The Promise (Wu ji)

[2 stars]

A fantasy about capricious gods and untrustworthy humans, even if there is a modicum of redemption, isn’t a great foundation for a tale. At least not an escapist tale. When the script, effects, and wire-work are also weak, it only makes it harder to enjoy. Add to these challenges the halting and rough rhythm of the story and I’m left scratching my head that this was from director and co-writer Kaige Chen. I guess everyone gets one wrong at some point.

Jang Dong-Gun, Hiroyuki Sanada¬†(Life), Cecilia Cheung, and Ye Liu are the high points, such as they are. Each has moments that are satisfying, despite so many more that are not. These are all solid actors, but they can’t overcome the leaps, gaps, and forced aspects of the story.

After a bit of searching I found, perhaps, the reason for the issues. Most fantasies of this type are long..often over two hours long while this was only 1:40. As it turns out, I think my copy was the US released theatrical version which apparently was heavily edited. The extra scenes were on the disc, but at the time I saw no reason to torture myself any more by viewing them. But now I realize it may have filled in some of the plot leaps.

Now, this excuse uncovered doesn’t forgive the general concerns, but it may have smoothed out some of the aspects that were exacerbated by it. If you are compelled to see the movie, make sure you’re seeing the original version. But, either way, this was pretty much a disappointing miss for me.

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