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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap75%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"This is Jackie Chan's 100th movie; I'm guessing at least 90 are better."
1 stars

Jackie Chan's hundredth movie commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the revolution that brought down the Qing Dynasty, and both of these events seem to deserve something better for commemoration than this lifeless history lecture.

1911 and 1912, for those of us who didn't know, is when when a series of rebellions and battles ended the monarchy in China. The spiritual and intellectual leader of the revolution, Sun Yat-set (Winston Chao) did most of his work in exile, raising funds from overseas Chinese; more often than not, the commander on the ground was Huang Xing (Jackie Chan). Sun's Tongmenghui group may not win many battles initially, but the victories prove costly enough for Regent Long-yu (Joan Chen) and the Qing Dynasty that General Yuan Shikai (Sun Chun) sees an opportunity to be the last man standing.

1911, the film, seems like an odd choice for a near-simultaneous U.S. release, especially considering that distributor Well Go has generally marketed to a broader audience than the expatriates who would seem to be the ones most interested in this picture. If you don't speak Mandarin, your attention will frequently be divided between the text identifying each new historical figure that appears on screen and the subtitles for their dialog, and you should choose the dialog, because many of these characters will be in and out of the picture so quickly that their names are not really useful (another hint: "Sun Wen" and "Sun Yat-sen" are the same person, and we should be thankful that the subtitles do not also refer to him as "Sun Zhong-shan"). The movie is definitely made for those who are already somewhat familiar with the history, and like a lot of recent Chinese movies, it hits the nationalism pretty hard at times.

The greater sin, though, is that it's so often boring. The revolution is reduced to a series of events that don't form a personal story for any of Sun, Huang, and Yuan; the battles, events, and intrigue don't even serve as examples of a particular ideal. There are things that happened, ideals that people espoused, and even some individual characterization, but one seldom leads to another. It's the dullest sort of history lecture, filled with names to memorize and approved lessons to be drawn, but no forging of an emotional connection between the present and the past. It's definitely a case where density works against the filmmakers: There are hints of interesting stories on all fronts, and there are interesting movies to be made from the Huang Xing's romance with fellow revolutionary Xu Zonghan (Li Bingbing), Sun Yat-sen's attempts to rally both overseas Chinese and foreigners to his cause, and the intrigue of Yuan Shikai trying to benefit from two sides so diametrically opposed. There's just not enough room to have all three of those stories running and fit some epic-scaled battle scenes in.

Those battle scenes do give some impression of how glossy the picture is; 1911 may be a bad movie, but it's not because Chan (who put a fair amount of his own money into it) went cheap. The cast may not be as star-studded as recent "official" historical propaganda pictures The Founding of a Republic and The Founding of a Party/Beginning of the Great Revival, but it's filled with good people, the cinematography and effects are pretty, and director Zhang Li makes some individual scenes work. Chan is also credited as "primary director"; I'm guessing Zhang handled the nuts and bolts on set while Chan decided how scenes would go.

If that's the case, Jackie Chan's direction isn't as good as his acting. Chan's been making a decent transition into mentor-type roles as he ages, and that's basically what he's playing here - a grizzled vet who has given his life to the cause. He disappears into the role well enough that it's actually a bit disconcerting when a classic Jackie Chan-style action scene breaks out toward the end. Winston Chao is actually a Sun Yat-sen specialist, with this the fourth time he's played the part; he's got it down, to the point where it does seem a bit rote. Most of the cast is acceptable, although Joan Chen is just weird as the Regent, going into crying jags at the drop of a hat.

It's a real shame that this is the Jackie Chan labor of love to get this sort of spotlight, especially when last year's "Little Big Soldier" was so good. It's nice to see Chan showing he's more than just an all-time great screen fighter, but a shame he chose such a terribly boring vehicle to do so.

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originally posted: 10/11/11 15:38:38
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User Comments

1/11/12 Daz Agree with the above. The history of this period is so rich and yet they make look so dull. 2 stars
10/24/11 Theresa Rezler Jacike Chan is an awsome actor ,love his movies 5 stars
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Directed by
  Li Zhang
  Jackie Chan

Written by
  Hong-Dong Wong
  Baoguang Chen

  Jackie Chan
  Bingbing Li
  Winston Chao
  Joan Chen

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