More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look75%
Average: 18.75%
Pretty Bad: 6.25%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 2 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Profile by Jay Seaver

Scythian, The by Jay Seaver

Aragne: Sign of Vermillion by Jay Seaver

Cold Steel by Jack Sommersby

Microhabitat by Jay Seaver

Last Child by Jay Seaver

Nightmare Cinema by Jay Seaver

Hotel Transylvania 3 by alejandroariera

Tremble All You Want by Jay Seaver

Skyscraper by Peter Sobczynski

subscribe to this feed

Promise, The (2006)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by EricDSnider

"So many good things in a movie that's only OK."
4 stars

There are elements of "The Promise" that are so good they should have been in a better film. The beautiful scenery (some of it computer-enhanced, but seamlessly), the thrilling movement of the camera, some of the exciting action sequences -- all of this almost makes you forget how average the rest of the movie is. But I didn't forget. That's why I take notes.

Writer/director Kaige Chen ("Farewell, My Concubine," "The Emperor and the Assassin") has made China's all-time most expensive film, but he hasn't made its best. "The Promise" recalls "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Hero," and these epic stories of centuries-ago warriors and princesses, with their magical realism and convoluted backstories, always walk the line between engrossing fantasy and flat-out goofiness. Chen lacks the delicate touch of Ang Lee or Xhang Yimou, though, and "The Promise" falls on the goofy side more often than it should.

Our hero is Kunlun (Dong-Kun Jang), a slave in the army of beloved Gen. Guangming (Hiroyuki Sanada). Kunlun can run faster than anyone the general has ever seen, so he takes the obedient servant on as his personal valet.

Wounded in an attack, Guangming sends Kunlun on a mission to save the emperor (Cheng Qian), under siege at his palace. Kunlun dons his master's armor and heads in to save the day, rescuing Princess Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung) in the process -- except that, because of the armor, she thinks he's Gen. Guangming. Later, with the general back in his own costume, he and Qingcheng marry, and she is unaware that her true benefactor is her husband's slave.

Meanwhile, the nefarious and smarmy Gen. Wuhuan (Nicholas Tse), the one who besieged the emperor's palace, has it out for Guangming and once hired a black-cloaked assassin called the Snow Wolf (Ye Liu) to dispatch him. Also meanwhile, Princess Qingcheng is concerned about a prophecy the Goddess Manshen (Hong Chen) made years ago: that Qingcheng would lose every man she ever loves.

The plot is even more elaborate than I have suggested, and there is some strange mysticism in the final act that goes over the head of this Western viewer. (I'll blame it on my Westernness, though for all I know it's confusing in China, too.) There are also several times when people are fighting and I'm not entirely sure why. The fighters seem to know, though, and I guess that's the important thing.

With serious performances by good actors, sharp editing and awesome visuals, the film gets more right than wrong, and it's hard to pinpoint, exactly, where the wrongness is. You just feel it, somewhere in the unreal story and its larger-than-life presentation. It's not a bad movie by any means; it just fails to be as great as its individual components would suggest.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 05/05/06 15:27:12
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/20/06 William Goss A gaudy spectacle of excess best viewed as parody. 2 stars
5/06/06 Heather Runyan didn't like it at all 2 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  05-May-2006 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Chen Kaige

Written by
  Chen Kaige

  Hiroyuki Sanada
  Nicholas Tse
  Jang Dong-Kun
  Cecilia Cheung

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast