White Vengeance is based on the story of the Hongmen Banquet in ancient China. Emperor Qin had defeated Han, and had taken control. Two groups conspired to assassinate Emperor Qin, and the leaders of these groups, Xiang Yu and Liu Bang, who was later to be known as Emperor Gaozu. The two men had a great respect for each other, and eventually became like brothers, with Liu Bang serving under Xiang Yu, and both men served King Huai of Chu. King Huai worried that both men’s ambitions would eventually lead to his own demise, and after consulting with his advisors, comes up with a plan to set them against each other. Qin still controlled the city of Xiangyang. The king declared that whoever was the first to enter and control the city, would receive the Lord of Qin’s title and become the new lord of the city. After facing Qin forces, Xiang Yu sent a number of soldiers along with Liu Bang to escort his love Yuji away from the conflict, in order to keep her safe. Rather than following orders however, Liu Bang took his men to the city of Xiangyang and convinced them to surrender without a single drop of blood being spilled. Liu Bang was a genuinely good man, and only wanted what was best for the people, which is why he wanted to become the lord of the city. He knew that if Xiang Yu took over, the people would face further conflict, and all he wanted was peace. This set the two men against each other for not only control of the city, but control of the empire. Each man had an incredibly skilled military advisor to guide them, and the result of the conflict relied largely upon the advice of these two brilliant and highly skilled tacticians.
I could go on and on. You wouldn’t believe the length of the notes I took while watching this film. The film itself literally took me about six or seven hours to get through because I had to keep stopping to type notes. It’s one of those films where the story is so involved that I felt like I had to write it all down in case I wanted to talk about anything specific. I’m limiting my synopsis to just the basics, because to really understand and fully appreciate this film, you really just need to see it.
If you’re interested in getting some background of the events before seeing the film, there’s a Wikipedia page all about it here.
This film is another of those great, historical epics that the Asian countries, including China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan have become so adept at creating. While there’s obviously some liberties taken with the dialogue, some of the fight scenes and some of the key events, simply to compress them down so they fit into the film, or to make them a little more dramatic. For example, in the film, Xiang Yu and his love Yuji both committed suicide at the same time in the film. In the actual events, she committed suicide first, and Xiang Yu committed suicide later, after which his body was dismembered by those seeking the reward that had been offered for him. While there are obviously going to be many differences between the film and true life events, the film actually does a great job in getting the basic story and many of the key events across in a way that even those who are unfamiliar with the story can get immersed in.
The battles in the film were bloody and brutal, and even though CGI was used to enhance the numbers in these battle scenes, the close up fighting looked spectacular. The battle scenes aren’t the film’s key selling point though. The political intrigue and gamesmanship that goes on between the rival factions, brought to life by a stellar cast that were truly believable in the depiction of their characters, create a tension throughout the film that’s palpable, and really draws you in.
The production quality of this film was incredible, except for the minor issue that many of the CGI scenes depicting large groups of soldiers were obviously CGI. That said, everything else looked just absolutely amazing. The set design, locations and the costuming were all very realistic for the period and expertly crafted. The quality of the acting combined with the realism of the settings really makes you feel like you’re there in the middle of it all.
The film is two hours and eighteen minutes long, which in the case of some films would feel like an eternity. This film however is an exception to the rule, as from start to finish, there really aren’t any scenes in this film that feel like they’re dragging, or that become tedious and boring.
Part historical action epic, part political thriller, and with even just a bit of a love story thrown into the mix, this film absolutely does not disappoint. It’s worth every second of its running time, and I really can’t recommend it enough.
This new release from Well Go USA contains a behind the scenes featurette, interviews with the cast and crew and both the normal and the international trailers.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy for yourself, you can get the blu-ray or DVD from Amazon, or from any of the other usual outlets.