Reviews by Jason Pirodsky
A murky, muddled, self-indulgent action flick, Marcus Nispel´s Pathfinder is an unofficial remake of a true classic, the 1987 Norwegian film by the same. And just like the director´s last film, a remake of the splatter classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the movie sacrifices the script – plot, characters, dialogue and all – for expressive visuals, giving us a nicely produced but entirely hollow film that passes as mindless entertainment but feels entirely unnecessary and somewhat insulting, showing no respect for the original film it´s taking away from. And yet, the film does provide some fun on a Conan the Barbarian – nah, make that Conan the Destroyer – level, but Nispel takes things much too seriously, draining out most of the fun along with the color, and directing with the feverish artistic flair of a music video. It´s all style, and no coherency – action scenes are so frantic and briskly edited that one often has little idea of what, exactly, is going on. Random bloodshed is all well and good, but sometimes it´s nice to know who´s getting their head chopped off, and who´s doing the chopping.
Visually stunning if emotionally overwrought period piece is slow-moving at first but eventually achieves the grandeur of a Shakespearian tragedy. 10th Century China, the inner workings of the royal family: the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) is slowly poisoning his wife, the Empress (Gong Li), who in turn is sleeping with stepson, Crown Prince Wai (Lie Ye). Two other brothers add further complications: Prince Jai (Jay Chou), torn between mother and father, and youngest Prince Yu (Qin Junjie), stewing with jealousy for his brother. This is a kind of attempt by the director to bring the carefully structured storytelling of his earlier classics with the melodrama and martial arts of his more recent films. While it isn´t entirely successful – the film certainly doesn´t reach the height of Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou or To Live – I did enjoy it more than Hero or House of Flying Daggers. It´s absolutely gorgeous to look at, with outstanding use of color and fluid, lingering cinematography that perfectly matches the flow of the story. I fear, however, that the film is destined to please no one; it does suffer in comparison to the director´s previous work with Gong Li, and fans of Hero are likely to be entirely disappointed by the slow story and near-complete lack of martial arts. Still, a beautiful film well worth seeing in spite of its perceived flaws.
Note: film is playing only in a Mandarin version with Czech subtitles in Prague cinemas.
TIP: Catch an advance screening of Steven Soderbergh´s star-studded Ocean´s Thirteen on Thursday 21.6, at Palace Cinema Slovanský Dům´s ‘Black Box´. The film opens wide in Prague on July 5th.