TOWARDS THE RIVER GLORIOUS (2019) short review

100729.77428655_1000X1000One of several propaganda war films released in 2019 to commemorate the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, Oxide Pang’s Towards the River Glorious was, like all of them, a flop – though probably a less pricey flop than Li Shaohong’s Liberation. While it may be surprising to see Hong Kong genre filmmaker Pang at the helm, it’s actually his second offering to his PRC overlords, after 2016’s My War – which was already, you guessed it, a flop (despite a much bigger budget and starrier cast than the present film). It’s still a strange assignment for the more talented half of the Pang Brothers, and one to which he brings little else than his trademark showiness: heavy filters (one battle scene is so damn orange it would give even the late, great Tony Scott a seizure), extreme slow-motion, a few first-person-shooter angles, and that’s about it. The plot follows two brothers (bland Zhang Tong and much more interesting Yang Yi), each on one side of the fratricide war, as their paths cross repeatedly in the lead up to the momentous final battle of the Yangtze River Crossing Campaign. Of course, the brother who’s on the Nationalist side is very wrong, but will get redemption by switching his allegiance and fighting for the Communists. The Nationalist flag will fall in slow motion, the Communist flag will be waved rapturously, and it will all end in one big parade – much like in Liberation, fratricide slaughter is quickly forgotten once you can parade in your uniform. A fixture of such low-budget propaganda, Nie Yuan pops up for a very small cameo, while Sammy Hung broods in the background for much of the film. Corners are constantly being cut (scenes on a British warship make hilariously shoddy use of CGI): Towards the River Thrifty would have been a more accurate title. *1/2

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  1. I find Nationalist flag much easier on the eyes than the PRC flag. So, always seeing the PRC flag wave vigorously is a bit odd. The red and yellow don’t mesh well. In all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if filmmakers wanted, they could make a film that is a balanced account of the Chinese Civil War. Films like To Live do exist. I feel like a lot of the filmmakers want to cozy up to the party to gain flavors. But, wasn’t film was made in Xi Jinping’s China. Then again, as you said, it was pushed by the party to commemorate the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949(defacto).

    • A balanced account of the Chinese Civil War would definitely not get released in China. Though not about the Chinese Civil War, Guan Hu’s THE EIGHT HUNDRED got delayed indefinitely for portraying the KMT’s army in a non-negative light…

  2. Wow, that’s sucks, it must be suck to be the KMT now. Even in Taiwan now, the KMT are viewed negatively and the KMT army as well.

  3. Also, I did see the original 800 Heroes. It was pretty enjoyable despite being pretty cheesy and over the top.

  4. john

     /  April 21, 2020

    1949 not 1939


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