They don't make 'em like they used to, but they keep tryin'. The Children of Huang Shi is supposed to be one of those large-canvas, exotic-locations, cast-of-thousands epics à la Lawrence of Arabia. And, technically speaking, the ingredients are all there. The canvas is suitably large, the locations are suitably exotic, and the cast includes hundreds, if not thousands, of Japanese and Chinese extras. But the script's a real turkey. And Jonathan Rhys Meyers is woefully miscast as a British journalist who wants to blow the lid on Japanese atrocities during the Sino-Japanese War but instead becomes nanny to 60 orphans whom he takes on a 700-mile trek over the mountains to get them out of harm's way.
Meyers has never projected much warmth, and he doesn't exactly turn up the heat here, but I will say this for him: His hair looks smashing - perfectly gelled even as a Japanese soldier looms over him with a sword, ready to lop off his head. Needless to say, he's rescued, by a Chinese Communist played by Chow Yun-Fat. And just to get a little hoochie-coochie going, Radha Mitchell shows up as an American nurse who uses opium to ease the pain, especially her own. But the war itself is, at best, a historical backdrop, a pool from which to fish out acts so evil that you actually start to think the movie's about something. And it is about something: It's about whatever hair products Meyers is using.
The Children of Huang Shi, Sundance