VIFF Day 6: Chinese Sword Fighting, and the Russian Chris Tucker

The Sword Identity by Haofeng Xu (China)

Ok, let me try to figure this out. There are four schools of martial arts protecting the ancient Chinese city of Guancheng. A fellow named Liang Henlu shows up, and wants to start his own school, but in order to do that he needs to beat the existing schools in combat. Problem is, he has a Japanese sword, which I guess makes him ineligible for tournaments. And then the fighting begins. Let me clarify: The schools don’t want him to fight their warriors, and so they send their warriors to fight him.  Logical, yes? The owners of the local martial arts schools send wave after wave of hapless fighters against him to force him out of the town. The end.

I like a good martial arts movie as much as the next person, as the next person is usually my wife. But I also want my martial arts movies to have a good story that I can sink my teeth into. When you consider that I had to go to IMDB to help me actually figure out what a movie I had just seen was actually about, you start to realize what a convoluted mess this film is. Now, anybody that watches a lot of martial arts films knows that great plots rarely go hand in hand with great martial arts action. But when your movie has neither? You’re in trouble.

Rating: C-

Target directed by Alexander Seldovitch (Russia)

I consider myself very lucky that I have a wife that comes with me to most of the crazy movies that I like go to. She suffers through Chinese ghost stories, Thai thrillers, and Korean horror movies that she otherwise would never dream of going to. And most of the time, she likes them. In fact, usually we’re on the same page regarding the films we go to, no matter what the genre is.

Until Target. In short, she hated it. I liked it. In long, she REALLY HATED IT SO MUCH THAT SHE WANTED TO PUNCH IT RIGHT IN THE FACE UNTIL IT BLED!!! Me? I still liked it.

Target is the story of a group of upper class Russian citizens, comprised of a Russian Chris Tucker, a Russian Steve McQueen, a Russian Skinny Marlon Brando, and a Russian Every Girl From Sex In The City Rolled Into One living about ten years in the future. They hear about a mysterious abandoned astrophysics complex that gives its visitors the ability to halt the aging process. They go, and they do.

That’s the first 10 minutes. The other two hours and 30 minutes deal with them losing their shit as a result. It’s a maxim so good someone should make a comic about it: Great power comes with great responsibility, and while what these rich buffoons get isn’t so much power as it is eternal life, the message remains the same. They start to go a little crazy as a result of their new expanded consciousness, and they alienate their friends, loved ones, and coworkers in the process. Also, things get kind of rapey, but it’s hard to tell if that’s because of the new eternal life, or because it’s a weekend in Moscow.

 Target is a lot of things: Huge. Ambitious. Ballsy. Epic. Over-The-Top. Cheesy. Bizarre. Misogynistic. Stylistic. Drowning with symbolism. There’s some Kubrik. Some Gilliam. A stunning musical score. The worst subtitles I have ever seen, both in quality and translation. And for about 10 minutes, it thinks it’s Caligula.

Boring it ain’t. Subtle it ain’t. It’s also not for the faint of heart, and it takes itself so seriously that it most likely will alienate more, if not most, casual watchers. But it’s also entertaining, and it’s bold, and it’s ambitious. And there can never be enough movies like that.

My Rating: B+

My wife’s rating: D-

Person you should probably listen to: My wife

Person you will listen to since it’s my blog: Me.

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