In this historical epic from China, you get it all – Samurai, Pirates, Shaolin Warrior Monks, battles galore, and kick-ass female fighters, too. Based on a true story, during the Ming dynasty (the 16th century) China’s coast was being invaded by pirates. They were pillaging and terrorizing the local communities and the Emperor was not pleased. He sent army after army to take them on, but they were usually out-manned and out-maneuvered. Then a young general by the name of Qi Jiguang risked his life and reputation on some outside the box strategies that his wise superior Yu Dayou allowed him to pursue. And they kicked those pirates out once and for all. God of War is a pretty faithful and action packed retelling of that story. Gordon Chan (known for Jackie Chan and Jet Li flix) directs, so you know it won’t be just a bunch of dialogue in subtitles.
When I started watching, it felt a bit like some of the historical dramas I’d seen on TV in China, and I was afraid it would be a long ride, but then I got sucked in. Besides having wonderful attention to detail in the Ming era sets and clothes, there are actually some good characters to watch. The older General is played by Sammo Hung (Enter the Dragon), who is one of China’s best known martial arts stars. And he’s still got it! Vincent Zhao as young General Qi has just the right mix of action hero and compassionate leader. And there’s his wife (Regina Wan) who is ready to step into the fray when the pirates invade her town, dressed in her own beautiful armor and wielding her own sword quite ably. And on the other side, there is a youngish Samurai who has a hard time with the pirates’ dishonorable behavior and the pirates’ leader who is willing to fight dirty right up until the bloody end.
God of War is probably not a film for everyone, but history buffs, martial arts lovers, and battle strategy aficionados will probably like it a lot. I watched on a small screen, but if you can see it in a theater, I’d recommend it. There are subtitles, but after a while you can just watch. It’s epic.