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Venice 2010. Su Chao-Pin and John Woo's "Reign of Assassins"

"After facilitating the dispersal of countless bullet casings via the slow-motion shootouts he pioneered in his films," blogs Dave Itzkoff for the New York Times, "John Woo was rewarded Friday with an estimable piece of metal that he gets to keep: the Venice Film Festival gave its Golden Lion award for lifetime achievement to Mr Woo, the director of Hong Kong action movies like Hard-Boiled and The Killer and Hollywood blockbusters like Mission: Impossible II."

"Woo, who co-directed Jianyu (Reign of Assassins), which premiered Friday on the Venice Lido out of competition, returned to China two years ago after directing Hollywood films for 16 years," writes Eric J Lyman in the Hollywood Reporter. "'When [festival director Marco Müller] called me, my first reaction was shock,' Woo said. 'Then I thought he might be joking. Then I felt emotional, and finally I was just grateful.' The festival declared Friday was John Woo Day on the Lido."

Also in THR, Deborah Young: "Mr & Mrs Smith relocate to ancient China in the dazzling martial-arts epic Reign of Assassins, in which Asian superstars Michelle Yeoh and Jung Woo-Sung play an ordinary married couple, each unaware the spouse is a world-class assassin. Replacing guns and bombs with flashing swordplay, aerial fighting and fantasy effects, the beautifully balanced story finds time for humor and a piercingly romantic finale."

"[N]either by name nor by nature is it formally a John Woo film," notes Guy Lodge at In Contention. "[R]ather, he is credited as 'co-director,' while it's [Su] Chao-Pin who is given the possessive credit. The newer director's hand is in evidence throughout: Reign of Assassins lacks the technical grace and advanced set-piece conception of, say, Woo's Red Cliff, but it does boast a goofy sense of humor, as well as a certain elasticity of genre as endearing as it is initially bewildering: this is the rare fighting film that takes sideways strolls into supernatural video-game territory and meet-cute rom-com."

 



"I have to admit, for the first hour I was pretty bored by Assassins," writes Robert Beames at Obsessed With Film. But: "It gets better as it progresses and the plot twists and turns in the final third are satisfying, if never really exciting. Not vintage Woo, by even his recent standards, but a solid, diverting and imaginative movie that continues the Chinese push for worldwide box office domination."

Update, 9/6: Justin Chang in Variety: "As the tale of a star femme assassin choosing married life over mayhem, the scenario has more than a whiff of Kill Bill; indeed, Reign reps a frenzied stew of references, well-worn twists and unabashed cliches — executed by filmmakers who take palpable pleasure in reheating and recombining familiar genre elements. Su's script has all kinds of fun with gags about eunuchs (a key plot point) and off-the-wall dialogue, though its sentimental refrain about lost love ('I would turn into a stone bridge and endure 500 years of wind and rain') harks back to the drippiest romantic aphorisms of mid-90s Wong Kar-wai."

Update, 9/9: A second trailer, via Twitch:

 



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