1 out of 5
Directed by: Xiao Feng
As there are a couple of exciting sequences in Air Strike, I allowed myself to consider whether or not the movie was such a slog – even at 90 minutes – simply because it was ruined by its dub. While shot in at least Chinese and English (there are some characters speaking Japanese, but it almost seemed like their Japanese was dubbed as well), some tax shenanigans on behalf of one of the actors seemed to prevent the flick from actually airing abroad, allowing only the English-dubbed version to be dumped onto home release. So we Bruce Willis dedicants have no option (as far as I can tell) but to watch this English dub, and… it’s not so great. Bad timing, bland translations (assuming the original dialogue was any better), and very, very unmotivated, the dub definitely makes it hard to be engaged.
I allowed myself that consideration.
But there are many more problems, almost totally around the incompetence of the film’s construction. I noted a couple of exciting sequences, and that’s true: they do exist. But patched within the film as a whole, they’re either tonally way off the mark – shot as sort of action or comedy hijinks amidst what I think is intended to be a drama – or allowed to ramble on a bit because they’re obvious glory shots. Accepting that international film can have a different sense of flow than American movies, the pieces still don’t mesh together well: the editing is disruptive (meaning the tonal shifts seem incidental), and there’s simply no carrythrough from one scene to the next, whether or not they feature the same characters. This patchwork feel extends to the movie in general, with scenes alternating between bombings and calm moments, with literally no transition between the two. Your teahouse is bombed in scene 1; now you’re all calm and collected and playing mahjong in that same teahouse in scene 2. The “story”, such as it is, is related to us – no surprise – similarly: it’s just an event, and another event, and another event. While one part of the story involves the transport of people and goods from one location to another, there is a complete lack of sense of motion to accompany that; they might as well have been on one patch of road the entire film. To top it off, we have some English actors in the movie – Bruce Willis, Adrien Brody – but in the former case, it seems like he was “directed” to deliver his lines in the same cadence as the dub, and in the latter case, I question if Brody actually spoke the Chinese but was then dubbed back into English…?
Bruce plays an American colonel, training Chinese soldiers against the Japanese in WWII. He is written like a foreigner’s parody of an American soldier: cigar chomping, lots of swearing. Besides the pacing of his words, mentioned above, Bruce gives the film some cheesy gusto, but this doesn’t help to encourage whatever dramatic chops it was going for. Brody is a completely bit part doctor; I’m not even sure his character had a name. He’s one of several faceless characters who shows up just to get bombed.
There’s some back and forth between two brothers who want to fly a plane, and there’s the transportation storyline. In my inability to pay much attention to the movie – and this is me watching it straight, not doing side stuff! – I had incredible trouble remembering the names of any of the characters (including Bruce’s – I just happen to recognize the actor, of course), and so I’m hard pressed to tell you who played which part. But the actors seemed fairly committed, and the CGI is used smartly, in that there wasn’t anything shown that was beyond the abilities of what could be portrayed. It’s not great CGI, mind you, but it does the job.
Alas, very little else in the movie does.