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China 2011
Directed by
Wei Te Sheng
156 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
1 stars

Warriors Of The Rainbow: Seediq Bale

Synopsis: The Seediq are the native people of Taiwan. When the Japanese occupy the island, the Seediq are forced to abandon their traditional ways and become “civilised”. Decades later, the simmering tensions erupt in a bloody uprising.

This is a really, really, REALLY bad film. It’s competently assembled, but it got me offside pretty much straight away. See, the Seediq are a noble people, rich with traditions. One of which is that they cannot become true men until they cut off the head of another man and add the skull to their collection.  Making warring tribes of headhunters into the heroes of your story is a bit of an ask, but not impossible. But Warriors Of The Rainbow completely screws the pooch.

The protagonist is introduced in the first scene as an arsehole who ambushes a couple of guys hunting, kills them and steals the pig they just shot. The next scene finds him in a local village bullying people from another tribe. A young kid stands up to him and says he’s not afraid of him. Our erstwhile hero then heads off, rallies a bunch of guys from his tribe and tries to ambush the kid and his friends as they head home. He doesn’t succeed in killing the kid become another guy from his tribe tries to go in for the kill and gets in the way of the bullet. Our hero then abuses his injured comrade for ruining his shot.

Initially I thought that this set-up was a clever ruse, and that kid would turn out to be the real hero. No such luck. Decades later, our jerk-off hero is a middle-aged man under the thumb of the Japanese, and it’s hard to think of him as hard done by. There’s a few scenes where he demonstrates a bit of wise leadership, but mostly he just drinks and acts aggressively towards everyone. This is the guy who is going to rally the people to his banner to unleash bloody mayhem on the occupying forces. And that kid who didn’t get killed? He’s the leader of a rival tribe and ends up working with the Japanese to hunt down jerk-off’s guerrilla fighters in the mountains. I really really, really wanted him to win. There’s a fundamental problem with a film when you find yourself rooting for the “villains”.

It’s relevant to note that this is an abridged version of what was originally a two-part epic à la Red Cliff. But to be honest, despite the visible deficiencies of the edit, it’s hard to see how, in any shape or form, the main character could be anything other than unsympathetic. You could, at best, appeal to the concept of the noble savage, but that’s just sad and embarrassing. This is an example of a film with a very weak and poorly thought-out script. I have no doubt there is a fascinating film to be made of the material, but this isn’t it. I’m thankful that I didn’t sit through the 276 minute version. I probably would have called for the head of the director.




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