Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Film Review: Empire of Silver (2009)

Empire of Silver (Review)
China/2009
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Streaming
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"This Empire of Silver is more like an Empire of Bronze."

The story of the Wall Street of China. The carefree third son, known as the Third Master (Aaron Kwok), of a banking clan must adopt the family's business when tragedy strikes the family...

Empire of Silver continues to focus on the trials and tribulations of the Third Master. He's not greedy and can see the suffering in the poor, and the banking business often conflicts with his beliefs. He doesn't want his father to mold him in his image, but he wants to please and respect his family. At the same time, the Third Son has love for his stepmother, and the feelings are mutual. It is a lot of information to digest -- too much, in fact, for its short runtime; a longer runtime would give the plot and characters more time to flourish, but, unfortunately, neither do. Empire of Silver also has a decent yet underwhelming ending.

Empire of Silver is a sprawling historical epic. It has so much it wants to tell, but so little time. The story and storytelling are convoluted, as well. It drops you into the middle, then jumps from location to location, situation to situation, with odd flashbacks that do little to differentiate themselves from the main plot; the unnecessary narration wasn't helpful, and it felt out of place, especially at the end. The story never really focuses on one issue at one time, it's all over the place. I'm not extremely familiar with Chinese history, but, if this is an authentic piece, Empire of Silver does offer some interesting information through its plot.

Furthermore, although the Third Master is the main focus of the story, he really isn't focused on. His character is underdeveloped, despite being the only character with a character arc. The love subplot also feels underdeveloped and bland; it becomes more of a burden when couple with the already complicated main plot. With the little character and unnecessary subplot, Empire of Silver feels further diluted. It is disappointing considering the masterful crafting of the world; it feels authentic thanks to the wonderful set and costume design.

Aaron Kwok take the lead with a mixed performance -- occasionally spot on, Kwok is too often over-dramatic, as well as bland with his performance; he's usually very charismatic with his performances, like Floating City and 2000 AD, but he missed the mark this time around. The music is great, the sounds are familiar, but mesmerizing, nonetheless. The cinematography is beautiful, even better when coupled with the elegant setting and costumes. According to IMDB, this is Christina Yao's directorial debut; unfortunately, despite crafting a wonderful world, there is a lack of efficient direction -- there is no graspable plot, focus, or character, and it's muddled by odd editing and a pointless subplot.

Overall, Empire of Silver is a merely decent historical epic. It is somewhat informative and moderately entertaining, but fails to deliver the goods -- when you hear "historical epic" you want something with life and plenty of information, and this film has neither. This interesting plot is poorly executed due to inefficient direction and poor writing, as well as a barely decent performance from the usually outstanding Aaron Kwok. This Empire of Silver is more like an Empire of Bronze.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, sex and nudity.

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