Air Strike Movie Review - A wimpy rendering of a war movie
Bruce Willis is dead-pan, his daughter Rumer is barely seen, Adrien Brody has a bit, forgettable part and most of the Chinese actors play out inconsistently
U/A: Action, Adventure, Drama
Director: Xiao Feng
Cast: Bruce Willis, Adrien Brody, Ye Liu, Rumer Willis, Seung-Heon Song, William Chan, Wei Fan
Xiao Feng's ambitious Chinese American collaboration, Air Strike a.k.a The Bombing was the most expensive Chinese film under production three years ago - then the financial scam that stung Fan Bingbing happened and the Chinese associated with this film too got scorched by fast-flying accusations. With production issues and financial irregularities dogging it the film took nearly three years to hit the screens. The result though is pretty much inconsistent - that too despite having Mel Gibson and legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond ( Deer Hunter ) listed as consultants and Bruce Willis, Adrien Brody and a top line of Chinese stars in commanding roles.
The film has three intertwining jumbled-up plotlines that basically highlight events taking place in 1939 during the Second Sino-Japanese War, where Japan launched near-constant bombing raids(268 between 1938 and 1943) decimating Chongqing. The laudable intent here was to showcase Chinese resilience and fortitude during World War II when five different Chinese people fought their way through Japanese Air Force attacks to protect an important military machine in Chongqing, 1940. U.S Air Force commander Jack Johnson (Bruce Willis) trains Chinese pilots Lei Tao (Nicholas Tse), An Minxun (Song Seung-heon), Cheng Ting (William Chan) to fend off Japanese air raids; civilians in Chongqing endure the insecurities of living under constant threat; and former pilot Xue Gangtou (Liu Ye) is tasked with taking a truck carrying precious and mysterious crates to a military base. There are several sub-plots attached to these main themes but they are neither well defined in presentation nor do they play out in any coherent manner.
Watch the trailer here:
The aerial combat sequences, the numerous bombings, the responses of the people under threat, all seem melodramatic and unreal. The film lacks a visceral distinctiveness in spite of its over-the-top budget. The controversy surrounding Fan Bingbing obviously had something to do with her name being kept out of the credits and her opening sequence (showing her as a schoolteacher begging Chen Daoming to get her pupils to safety) not getting a follow-through in the rest of the runtime. In fact, several other subplots also get unceremoniously cut-off- giving the narrative an unfinished, messed-up incoherence that is hard to overcome despite the stray strands of engaging, inspired moments given the honest depiction of history, the courage, and optimism of the Chinese people and period authenticity. Despite being shot largely in 3D, the narrative lacks sharpness, validity, and depth. The CGI and green screen work is so tame that the action here has the quality reminiscent of a video game. Willis is dead-pan, his daughter Rumer is barely seen, Brody has a bit, forgettable part and most of the Chinese actors play out inconsistently. That has got more to do with the choppy face-saving editing and the flat cinematographic compilation assembled here. This transnational collaboration has precious little to show for its high stakes budget.
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