When looking at who’s behind Shadow, it would be hard for fans of the wuxia action genre not to get excited. The director who brought you Hero and House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Yimou) within this genre is looking to add to his body of work while continuing to push boundaries this time around. For some, what he accomplished here would be enough. For others, while they can appreciate his artwork, they may be left wanting a bit more action.
An unpredictable young king (Zheng Kai) hopes to do all he can to maintain the peace between his kingdom and his main rivals. All has gone well so far, but the military commander (Deng Chao) has other plans as he seeks to ignite a war between the two sides and lead his people to victory in the process. In order to do this, he enlists the help of a lookalike with the ability to fool both his enemies and the king himself.
The first thing you’ll notice about Shadow is its visual style. Rather than utilizing a typical color scheme, this world is filled with grays and blacks. The only time we see anything beyond those two colors is the characters’ skin and the blood that comes from it. I don’t know if there was a specific reason for this, but it adds to the artistry of the film.
Regardless of its appearance, Shadow wants to be a martial arts epic. With that in mind, I was anticipating a film with loads of action throughout to go along with a well-developed story. As it turns out, the only real action within the first hour is when certain characters are training. While those scenes are good, but I wish there was more actual fighting taking place.
In place of violence, there are moments of verbal confrontation to help in keeping the energy at a solid level during this period. It’s here where the movie is able to move forward thematically instead of growing stale. In terms of story they seem important, but they also manage to come at the right time as they’re able to come in and feel like they mean something whenever we get them.
Once we get to the second half of Shadow, those scenes of verbal intensity aren’t as necessary since the action that we’re looking for ramps up. Rather than building or spreading it across the entire movie, the battles are just being poured on almost all at once. Once it’s here, there’s never any holding back as it’s brutal and entertaining to watch.
Shadow doesn’t quite reach the epic levels that it hopes to, but it’s serviceable overall. I think it’ll be seen as an unconventional action movie for most since it doesn’t follow a structure that we’re used to. It’s drama-heavy in the first half as they build toward an action-heavy second half. Since we’re used to having are action sprinkled around more, some may have an issue with the way this is handled. For others, it may be a new experience that they are able to enjoy.
Rating: No Rating
Director: Zhang Yimou
Film Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: May 10, 2019 (U.S.)
Distributor: Well Go USA
- Score - 7/107/10