Monday, 7 June 2010

Axis of War: Night Raid

Director: An Lan
Starring: Wang Yongming, Liu Tianzuo, He Dandan, Xu Honghao
Country: China
BBFC Certification: 15
Duration: 85 min

Night Raid (the final part of the Axis of War trilogy) is a bit of a mystery. I got sent a copy to review randomly without requesting it (I had received an email about the previous two films but hadn't responded due to other commitments) and looking up the film, director and even the rest of the trilogy on IMDB came back empty every time. The film doesn't seem to exist away from the press release Metrodome sent me. Anyway, mystery or not this film arrived at my doorstep so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Well I can now tell you that it's a good old fashioned men-on-a-mission war film all the way. China is getting hit hard by the Japanese and a group of Chinese soldiers on their way back from the front lines stumble upon a huge enemy airfield; a hive of bombers and fighters that have been decimating their forces. The group's major, ashamed of their current orders to head away from the heat of battle, decides to launch a secret and possibly suicidal mission to destroy the base. Along the way the team pick up a female war-photographer and there is lots of bonding and camaraderie in between the action.

Night Raid is quite clearly a propaganda piece for the Chinese government. All of the soldiers are heroes, the Japanese are pure evil and there are lots of 'messages' about the greater good and all that sort of stuff. Because of this the film is obviously heavy handed and simplistic. It's packed with clich├ęs and is cheesy as hell. The performances are hammy and it looks cheap. I could quite easily lay into this film and point out all of it's flaws, but you know what? I actually quite enjoyed myself.

It's not well made enough to give it a high score, but I couldn't help but be reminded of the fun WWII action adventures of the 60's such as Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare as I watched this. OK, so it isn't in their leagues by a long stretch, but strip away the governmental control over the film, the low budget presentation and the ham-fisted treatment of the brutality of war and you're left with a fast-paced, action-packed, trashy beer-and-buddies night-in.

The action scenes are what won me over (a little). They have an old-school charm to them in their obvious use of miniatures instead of CGI and their excessive level of huge flaming explosions. There's all sorts of violence going on in the finale too with some mini martial arts sequences and a little sword and knife-play thrown in for good measure. It's all so ludicrously over the top and silly that it just hit the right note for me, stopping the politics and melodrama from ever being taken too seriously.

It sounds like I love the film now, but at the end of the day as much fun as the action scenes are, I can't get away from the fact that the rest of the film is pretty corny and cobbled together quite poorly at times. There's also a bitter propagandist edge that is hard to shake. If you can ignore this though and imagine it was made back in the early 60's when war films didn't seem to take themselves so seriously you can have a lot of fun with this in a B-movie sort of way.


Axis of War: Night Raid is released on 5th July by Metrodome. There were no special features on the disc I received. The picture quality was odd, it looked older than it should have, but I think it will be down to the source material as the transfer looked consistent and the colours were fairly bold. The sound was a bit muddy at times, but again I suspect this was down to the original master.

1 comment:

  1. I ask you to look at former Yugoslavian, "partisan-films"... made under the old Communist regime...
    Axis of War, trilogy... is just Chinese Communist propaganda...