Crouching Tiger, Hidden Damon.
104 Minutes. Starring: Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau & Willem Dafoe. Director: Zhang Yimou.
Wall to wall. Pillar to post, 'The Great Wall' of China is one of the wonders of the worlds most iconic landmarks, not just in the Far East. So it's about time this vision of the Peoples Republic was made the subject of a big budget Hollywood picture. Even if in the wake of a so white Oscars finally getting it right this year, the industry takes a step back again with another call to whitewashing in this oriental film lead by 'The Martian', Matt Damon of all people. See also 'The Last Samurai', Tom Cruise and/or '47 Ronin', Keanu Reeves for more information. Those which this film is the perfect mix of, going to war with Keanu's 'Chapter 2' of 'John Wick' this week. Bourne and his bow are no match for the arrow targetting of Wick's body clock, times up glock mind and this movie sees even the most marketable and likable actor in Hollywood getting more of a backlash than the 'Ghost In The Shell' magma hot manga anime reboot starring...erm Scarlett Johansson (which still looks lost in translation amazing by the way). Did we not learn from 'The Mexican' Brad Pitt? Or comedian Paul Mooney's idea for a Tom Hanks movie on 'Chappelles Show'. But before you start tearing this one down as the 'Not So Great Wall' stop swinging your wrecking balls. As legendary 'Hero' director Zhang Yimou of 'House Of Flying Daggers' infamy brings his traditional trademark art and design pastel colours to this supernatural set-piece of dragons, monsters and all the flying arrows inbetween in three dimensions. Hey! We've heard of worse ideas for walls!
You know what they say, "if you lift up a ponytail, you find an a##hole underneath". But Matt Damon is anything but. Even if he's looking more like Bon Jovi than 'Jason Bourne' here. Whatever the identity, Damon is in a field of this own. Even if this one is bordering, dusting the crops of ignorant disrespect. To Matt Damon's film credits he can play almost anything and anybody. Even a Bond better secret agent 'Bourne' and re-Bourne again. Not to forget a private in need of saving. A man lost in space ('Interstellar' spoiler alert...surely enough time has passed?!). A man living a life on mars ('The Martian'). Hey...wait a minute! This man has been rescued more times by America than Tom Hanks has saved these United States. Seriously though from 'The Informant' to Liberace's lover (credit to 'Oceans' of talent Steven Soderbergh for the aformentioned and this, the beautiful 'Behind The Candelabra'), 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' known for 'Good Will Hunting' has more big films than most care to remember. So sure he can play a foreign fighter with an accent shakier than the hands of those battle shy. And here leading a band of brothers into C.G.I battle with a braveheart, our hero somehow makes all this green screen as convincing as someone whose climbed this great monument itself and has the selfie stick sprained shoulder to prove it. Monumental this may not be, but there's still a lot of shock and awesome to get todays crowd out the Snapchat and Whatsapp new generation litmis test. Screening some HD worthy graphics that would be nothing without Damon's definitive acting. This film may not make it all the way over the wall, but it's leader pole vault clears and leaves no one behind...what more could you expect from an actor that defines lost and found more than describing the background on your iPhone to a cashier on a coffee shop counter?
Well we've gone off the boil (and looked down at our phone, the new nodding off)...but don't blame us, so does this film. This candy crayon, paint by animation numbers cult flick should have been a more straight forward and grounded meat and potatoes course of action. But there's more building blocks that cement this wall back together like Humpty. Forthcoming 'Kong: Skull Island' and 'Pacific Rim' sequel star Jing Tian continues her uprising, stealing away with every scene Damon dares to relinquish. Whilst Yimou's 'House Of Flying Daggers' star Andy Lau is back older and wiser with some sage scenes. But it's 'Narcos' and 'Game Of Thrones' small screen star Pedro Pascal who is the much needed humor here on the big one. Bantering and bouncing off Damon's Boston born bravado that makes it all the way from the Western world. And the always weird and wonderful Willem Dafoe is a little wasted hear no matter how much he plays it up with extra slices of ham..his lines are wafer thin. But alas what at the concept art stage looked like a battle royale of 'Lord Of The Rings' proportions is now Hobbit dwarfed by crowded C.G. in this Bay age of 'Transformers' disassembling graphics and explosive set-pieces that are as coherent as a nonsensical bumble bee that churns into a car and communicates via references to other movies. These iguanas meet dilophosarus, chameleon crossbreeds are just too much you spend too much time wondering if they look good or not, all whilst not quite getting a hold on them. And as they clutter claw up this wall at a 'World War Z' zombie speed sometimes you just have to hold back. It's the kind of movie that if you went to the toilet, came back and asked what you missed your friend would tell you, "I have no idea". But still there's some fight in this beast between stunning landscape visuals and the wars they wage across them. It's just some fantasies should not be made real. Sometimes reality sucks. And this is not epic escapism. This albeit exciting, messy movie that tries to entertain is a misfire, no Hawkeye. The kind of film that a decade back would have been the blockbuster of the Summer but is now buried in the post Oscar season of February blockbuster, live or die by the opening weekends numbers beginnings. Matt Damon may have not hit the wall. But this 'Great' film has. What has the promise of a bridge between worlds should now keep out! TIM DAVID HARVEY.
See This If You Liked: 'The Martian', 'The Last Samurai', '47 Ronin'.