movie a very pleasant one to watch.

This movie was obviously just a quick and cheap way to cash in. It also seems that the movie its title was reason enough for some decent actors to get involved with this movie. Quite amazing that Edward Fox agreed to appear in this and the movie further more features some other well known and respected names such as Denholm Elliott, Chris Penn and George Takei.

A big mess of a movie, that got very poorly done...and there is even a fart joke in it as well.

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Full Cast Listing for Return From The River Kwai
nigelwilliams26 November 2005
When Listing a full cast for this movie, why is it that you missed NIGEL WILLIAMS Listed works on this one movie, STAND IN for :- CHRIS PENN, DENHOLM ELLIOT, EDWARD FOX Stunts for :- CHRIS PENN Second Unit Assistant:- Phillipines Parts played: POW Screaming Soldier Father Family walking

Yes I am Nigel and would like too see some credit; If proof is needed I have the autographed script, photographs and yes you can contact ALL the stars.. My family attended a picnic with G Takei, my youngest daughter still refers to him as "Uncle George".

I have not seen the completed movie because it has not been released here in the US. I would like advice on getting a USA compatible copy!!
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