The Children of Huang Shi

(2008) ** R
114 min. Sony Pictures Classics. Director: Roger Spottiswoode. Cast: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun-Fat, Radha Mitchell, Guang Wen Li.


The based-on-real-events yarn The Children of Huang Shi takes place in 1930s Japanese-occupied China. During the rape of Nanking, a British war reporter (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of The Tudors) finds himself compelled to live with, aid, and protect from the Japanese a group of Chinese orphans. He's convinced to do so by an attractive American nurse (ever-stolid Radha Mitchell) and a freedom fighter (Chow Yun-Fat, doing his Chinese Cary Grant routine). There's nothing overtly bad about this Roger Spottiswoode picture, but it never makes a compelling case for its own existence. The "white man learns about himself by saving others" story plays out in familiar ways, as does the love triangle between Rhys-Meyers, Mitchell, and Chow. Michelle Yeoh turns up in a role that threatens to become interesting, but never really does—despite the inherently compelling end-credits collection of actual survivor testimony, you'll forget this one ten paces from the theatre.

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