Director: Gordon Chan
Script: Xiong Zhaozheng, Maria Wong, Frankie Tan & Wu Mengzheng
Cast: Vincent Zhao, Sammo Hung, Wan Qian, Keisuke Koide, Yasuaki Kurata
Running time: 123 minutes
Set in the year 1557, God of War sees General Qi (Vincent Zhao) take over the part of the Chinese army that’s led by Commander Yu (Sammo Hung) in order to bring to an end an ongoing conflict with a garrison of Japanese pirates who have gained a sizable foothold in mainland China and are, essentially, serving as a somewhat unusual recon regiment for a possible future Japanese invasion.
The pesky pirates, who include both samurai and ronin, have basically taken over Cengang in Zhejiang. After months of futile advances, the Chinese finally, under Qi’s leadership, defeat a fort full of pirates, but many manage to escape.
A few years later, in 1561, the pirates regroup and attack the coastal cities of China. With both the cities of Xinhe and Taizhou under attack, Qi's army is caught between the two assaults, and is considerably outnumbered. Even though most family members of his soldiers tend to be located in Xinhe, Qi makes the tough decision to go to Taizhou and leaves his bad-ass (but also nice arse!) wife in charge of the fight against the pirates in Xinhe, knowing that the defeat of the pirates' elite team in Taizhou will bring a longer-lasting peace to the coastal cities. Or that’s the plan anyway…
Gordon Chan has crafted a spectacular historical epic in God of War, and should be applauded for handling, what I’m sure were, some very complex battle sequences, with great aplomb. Chan, who’s probably better known for Beast Cops (with Anthony Wong), Fist of Legend (with Jet Lee), and The Medallion (with Jackie Chan), has done a great job of squeezing a lot of Chinese history into just a couple of hours runtime. However, the downside of that for me, as a Westerner, was there was a lot to process and try and get my head around.
As with so many Chinse films made these days, the cinephotography is excellent, as are all the costume designs, and the production value is very high, providing the viewer with some sumptuous period detail to enjoy. And, for fight fans like myself, there are some great battle sequences to behold, plus a few nicely choregraphed one-on-one fights too, including a staff duel between Zhao and Sammo Hung, and an epic sword fight between Zhao and Japanese veteran, Keisuke Koide (Shin Godzilla, Budokan).
Unfortunately, also present are some of the usual Chinese melodramatics, especially in and around some of the scenes involving Qi’s wife, played by the lovely Regina Wan, plus the Japanese come across as almost Pantomime villains at times, which kind of undermines the seriousness of the situation at times! The film also doesn’t flow as well as it could do; perhaps this is due to the director trying to fit too much into one film or the editing style employed; I’m not sure.
Overall God of War is another solidly-made Chinese historical war movie, which deserves to be seen on the largest screen you can view it on. You know you want to…!
Kaleidoscope Entertainment are distributing God of War on DVD and on Blu-ray. Sadly, there’s not much in the way of extras on the disc, just a very short ‘Making of’ mini-documentary (1.5 mins), which is most probably taken from an electronic press kit, and also the film’s trailer (1.5 mins).