Worth Watching - Feb 3: John Woo's Red Cliff Teaser Trailer
by Alex Billington
February 3, 2008
A very early Chinese language teaser trailer for John Woo's Red Cliff has arrived online. The film is an epic look at the legendary Battle of Red Cliff, in which a force of fifty thousand defeated an army of nearly one million at the end of the Han Dynasty. Let me be the first to say - John Woo is a hack director. Maybe back when he started in the 70's and 80's he was a great action director, but throughout the 90's and especially recently, he's made nothing but utter crap. That said, this doesn't look as bad as say, Paycheck, but who really knows yet? One thing is for sure, I'm getting tired of sprawling epic ancient history fighting movies. Leave that to Peter Jackson!
Need I remind you that this film has had a lot of troubles, including an incident with Chow Yun-Fat dropping out at the last minute due to "unrealistic demands". And sorry about the crappy quality, but at least that's how we know it's a John Woo movie!
Watch the teaser trailer for Red Cliff:
In 208 A.D., in the final days of the Han Dynasty, shrewd Prime Minister Cao Cao convinced the fickle Emperor Han the only way to unite all of China was to declare war on the kingdoms of Xu in the west and East Wu in the south. Thus began a military campaign of unprecedented scale, led by the Prime Minister, himself. Left with no other hope for survival, the kingdoms of Xu and East Wu formed an unlikely alliance. Numerous battles of strength and wit ensued, both on land and on water, eventually culminating in the battle of Red Cliff. During the battle, two thousand ships were burned, and the course of Chinese history was changed forever.
To call John Woo a hack is WAY over the top. You can tell you're seeing a John Woo movie the moment a John Woo movie starts without having to see the credits. Because e's a signature director, which in turn does not make him a hack. Adam Shankman is a hack. Andy Tennant is a hack. Brett Ratner is a hack. John Woo is his own genre, for Pete's sake. That said, he's made some crap, terrible movies (like Paycheck), but what director hasn't made a crap movie. But he's no hack, Billington! C'mon!!
Joe M. on Feb 3, 2008
Anyone who calls John Woo a hack while defending tools like Adam Shankman and Brett Ratner...I can't even think of an appropriate response, I'm just so mortified that a person with this kind of limited thinking on cinema exists, let alone someone who writes articles people read on a site. To say that at best Face/Off isn't bad is ridiculous. Face/Off is one of the most innovative, fresh, original, and satisfying action films of all time. Woo was able to take full authorial control of a complex script, layered characters brought out to perfection by megastars, and to pepper the film with AMAZING action sequences that never overshadowed the emotional journeys the characters were going on. The film is a masterpiece, and you are a moron. You're so ignorant that you haven't taken into the account that the Hollywood studio moguls have consistently seized Woo's films and tried to Americanize them at the expense of losing some of Woo's originality and power of vision. Face/Off was the one American film he got to make where he had the control he deserved. Trying to bridge the cultural divide has been nearly impossible for Woo, that is why he has gone back to his roots to make a film he can control. But even so, Woo's American films at worst are better than 95% of all American action movies. Peter Jackson is the one-trick pony. I sincerely suggest you stop watching movies (and brush up on your grammar) altogether, because you clearly don't know what you're talking about and you're ruining the art form for innocent people who shouldn't have to suffer just because you're a pompous jackass.
Cameron Cubbison on Feb 3, 2008
Amen. Cameron. Well said. Woo's Hong Kong cinema is unsurpassed and his true introduction to Western audiences with Face/Off was indicative of his sense of style and over the top action. American studios have completely neutered his abilities and vision and to say that he is a hack is way out of line. But everyone has their opinion. Try renting Hard Boiled, The Killer and A Better Tomorrow for true Woo and an education in how to film an action movie.
Kit on Feb 3, 2008
Amen, and amen Kit and Cameron. Calling John Woo a hack director simply because of his most recent American action movies is sort of like saying the super bowl doesnt is a money sink because they dont sell alot of baseballs. You're looking at a tiny part of his career with a very short list of bad movies and then saying he is a hack, its offensive really. Watch I can turn this around too, Peter Jackson is a hack. Maybe he directed some good fantasy epic movies recently but before then he's made utter crap. See how that reads? It doesn't take people's careers into perspective , only tiny snippets and generalizations
Billy on Feb 3, 2008
Alex i was ready to defend you....but then i looked up those directors which you were defending. I'm aware of ratner. I can stand some of his "films" to a point. But Shankman? Look at this list and tell me what is worth defending? Hairspray (2007) Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005) The Pacifier (2005) Bringing Down the House (2003) Nothing. Thats what. Crappy movies. And i know you loved Hairspray but it was a poor knockoff of a superior film.
Heckle on Feb 3, 2008
John Woo is significant as a filmmaker due to some of his early works such as The Killer and A Better Tomorow, but that's basically it. Sixteen years have passed since Hard Boiled and he hasn't had a single success since. I can't help, but somewhat agree with Alex when I consider all the films that John Woo has directed and the fact that only five of them are any good. It's not merely his last few films that make him look bad. Just look everything he made up until A Better Tomorrow. He may be known for his action scenes, but he has no eye for drama. His trademark doves and slow motion scenes are just plain irritating at times. It's kind of like Spike Lee's trademark of using pushing an actor on a dolly at some point in every one of his films. Even when it's inappropriate, he does it anyway. How about branching out stylistically as a filmmaker? Ang Lee did it and struck a nice balance between action and art with Croucing Tiger, Hidden Dragon. That said, I do disagree with Alex on one point; Shankman is undoubtedly even worse than Woo. As a film student, I've at least come across a few professors who've recommended that we watch a Woo film at some point during the course of a semester. I can't say the same for Shankman. At least the former will be remembered for some of his films. "Watch I can turn this around too, Peter Jackson is a hack. Maybe he directed some good fantasy epic movies recently but before then he's made utter crap. See how that reads? It doesn't take people's careers into perspective , only tiny snippets and generalizations"-Billy Actually, the films Peter Jackson directed prior to Fellowship of the Ring were not utter crap. Heavenly Creatures and Braindead may not have been as mainstream or accessible, but they were loved by many people.
John Duong on Feb 4, 2008
Oy, I feel like an idiot. I apologize for the error. I should have said, "Eleven years have passed since since Face/Off and he hasn't had a single success since."
John Duong on Feb 4, 2008
Not a chance. Need way more action & less artsy crap. I'll put this in the "Hell No!" catagory.
Sinner on Feb 5, 2008
Alex Bilington is a hack. He is ignorant of John Woo's body of work (he is only aware of his U.S. productions, but then it is pretty obvious that Alex is a U.S.-centric ignoramus). Who the hell cares what this idiot says, by the way. The movie is made for an Asian audience, and Alex, we don't give a shit what you think...of anything.
Hong Kong Girl on Feb 5, 2008
Hong Kong Girl: Thank you. Really well done, couldn't have said it better. Nice to know someone else out there isn't a complete ignorant asshole.
Cameron Cubbison on Feb 5, 2008
I've never seen a great Woo movie & that includes Face Off & Broken Arrow. All his films are way too Universal Studios back lot. Simple & Cheesey as hell. Who cares if he made good films 12 years ago?! Personally, I don't give a shit what Hong Kong girl or Cubbison think...of anything. Get off this website bitches.
Sinner on Feb 6, 2008
Sinner, a.k.a. Fuckhead: You may not care what I think, but at least I know how to lay out an argument you arrogant dick. Instead of wasting everyone's time with your laughably simplistic posts, why don't you go do something productive like disemboweling yourself. Just a thought...which, come to think of it, is probably not a concept you can relate to.
Cameron Cubbison on Feb 6, 2008
alex: you are entitled to your opinion -- to a point. woo has been making films for over 30 years and if you haven't seen most of his asian films it's rather unfair to assign the "hack" label. bullet in the head is a phenomenal work of art. ditto for the killer and hard boiled. it's the genuine hacks who have purloined woo's unique style and turned it into a cliche. cameron cubbison: thank you for your generous comments about face/off and your eloquent defense of mr. woo. you are right-on about face/off being the only american film that he had artistic control over. i should know, i was on-set every day and i can say from first hand experience that john struggled mightily (and successfully) to keep the characters and the emotional landscape as important as the action sequences he so brilliantly mounted. call me biased, but how could i not be? mr. woo was -- and remains both a gentleman and a genius. a man now so widely imitated that some people forget his contributions to cinema. a man who also respects the art of screenwriting -- something i value more than ever after 3 months on the picket lines. in closing: i think the "red cliff" teaser looks amazing. mike werb co-writer "face/off"
mike werb on Feb 6, 2008
Mr. Werb, It is truly an honor to hear from you. I recognized your name instantly, having seen Face/Off so many times. I'm an aspiring filmmaker at Emerson College, and Face/Off has always been one of my absolute favorite films. John Woo has always been a hero of mine. I remember doing a report on him in the fourth grade and feeling outraged that no one knew who I was talking about. Face/Off is truly a brilliant script. You and Mr. Colleary wrote something that was constantly entertaining, surprising, emotionally engaging, and wholly original. You guys did everything right on that movie. I still remember seeing it in the theater when I was eight years old and have been in love with it ever since. Thank you for giving us film lovers such a treat, and it's nice to know that even the industry big shots come on these sites and set the record straight. My thoughts are with you guys as the strike rages on, and I hope it comes to an end soon.
Cameron Cubbison on Feb 6, 2008
Cameron Cubbison, a.k.a. Cameron Cubbison: Such language. I'm glad, you think, you know how to lay out an argument. I'm so proud of you. You want a cookie? At least my, what was it?, "laughably simplistic posts", don't sound like they were written by a 10 year old potty mouth. However, I do agree with the "disemboweling yourself" part. I like Death Metal too. Bring your Hong Kong girlfriend with you next time. This is another boring film on Woo's long list of boring films. Go waste your money little Cubby.
Sinner on Feb 6, 2008
cameron: 8 years old? you must have had open-minded parents or a theater manager who doesn't know the alphabet up to the letter R. it's gratifying to hear that someone your age appreciates an action film that's over a decade old (although we came to view it as more of a psychological thriller). congratulations about emerson -- and pursuing your dream of becoming a filmmaker. if you want a signed copy of the face/off poster, colleary and i will be happy to send you one.
mike werb on Feb 6, 2008
Yeah, I did have very open-minded parents. I seem to have turned out alright so far. The psychological layers of Face/Off are still what really get to me. I love how even the title itself has multiple implications. Such great touches...like when Archer first comes to after the surgery, looks in the mirror and sees the man he has wanted to kill for six years, the man he has pursued at the expense of estrangement from his wife and daughter...and loses it, smashes the mirror. Really powerful stuff. Moments like that are what make the film so special to me. And of course the scene at Troy's loft where they're both against the opposite ends of the mirror, a literal face/off, they whirl around and both of them look into the mirror and see their nemeses. I LOVE that scene, and the way Woo shot it is brilliant. I also love how appearing to be Troy allows Archer to realize that Sasha isn't a bad person, she's merely on the other side by happenstance. You don't get those really profound character moments in most action and thriller films I've seen. My favorite scene in the movie though, if I had to pick one, would have to be when Archer is waiting for Eve in the hospital as she tests Troy's blood, and he starts telling her about their first date...got to be one of the most powerful scenes I've ever come across. The depth of their relationship in the film, and how it takes this horrible psychological battle to make them reconnect with each other...I can't believe how well you guys wrote that, and I'm so glad that Joan Allen was chosen to play Eve. What a great choice, a real woman, a real actress, not just typical action movie eye candy. I love your reference to Butler's Erewhon in naming the prison that. What inspired you guys to bring in Greek mythology with Castor and Pollux? Jeeze, sorry! I have driven many people in my life crazy by babbling on about Face/Off. Never thought I'd be doing it to the creators! I would be ecstatic to receive a poster! Twice in my life I bid for signed Face/Off posters on eBay, but I was outbid. I have a miniature Face/Off poster I got in Ireland years ago, but you have no idea how excited I would be to get one from you guys. My address is: Emerson College Cameron Cubbison PO Box 9145 Boston, MA 02117-9145 Thank you so much! I'd happily reimburse postage.
Cameron Cubbison on Feb 6, 2008
cameron: woo isn't the only filmmaker whose work has been butchered by the studio system. face/off is one of few credits on my imdb list that represents what was on the page. for example, colleary and i are 2 of 6 (!) credited writers of the first lara croft tomb raider movie -- and well look how that turned out. our work is barely represented on the screen. we adapted the game keeping kate hepburn (from woman of the year) in mind as a model for croft. and it was our draft that got angelina (who valiantly rises above the mediocre proceedings). the final product saddens us to this day ... and no one on my end minds your "babbling." when i met the two people who co-wrote every episode of i love lucy (179 of them) a few years ago -- i couldn't stop my own babbling about this scene/joke/guest star/plotline etc. i quickly apologized, then madeline pugh davis (still alive) touched my cheek and said "keep talking, dear. we never get tired of it." re: your specific comments ... the post-op beat where archer first sees himself as "castor" and freaks was a great ad-lib by nic cage. it was much more internal in the script. the loft mirror shoot-out was in the script and up until the day it was shot -- always under threat of being cut. woo put his foot down to our eternal gratitude. the hospital scene where archer recalls his "first date" with eve was ours and based on something that happened to a friend of collearys. joan allen's casting was something we always had to fight -- very hard -- for. just before production, there were seismic studio rumblings about casting eve as a hot, young stepmom. we all went on the attack, and won that battle. joan was about the sweetest person i've ever met -- and she couldn't wait for her chance to smash a chair over the bad guy. castor and pollux troy are so-named due to a grade school obsession with greek mythology. their mother helen was a key character, but she was unfortunately cut at an early stage of pre-production. (note: we realize helen of troy was the sister of the gemini twins, not their mom). anyway, we wanted to imbue them with a mythic quality to counter archer's "normal" lifestyle. most of this is on the special edition dvd which came out fall 2007 (on our commentary track). if you don't have it, we'll gift you that too. let me know. no need to reimburse for postage. i may be visiting friends in brookline in late march, early april. if emerson's in session -- i'd might like to sit in on a class. let me know. colleary and i both teach in the masters program at ucla -- always interested in seeing other film schools.
mike werb on Feb 7, 2008
Mr. Werb: Thank you for sharing with a fan. I remember seeing the first Tomb Raider movie and it certainly felt that there were several visions competing with each other. Definitely sensed studio interference. Thinking of the Croft character through the prism of Kate Hepburn really gives a new meaning. I would have liked to have seen that version of the film. I can only imagine how frustrating that must be as a writer. If through some miracle I ever finish a script and god knows sell it, I hope I can be prepared to deal with that reality. I got the special edition dvd of Face/Off a couple of months ago. Watched the great documentary, but didn't get to tackle the commentaries yet. I hope to shortly. Glad a worthy dvd was released. I had the other one for years and kept fuming as to why there weren't any extras. Emerson is in session all through march and april, excluding the week of march 10-16. I applied to USC and UCLA, all the big California schools. Didn't get in obviously, but I still hope to end up out there. Best wishes.
Cameron Cubbison on Feb 7, 2008
You two need to get a room. Little Cubby, is it comfortable under Werbs desk? I'm embarrassed (not bare assed, don't get excited) for both of you. Make all the excuses you guys can brainstorm but 12 years of mediocre & bad films can bury credibility. You're right about one thing Mike, you are very biased. It's good to know you're getting rich off people, like my gullible friend Little Cubby, with that sorry filmography I just looked at. (kinda liked The Mask though; don't tell anybody) I prefer you not write a novel length response; better yet, no response. I think we've heard enough from you two. Use your pink i-phones; have some fu*king shame.
Sinner on Feb 7, 2008
sinner: what are you so amped up about? a professional writer and an aspiring writer are discussing details about one particular film on a website designed for such events. so it happens to be a film you think is crap (my father didn't care for face/off either -- and i never made a claim of "credibility" which is always in the eye of the viewer. ask any uwe boll fan). but why reduce a simple online exchange to some lewd vision of brown-nosing? maybe you should stop toggling between this site and the suicide girls -- and find something positive to say. like discussing the films YOU love and why. per your request, i tried to keep this as short as your fuse.
mike werb on Feb 7, 2008
How do you spell Touch'e? Well, you were surprisingly gentle. For 3 hours I've been bracing to get ripped to shreds by a professional writer or an aspiring writer (that's you Cam). To be honest, if you check post 11-16, your boy Cam & myself were in a small firefight of sorts so by the time you showed up, I couldn't pull any punches. Ya just got caught in the middle; collateral damage if you will. No pun intended. I'm new at it but blog wars are fun & they do get heated. ...and yes, Boll has received some much deserved, & some undeserved criticism. What the hell is suicide girls? Nevermind; I don't want to know. Good luck with the strike & I hope it works out in your favor. You guys definitely deserve more kudos ($$) than they were willing to give.
Sinner on Feb 7, 2008
first off peter jackson is a hack. all he did was take a good story and spend millions to make it better. the lord of the rings movies wasn't peter jackson's doing, that was the special effects department. they made those movies tolerable. have you seen bad taste? john woo is a great director. we need more like him. as for shankman, if he's so great a director why could he not direct vin diesel to a proper salute in the pacifier? the simplest thing to teach and do and he couldn't even pull it off. that is the mark of a hack.
john woo defender on Feb 20, 2008
Lord of the Ring is ancient HISTORY? Billington, you really need to lay down the pipe and stay awake during school. You just discredited yourself.
ahemahem on Mar 19, 2008
"first off peter jackson is a hack. all he did was take a good story and spend millions to make it better." Actually, he took millions and made it worse. Sorry, but the books are way better 😛
dak on Apr 26, 2008
im going to have read all the posts to this tonight
Jont on Jun 6, 2008
sinner, you need to watch Hard Boiled. One of the best action movies ever
Mike Klashinko on Jul 17, 2008
I love woo, I don't know about this project, It might very well be woo's dream project but I can see his best work is already behind him.
Morpheous on Sep 13, 2009
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