Jack Moore is an American attorney having talks in Bejing about founding the first satellite TV joint venture. Suddenly he is arrested, accused of murder and has to prove it was a frame-up together with his court-appointed attorney Shen Yuelin. Written by
For the scene in which Jack is intimidated with video of a government execution, the filmmakers used actual execution footage which had been smuggled out of China. See more »
At the very beginning of the film, the little girl looks up at the sky and blocks out the sun with her hand. But it is totally obvious that she is blocking out nothing, for there is no shadow of her hand across her eyes. See more »
When I was a child I would come to this park and play, and my grandmother would tell me why the bamboo was here. She said, it is waiting for the wind to touch it. It is filled with emotion. Listen to the sound, and you can feel that.
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The opening title is first displayed in Chinese "letters" (called hanzi) which then change into English. See more »
Essentially what we are shown here is not the classical American court
drama. When our 'Mr. Deeds' goes to town, the town is Beijing, and his case
becomes a show-trial in the cockpit of a new Chinese revolution that is
taking place between the old-guard Maoists and the modernisers.
Richard Gere's American is an alienated, rootless 'Rick' caught in the
cultural cross-fire between two power blocs. It is his enforced engagement
with the reality of another world-view and the struggle of an intelligent
Chinese woman to redeem the revolutionary excesses of her culture that lead
directly to the Casablanca-esque ending, where love is sublimated beyond the
personal to an ideal understanding and identification - 'You have a family
here' - with the historical plight of a people.
This explains Richard Gere's unusually selfless performance, where he has
had the taste and intelligence to let the women, particularly his Chinese
defence lawyer, dominate every situation and every scene. Indeed, this
feminist tendency in the film is also reflected in the consistently hostile
view taken of the militaristic structure of Chinese state power as so much
authoritarian posturing. As symbol of a new China the young woman lawyer is
most effective: The ancient Greeks also saw the spirit of unbiased law as
female, and Shakespeare's Portia is another such paradigm. And the actress
portraying her illuminates the screen with her passionate intellectual
There is an effective parallelism to the revolutionary acts which
destroyed the young lawyer's father during the time of the Cultural
Revolution, leaving her with crippling and unresolved guilt, and the barrel
of a gun in the hands of the murdered girl's father which alone can resolve
the historical tensions at work in the courtroom, and reverse all the
political lies in a new revolutionary act, additionally realising the great
potential of a young China, by freeing that stirring Chinese conscience from
its historical contradictions.
So this is an intelligent political thriller, although those of a more
Costas-Gavrian or Godardian intellectual purity do seem to resent seeing a
crisis of the Left viewed even from a very disengaged American viewpoint,
disliking the humanist American strain of populist appeal in a political
context, and resenting the smooth professionalism of the presentation as a
mere circus. Even stranger are the objectors to Gere's Buddhism, who
seemingly take fright at the intrusion of other perspectives into their own
blinkered focus! In any case, Buddhism seems clearly not to be an issue to
This film in no way presents itself as the last word on its subject - but
it is an intelligent and engaging movie, which, far from slandering the
Chinese in the manner some vintage Korean-War tub-thumper about the 'Yellow
Peril', goes out of its way not to identify the Chinese people with their
masters. Curiously, this is exactly what the film's detractors
There is a sly reference to the Boxer Rebellion that began China's long
road to modernisation, in the person of the trusty who was sent to beat up
or even kill the American, but who comes to see that the real foreign devils
in this instance are the corrupted Chinese officials who have sold out to
the worst foreign traits of cynicism and greed by doing back-door deals with
an unscrupulous Western communications company, and who finally confesses
his error with true selfless revolutionary earnestness.
The fact that this Boxer Rebellion is played out in the blockbuster film
equivalent of Madison Square Gardens, and is mightily entertaining
throughout, has led many critics to assume that all they have been presented
with is a superficial entertainment unworthy of such a serious subject.
Actually, the film is fully engaged with the tragedy and passion of the
Chinese people as they try to work out their destiny, and the proof of this
is that, to any unbiased observer, the film leaves one with a new respect
for the Chinese people, caught up in the complexities of their own history,
and struggling for a better life. There is nothing patronising; there is
emphatically no United States Cavalry riding to the rescue.
And I should have thought the contempt shown throughout towards official
American diplomacy and state policy would have appealed to the most
anti-American leftist. But are the critics just taking fashionable left jabs
at their own right-wing bogies? - and I do mean Humphrey! Let us leave these
obsessives to their futile shadow-boxing, forever engaged with an opponent
entirely constructed from the straw which evidently bulks out their own
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