Review: ‘The Hero Zheng Chenggong’

Astrident political pamphlet for Taiwan's reunification with China, "The Hero Zheng Chenggong" matches rhetoric with teeming extras in a pulpy but enjoyable costume actioner. Mainland actor Zhao Wenzhuo returns home to star as the eponymous 17th-century hero who drove the Dutch from the island.

Astrident political pamphlet for Taiwan’s reunification with China, “The Hero Zheng Chenggong” matches rhetoric with teeming extras in a pulpy but enjoyable costume actioner. Mainland actor Zhao Wenzhuo, who followed Jet Li into a career in Hong Kong, returns home to star as the eponymous 17th-century hero who drove the Dutch from the island. Asiaphiles and open-minded fest auds will enjoy the undemanding antics, though helmer Wu Ziniu continues his slide down the artistic tree since his ’80s heyday with titles like “Evening Bell.”

Plastered with captions, pic spans 17 years, starting in 1644 as Fujian province holds out against the invading Manchu hordes who have set up the Qing dynasty. Betrayed by his general father (Du Zhiguo), young Zheng (a wooden Zhao) fights on against the Manchus and later, helped by his feisty adopted sister (Shui Ling, in pic’s best performance), a Taiwanese, leads a successful invasion of the island. Dialogue and performances are generally on the stiff side, but large-scale action sequences have an engaging gusto, driven by the broad symphonic score. Given the colorful costumes and locations, it’s a pity the pic isn’t in widescreen.

The Hero Zheng Chenggong

China

Production

A Xiaoxiang Film Studio/Fujian Film Studio production. Produced by Zhang Zhaotong. Directed by Wu Ziniu. Screenplay, Zhang Jiping, from his novel.

Crew

Camera (color), Yihuhewula; editor, He Wenzhang; music, Zhang Shaotong; art director, Lin Qi; costume designer, Wang Qiuping. Reviewed at Montreal Film Festival (World Greats), Aug. 26, 2001. Original Mandarin title: Yingxiong Zheng Chenggong. Mandarin & Dutch dialogue. Running time: 101 MIN.

With

Zhao Wenzhuo, Shui Ling, Du Zhiguo, Yoko Shimada, Jiang Qinqin, Zhang Shan.
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