The Emperor and the Assassin
This movie is three hours and fifteen minutes long, which is so long that I could say it's the greatest movie in the world and people would still avoid it like a garbage bag full of old cat litter in the middle of a summer sidewalk. It's also in Chinese and subtitled, which means that you get to crane your neck reading for three hours and fifteen minutes, which mostly reminded me of an all-day business meeting that included nothing but overhead projections.
I feel as though I've been relatively quiet about this trend of lengthening movies, but this bloated leviathan finally sent me over the edge. There needs to be some sort of limitation on these things. Either that, or an extra rating, like "L" for "Long" or "XL" for "Extra Long" or "OSDTKYN" for "Oliver Stone Directed This, Kill Yourself Now." Directors need to get a clue. Length does not equal importance. Was the Holocaust important? Yes. Did I sit through "Shoah?" No. I don't need to be reminded how depressing the Holocaust was by sitting through a movie that's so long I want to gas myself.
This movie, from writer/director Kaige ("Farewell My Concubine") Chen, is loosely based on Chinese history. It takes place in medieval times as the King of Qin, the leader of one of six or seven different sects, plots to unite them all into one big sect, presumably so everybody can go to the same parties and not have to keep converting the currencies back and forth. Basically, the King of Qin is pretty much a prick, though his girlfriend, Lady Zhao (Gong Li) doesn't seem to think so. He sends her off on a mission to get an assassin to supposedly to kill him. It's part of an elaborate plot to make it easier for the king to stomp all over the country that sent the assassin.
Well, Lady Zhao finds that the assassin, Jing Ke, is going through a moral crisis, which is something assassins seem spend more time doing in films than actually killing people. See, he watches this girl kill herself, and he starts to think that Golly, maybe murder isn't such a fulfilling line of work. A couple hundred minutes later, the assassin finally ends up in Qin to confront the King, and Lady Zhao is finally convinced that the King is the biggest weenie she's ever met in her life. This basic plot is intercut with several twenty minute sequences of the King's troops stomping all over one of the other provinces. Not surprisingly, by the time this film ends, you'll feel as though the kings troops have stomped all over you.
To spread the word about this The Emperor and the Assassin review on Twitter.To get instant updates of Mr. Cranky reviews, subscribe to our RSS feed.