I fell for the hype. I admit it. Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen in the same film? Has my wet dream come true? Sadly, this film has been misleadingly re-packaged and re-marketed in 2010 with the faces of three big kung fu stars on the cover BUT this is NOT a martial arts film! Instead we are dropped into the year 1945, andtwo leaders of China’s civil war meet in Chongching and agree to form a coalition government and prepare for peace and democracy. It’s nice to have an all-star cast I guess, but at least for me, the short cameos detracted from the movie more than it gave. In much of the propaganda that pervades previous characterizations of Chiang and his Nationalist forces, the Chinese Communists have tended to portray the Chinese civil war as one of black versus white, good versus evil, with victorious communist forces liberating the people from an evil regime.
The biggest problem with Founding of a Republic is that it is quite dull. This carries over into the potrayal of the KMT, corrupt and filled with internal strife, where Chiang’s own family is caught in corrupt business practices in Shanghai. This seems deliberate, as these ideas would accord little with the current regime in Beijing. In one scene where Mao is shown in an avuncular, loving role with children, even though in real life Mao abandoned his children to pursue his ambitious revolutionary strategies. Finally, we also know that democracy was never really the intention of either leader. The references to democracy in the film are surely in very poor taste when – as I write this – Liu Xiabo, the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace, languishes in jail and a number of his peers were earlier killed in the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4 June 1989 for demanding precisely that: democracy in China. If you want a Chinese history lesson, then also save your money and buy something that is not so tedious and innacurate historically.
However, there are some interesting surprises with those who are familiar to Western audiences. Jackie Chan, with a moustache and glasses, portraying a newspaper reporter. Ziyi Zhang as a Communist cultural representative. Jet Li as a Nationalist admiral…I would be lying if I said seeing these people in their respective roles wasn’t exciting to see. The most unforgettable role that I think is Jiang Wen as Mao Renfeng. Actually it is a personalized history of Han himself – the story telling almost sticks with Zhang Guoli and Chen Kun from the start to the end. It is a swindle as the film portrays lesser known entities like Mao, who killed three times the people Hitler did, as a good leader. If Hitler died in 1938, he most likely would of gone down in history as one of the greatest German political figures and likewise if Mao died in 1949. He was ruthless toward fellow chinese and that is why his popularity declined, but the Communists needed to win over the peasants so they helped them tend their crops and paid for any service that was given their soldiers.
These aspects just can’t warrant a positive rating from me and if I can be honest, it downright upsets me. As an American who is studying about Chinese culture I found this to be an interesting point of view that FOX and CNN would never show. In the end though I have to be honest with my readers and declare this as a film of propaganda. Whenever a film about a political party is made it can’t amount to anything but propaganda and you just can’t take it seriously. This government mouthpiece of a movie points the fingers at everyone else’s wrongdoings, and condemns them for it, yet refuses to accept responsibility for or even acknowledge the crimes the communist party have committed, and indeed, are still committing. A shame Asian A-Listers were apart of this film.