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The Promise (Wu Ji) - Preview

The Promise (Wu Ji)

Preview by Jack Foley

THE global success of films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers has paved the way for increasingly more ambitious martial arts epics from countries like China.

The latest is kung fu epic, The Promise (Wu Ji), which has just opened in China, amassing $9m (£5.1m) in its first four days to become the biggest-ever movie opening in that country.

The film is reportedly one of the most expensive films in Chinese cinema history and its successful opening broke the previous record set by Kung Fu Hustle, according to trade website Screen Daily.

Directed by Chen Kaige, the film follows the fortunes of a slave who falls for a princess and how he rises from obscurity. It stars Korean actor, Jang Dung-Kun and Japanese actress, Hiroyuki Sanada.

The film is already China’s submission for the best foreign language film at next year’s Oscars and secured a Golden Globe nomination last week.

Kaige has already been nominated for two Academy Awards, for his work on Farewell My Concubine. He has also directed The Emperor & The Assassin and Killing Me Softly.

The budget for the epic is reported to be $42m (£23.6m) making it the most expensive film in Chinese cinema history, thereby overtaking 2002’s Hero, which was directed by Chen’s former cinematographer, Zhang Yimou.

Critics in China have been quick to heap praise upon it, especially for its imagery and special effects. The film was shot on location throughout China and also stars Hong Kong actors Cecilia Cheung and Nicholas Tse.

In America, the the film has been renamed Master of the Crimson Armor and it has been picked up by the Weinstein Company following a successful promotion campaign at Cannes.

According to a report on a Chinese fan-site devoted to the film, the six-month shoot proved so gruelling that one of the actresses, Cheung, worked so hard she fell ill with a kidney infection that resulted in hospitalisation.

She also revealed that in order to fully immerse herself into the role of a stunning princess, Cheung sought the advice of director Chen.

She is quoted as saying: “I had to feel like a princess. He made me feel comfortable and relaxed. He gave me confidence. He told me I was the most beautiful woman in the world.”

The film is due for release in UK cinemas sometime next year.