Based on true accounts, when a disastrous duel between brothers Liulang (Wu Chun) and his prior occurs regarding the betrothal of the beautiful Princess Chai (Ady An), General Yang (Adam Cheng) is forced into a clan war. He is soon overtaken and surrounded by enemy troops. This act of war is quickly revealed to be a single minded revenge plot led by Boyan (Shao Bing) a man that vows destruction of Yang and his seven sons as response to the death of his father.His sons fueled by their mother’s woe set out to rescue the general and are led straight into Boyan’s trap.
Saving General Yang is kind of ridiculous, the plot may sound intricate but it is barebones, like a hard-core front cover of a metal CD that doesn’t deliver the goods contained within. Ronny Yu, who has dabbled in the US but is renowned for recreating the classic fantasy fable The Bride With the White Hair continues his streak of hokey-ness in a world that feels very fabricated and not at all based on supposed events.This is due to the production value which feels very off; lame plastic –looking costumes, over lit and singular set pieces and action figure level weapons. The CGI is also atrocious putting films back about 5 years as the film relies on it way too much.
The acting is either overly emotional or scowling masculinity, there is basically no middle ground, and some of the actors are phoning it in with their barely conscionable efforts. The brothers have good camaraderie but no cohesion, this is particularly evident in the fight scenes that feel little effort and detail has been paid to. When the scenes get good, there is an immediate letdown by the feeling that the film has borrowed from other, much better films. One example of this is the arrow fight in the plains (Hero) and later in the field (House of Flying Daggers) and later still when fire is used exactly how it was earlier in the movie (the film is borrowing from itself!) this is frankly quite lazy and being Ronny Yu’s first movie in 7 years, expectations were much higher than this and not at all met.
One saving grace would be that through the glut of characters for the brothers simply refer to themselves as first brother etc. Another would be the commitment to the recorded events, as the story takes a very dark turn in their mission to save their father and return alive. Regardless the script is laughable with barely explanation or backstory given into why we should care so much about all these characters. There seems to be more excited generated from the promotional stills of the shirtless actors than the film itself.
Saving General Yang’s story is an actual legendary one in China but Ronny Yu’s vision does nothing to it except make it handsome. A little bit Saving Private Ryan (sorry), a little bit Hero and a mish-mash of other war and siege films, Saving General Yang never really elevates to anything but needless machismo and tedium in slow and unnecessary scenes of ‘drama’ that have no weight.
Kwenton Bellette - follow Kwenton on Twitter here: @Kwenton
Kwenton Bellette is extremely passionate about Asian film and the resurgence of new waves taking place in Korea, Japan and China in the last 10 years. He joined the global site Twitchfilm in 2009, is the artistic director of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival is Melbourne and currently studies a film masters degree at Melbourne University. He is very excited to raise further awareness of the what he thinks is the most exciting film industry in the world.