Showing this week: the John Woo-produced Warriors of the Rainbow | Bleader

Showing this week: the John Woo-produced Warriors of the Rainbow


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Were here, were Seediq, so get used to it!
  • We're here, we're Seediq, so get used to it!
The title may suggest a documentary on badass gay rights activists (and so does the subtitle, come to think of it: Seediq Bale is an aboriginal term that translates roughly to “real men”) but this 2011 action film in fact depicts the efforts of Taiwan’s indigenous people to fight back against imperial Japanese forces in the early 20th century. It’s the movie of the week at River East’s cozy theater eight, which is fast on its way to becoming Chicago’s best outlet for east Asian genre cinema (current titleholder: the home of Chicago Cinema Society programmer Neil Calderone).

As historical battle movies go, Warriors of the Rainbow is roughly as handsome and as violent as Mel Gibson’s Braveheart or the Michael Mann Last of the Mohicans. I can’t say how sensitively it depicts the Seediq—about whom I knew nothing going into the film—but its valorization of natives and vilification of imperial Japan shows the overt influence of political correctness. As you might expect from this sort of period spectacle, the locations look amazing, the mountains, trees, and rivers of central Taiwan appearing plenty colorful even before they’re sprayed with blood.

John Woo was one of the producers on this, and it shows: the film contains enough bathetic, slow-motion death sequences to satisfy fans of his work. Viewers who like their genre pleasures a little more narrative-based may be disappointed, however. The two-and-a-half-hour version screening at River East was cut by more than two hours from its original two-part form (just like Woo’s Red Cliff when it played here a few years back); and I suspect the editors sacrificed character for action whenever possible. The movie feels lopsided: with so much of the exposition removed, few of the Seediq casualties register as more than mere numbers. But seeing as I’m now curious to learn more about this chapter of Japanese imperialism (which is as devastating a history as any Western counterpart), I guess one can still consider the shortened version a partial success.

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