Review: 1911 Revolution-Xinhai geming (2011)

1911 Revolution-Xinhai geming (2011)

Directed by: Jackie Chan, Li Zhang | 116 minutes | action, drama, war, adventure, history | Actors: Jackie Chan, Bingbing Li, Winston Chao, Joan Chen, Jaycee Chan

Jackie Chan is getting older and it shows. The man who once went through life as a ‘kung fu clown’ is increasingly outsourcing stunts and focusing more on more serious roles. And blame him! The best man has broken just about every bone in his body at one time or another while making his movies. Now that Chan is well over 50, he also has to think about his health. But can you turn a career full of funny roles and breakneck stunts for a career that focuses on understated acting? Will the fans accept that? A difficult issue, but Chan goes his own way. It is hoped that his followers respect his decision, because the likeable actor deserves it.

In his hundredth (!) film, Chan plays the role of rebel leader Huang Xing. It is 1911 and China is in crisis. Old traditions must make way for new technologies and developments. The political situation is in shambles and Xing is fed up with the emperor’s regime. The film tells the history of the nationalist movement that wants to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. This organization kicks off the creation of the Republic of China.

Although Chan is featured prominently on the cover of this DVD, his contribution appears to be quite limited. The actor plays a supporting role. Fans of Chan know that their hero can not only fight creditably, but can also do a decent job of acting. He made an impression as a troubled cop in ‘New Police Story’ and as a mechanic in ‘Shinjuku Incident’. He also performs well in ‘1911 Revolution’. It will probably be years before he shakes off the label of action star, but Chan is already on the right track.

Despite Chan and his colleagues’ successful acting, ‘1911 Revolution’ did not turn out to be a successful film. The movie is just too full. So many characters and events are fired at you, so that you quickly lose the overview. The complicated names and the fast train speed do not make it easy for you to keep your attention. The nationalistic and patriotic sauce with which the film is poured is more reminiscent of propaganda than of an ‘independent’ film. It seems – and it probably is – as if the Chinese government had a big hand in the making of this film.

What remains is a film that looks beautiful (beautiful costumes and impressive fights), but never manages to hit the mark. Too much information is being fired at you in too short a time. The strong acting, the beautiful soundtrack and slick appearances compensate for a lot, but cannot prevent that this is a missed opportunity to bring a piece of history unexposed in the West to the attention in a clear way. Sin.

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