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With: Deng Chao, Sun Li, Zheng Kai, Wang Qianyuan, Hu Jun, Guan Xiaotong, Leo Wu, Wang Jingchun
Written by: Li Wei, Zhang Yimou
Directed by: Zhang Yimou
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Mandarin with English subtitles
Running Time: 116
Date: 05/10/2019

Shadow (2019)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Umbrella Organization

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Zhang Yimou's Shadow opens with a text crawl that made my eyes glaze over and think maybe that I should have taken notes. It doesn't get much better, as the film proceeds with almost an hour of talking and exposition, as a variety of kings, princesses, champions, and doubles explain who they are. Ironically, we probably have less idea of who they are than if they had actually done something. It's the story of a champion and his double, or his "shadow warrior" (both played by Deng Chao) and the plot to steal back a city for the king, or something. (Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha also told the story of a shadow warrior much more vividly and beautifully.) But at about the midpoint comes a glorious, beautiful battle sequence that takes place in the pouring rain and features astounding bladed umbrellas that not only keep out the rain, deflect blows, and act as sleds, but they can also fire off individual blades like bullets. As the battle winds down, the movie slows back down, and takes a very long time to wrap things up, although there are at least some runnings-through with swords during this last part. Shadow is Zhang's fourth wuxia movie, and it's a long way down from his poetic, balletic Hero, which not only had the star power of Jet Li, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Donnie Yen, and Maggie Cheung, but also used vibrant colors as part of its storytelling. Shadow has all color drained out of it, like a Zack Snyder movie, which is meant to be impressive and serious, but only looks drab. It's a mixed bag, but at least it's better than Zhang's other wuxia films (I'm looking at you, Curse of the Golden Flower).

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