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The Promise
DVD disk
Jan 5, 2007 By: Mathew Plale
The Promise order
Director:
Kaige Chen

Actors:
Cecilia Cheung
Dong-Kun Jang
Ye Liu

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A goddess makes a promise to a young orphan, Qingcheng (Cecilia Cheung): in exchange for beauty, she will never be allowed to be with the one she loves. She soon regrets her promise after she is rescued from slavery by a masked man.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
The Promise is a hell of a ride. In the fashion of films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) ties together the wonders of ancient Chinese mythology and lore with modern martial arts and shaky CGI.

Many of the shots are like paintings come to life and are simply, for a lack of a better word, beautiful. The Golden Birdcage scene and Qingcheng’s first encounter with the goddess are two of the most lyrical moments in The Promise. But for every five shots that blow your mind, there will be one that stands out as a great disappointment. One would expect every last effect to be stellar. Many reek of being sub-par, if that. Moments seem too cartoonish, as if what we’re seeing are unfinished works at Disney. The buffalo stampede sequence (which takes place in a location similar to that of a John Ford western) itself looks like an extended scene from The Lion King—sans the Asians.

Somewhat empty along with the CGI is the plot. Director Kaige took a compelling story of forbidden love and passion and made it unnecessarily complex. The film tries to be smarter than it really needed to be, which truly takes away from what could have been one of the great Asian cinematic experiences.

But the movie is highly enjoyable despite its share of flaws. There are numerous exciting battle sequences, along with a few twists worth noting. Just don’t go in expecting another Crouching Tiger-caliber film.
THE EXTRAS
The Making of… (39:59): One of the better of recent making-of docs. It covers the complexities of filming many key sequences, including the stampede at the beginning. How’d they get those buffalo to cooperate? By firecrackers and live ammunition, of course! The documentary is worth watching alone to compare/contrast filmmaking methods of the Asian industry to Hollywood.

7 Deleted Scenes (22:45), four of which are either extended or alternates. The others don’t offer much else, and were deleted by Warner Independent Pictures before its release presumably for pacing concerns.

And the Theatrical Trailer.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Hit-or-miss effects and an ambitious plot are balanced out by its beautiful cinematography and tremendous action. The Promise may not be the next great martial arts film, but it's a decent contendor.
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