ACTION; 2hr 29min (Mandarin with subtitles)
STARRING: Tony Leung, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi
I am Yu: Leung
From the starting gate, there is never any question where film-maker John Woo’s glossy, cineplex-slanted monster is headed: Red Cliff goes all-out in a David–Goliath hyperdrama of heart and smarts over ambition and brawn.
In 208 AD, Han Dynasty China is a patchwork of warring states. With the Emperor in his pocket, megalomaniacal chancellor Cao Cao (Fengyi) and his 800,000-strong army seem unstoppable. But wars are seldom cut and dried. As Cao Cao’s invading troops head southwards, impossibly handsome strategist Kongming (Kaneshiro) and Southlands viceroy Zhou Yu (Leung) form a forged-in-crisis friendship. The west and south kingdoms join forces and with a comparatively meagre 50,000 men bring Cao Cao down in a marriage of quick thinking, raw nerve and a ton of slicing and dicing.
Woo works the fight scenes like a steroidal ballet; the decisive encounter is a giant, primal overload that seems never-ending. And no matter how dire their bloodied onslaught becomes, it is served up in the superlative style of a mega-ticket movie that loves the mass market.