Wall not bad but not great

The Bay Chronicle - - SITUATIONS VACANT -

It had ev­ery­thing go­ing for it.

A charis­matic Hol­ly­wood star (Matt Da­mon), a tal­ented Chi­nese di­rec­tor (Zhang Yi­mou) and heaps of cash (re­port­edly US$150 mil­lion), for a start.

Yet is far from great. Not bad, maybe. Pos­si­bly even OK. But def­i­nitely not great.

The fan­tasy-ac­tion flick fol­lows the story of Euro­pean mer­ce­nary Wil­liam (Da­mon) and his side­kick To­var (Pe­dro Pas­cal), who are on the hunt for ‘‘black pow­der’’ when they get cap­tured by an army of Chi­nese su­per war­riors.

Known as the Name­less Or­der, this army mans the Great Wall, pro­tect­ing it from flesh-eat­ing crea­tures called Tao Tei that, as the leg­end goes, pop up ev­ery 60 years.

Ini­tially held as pris­on­ers, Wil­liam and To­var get caught up in a Tao Tei at­tack and quickly prove their battle skills, earn­ing the be­grudg­ing re­spect of Com­man­der Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and Gen­eral Shao (Hanyu Zhang). Wil­liam, im­pressed by the Chi­nese war­riors’ courage, de­cides to join the epic fight, while To­var looks to an­other pris­oner, Bal­lard (Willem Dafoe), to help plan his es­cape.

Plot­wise, that’s ba­si­cally it; the fo­cus here is clearly on style over sub­stance. The battle scenes are a vis­ual treat, fea­tur­ing colour-coded army fac­tions and plenty of slic­ing and dic­ing ac­tion. Lin’s Crane Corps, a group of women who bungee-jump off the wall with spears to at­tack the Tao Tei, are par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive.

But it doesn’t take long for that thrill to wear off, and what’s left is clunky di­a­logue and wooden act­ing. Da­mon, who tries – and fails – to pull off some sort of ac­cent (Ir­ish, maybe?), just doesn’t have much chem­istry with To­var or Lin, and none of the Chi­nese char­ac­ters are given any real depth. The fi­nal re­sult is flashy, full-on and even a bit fun at times – just don’t ex­pect great­ness. –

Matt Da­mon shows up in The Great Wall with an ac­cent that varies from one line to the next.

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