Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars along with Radha Mitchell, Chow-Yun Fat and many more fine actors, in "THE CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI," available on dvd from SONY.
Based on a true story, the story follows real-life British journalist George Hogg, who bravely inserted himself into 1937 China when the Japanese continued to display their timeless savagery while invading Nan-King. While the script captures some of the politics behind the barbarism taking place, it sadly focuses too much on a completely melodramatic love story between Hogg and a brave Australian nurse. The love story angle propels what should and could've been a tense, stirring drama into depths below even some of the poorer "Lifetime" cable-dramas. It's even more disappointing when realizing the real-story behind Hogg's life and his feats, has enough material to make several fine films. So much of the film has been fictionalized, without necessity, and Spottiswoode wallows in so many heavy-handed techniques that "CHILDREN OF HUANG SHI" will annoy most viewers more than entertain. The cast is great, but their dialogue is often atrocious. While Spottiswoode creates a few tense moments, mostly around the dangerous trek Hogg takes 60 school children on, while escaping over mountains to Mongolia and safety, these are overshadowed by the lack of imagination carrying most of the film. BLECH!
SONY has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this release. Colors are often vibrant, and the depth, especially for dvd, is often impressive. Blacks, while not inky, are deep enough to provide impressive detail in darker scenes.
SONY has provided a Dolby Digital 5.1mix. It alternates between boisterous and subdued, depending on the melodrama of the given scene. Surrounds and minor bass kick in with some impact during a few sequences, but most of the effects call too much attention to themselves and remind the viewer that there's little in the way of compelling narrative at hand. Dialogue is always intelligible and free from distortion.