Empire Of Silver
- Director:Christina Yao
- Cast:Zhicheng Ding , Lantian Chang, Aaron Kwok
- Release Date:May 17, 2012
- Distributor:China Lion
- Running time:113 minutes
- Film Worth:$12.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Its backdrop is a rich and fascinating one, but the film is let down by a screenplay and direction that fails to register on a personal level.
First time feature director and co-screenwriter, Christina Yao, filters King Lear and Wall Street through the cultural lens of late-nineteenth century China in this ambitious but ultimately muddled epic. When the time comes for Lord Kang (Zang Tielin), the head of a powerful banking family, to name an heir, circumstance and ill fortune leave his third and least favourite son, Third Master (Aaron Kwok), as the only viable candidate, with his three brothers having all been taken out of the running in one way or another. But Third Master is an epicure with little interest in business matters and, worse, is in love with his stepmother, the beautiful Madame Kang (Hao Lei). The stage is set for all manner of political manoeuvrings, tested loyalties, and familial betrayals.
Yao has a good eye for arresting images and a tin ear for narrative and dialogue, as evidenced by the film's sumptuous visuals and leaden pacing. She's chosen a fascinating period in which to lay her scene - China at the time was coming under increasing Western influence, both culturally and economically, even as the Boxer rebels fought to oust the Europeans and break the back of the British opium trade - but seems unsure how to dramatise such momentous changes on a personal level, leaving her characters as shallow caricatures. All the usual thematic conflicts are thrown into the mix - tradition versus innovation, freedom versus duty, love versus honour - but without the leavening influence of nuanced characterisation, it's all pretty much a pantomime. It's possible that the film's messy structure was designed to inject complexity, but it only serves to muddy the waters further.
As a window into a largely unexplored milieu, Empire Of Silver is not without interest, but with a better, more coherent script, it could have been much more. Fans of historical melodrama will be sated though.