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"RED CORNER"
(1997) (Richard Gere, Bai Ling) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Mild Moderate Moderate Moderate Heavy
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Minor None Moderate None Mild
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Minor Minor Mild Heavy


QUICK TAKE:
Drama: An American finds himself struggling to understand, and be understood by, a Chinese court system where he's on trial for murdering a woman.
PLOT:
Jack Moore (RICHARD GERE) is a successful attorney for a large entertainment conglomerate that's trying to sell satellite entertainment programming to China. Seemingly on the verge of success, Jack parties in Beijing that night with his friend Lin Dan (BYRON MANN), the son of the man with whom he's doing business. There he meets a runway model, Hong Ling (JESSEY MENG), and has a passionate affair with her. The next morning, however, he's awakened by the Chinese police who arrest him for raping and murdering her, which is compounded by the fact that her father is a powerful general. Thinking he has the right to an attorney, Jack soon finds that the rules are different outside America.

His court-appointed defense advocate, Shen Yuelin (BAI LING), wants him to plead guilty since the courts often grant leniency for those who confess, and severity for those who resist. Jack, however, knows he didn't commit the crime, and must do what he can to get Yuelin to help him, and persuade the presiding "judge," Chairman Xu (TSAI CHIN), to hear his non-traditional pleas. Faced with the fact that he was covered with the dead woman's blood and his fingerprints were on the murder weapon, Jack knows that if he's found guilty they will carry out his death penalty within a week and will charge the cost of the bullet to his family. Thus, Jack must race against time to prove his innocence while enduring prison and court systems that are truly foreign to him.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
Preteens probably won't, nor will many teens unless they're fans of Gere or have some interest in Chinese matters.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For some violence and a scene of sexuality.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • RICHARD GERE plays a smug entertainment lawyer who has a one-night stand with a woman. He then uses his intelligence and education to help get himself freed from rape and murder charges of a crime he didn't commit.
  • BAI LING plays a defense attorney who puts her career -- and essentially her life -- at risk to defend Jack simply because she knows it's the right thing to do. Also, she no longer wants to idly sit by in silence, accepting what she knows is an incorrect and outdated legal and societal system.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    Essentially a standard issue murder mystery set in anything but a standard courtroom, "Red Corner" is a somewhat entertaining variation on this genre. Most audiences are used to the "rules" of courtroom procedure and the standard plots set in such locales. By upsetting these rules and turning them on their head, however, director Jon Avnet ("Risky Business," "Fried Green Tomatoes," and "Up Close and Personal") and screenwriter Robert King have fashioned a legal thriller that will keep you in the dark about the guilty suspect(s) right until the end. While there's never really much doubt about what will happen to Richard Gere's character by the film's conclusion, or the motivation behind the murder, there is the mystery of who did it.

    Still, the film could have used more red herrings (such as making Gere a true suspect in our eyes) to flesh out the mystery element a bit more. After a few items are discovered relating to the case, part of our interest diminishes since they (the film makers) let Gere off the hook too quickly. Then again, the murder mystery plot is simply a backdrop for examining what the film has on trial -- and that's the Chinese societal and legal system. Since we know that Gere's innocent, the thrill of the film is to see whether the truth will get through the archaic -- and as we see it -- unfair legal process. That part of the film is highly effective and there's no question as to Gere's involvement in this film regarding that and other issues. A long time supporter of the exiled Dali Lama, Gere is an active critic in trying to expose China's faults, and hopes to instigate changes there. While this film is an okay dramatic piece, I don't think it will sweep in any radical changes in China, especially since it will probably never make it to their theaters.

    Speaking of China, it's quite a surprise to find that the film was actually shot in Southern California and not on the streets of Beijing. While they filmed a few guerilla style shots in Tiananmen Square, most of the film was shot inside an elaborate mockup of a Beijing neighborhood. Two-time Academy Award winning production designer Richard Sylbert (who won for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," and "Dick Tracy") has created such a realistic set that it will not be surprise to see him nominated again for his work in this film. Mixed with the camera work of director of photography Karl Walter Lindenlaub, the sets of "Red Corner" are unbelievably good and this cinematic "trickery" is amazing to behold.

    The performances are okay, with Bai Ling (in her first starring role in an American film) being the best as she brings an intensity and honesty to her role that seem true. Then there's Richard Gere. While many have criticized his acting style as wooden and expressionless, I've always liked him as an actor. Perhaps it's his cocky on screen charisma, but I've never minded what others often call his limited acting skills. He's pretty much the same in this film as in others, though, except that he gets roughed up a bit and is forced to wear the same outfit throughout most of it (being in prison and all).

    He and Bai Ling unfortunately have to deliver some stilted dialogue that doesn't always ring true and often seems misplaced or forced in several of their scenes. Some lines about Jack's family being killed in a car wreck seem thrown in just for the sympathy vote -- and it works -- but they seem out of place. Additionally, at times the film does feel a bit preachy regarding China and their ways. While it's certainly the film makers' right to produce whatever type of film they want and use it a pulpit for whatever they want to say, here that message also feels a bit stilted. How you'll view the movie probably depends for the most part on how you feel about Gere and/or his politics. If you don't like him, you'll probably feel the same about this movie as much of its success rides on his performance. On the other hand, if you do like him -- as we do -- then you will probably find that the movie comes off as passable, but not great entertainment. We found it that way and thus give "Red Corner" a 5 out of 10.

    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick summary of some of the content found in this movie. A murder takes place (seen only in brief, incomplete flashbacks) and while there's some blood, it's not as graphically gory as it could have been. Beyond that, there are several scenes where characters are attacked and/or chased that some viewers may also find tense. There is a sexual encounter that isn't very explicit although we do later see the woman's bare breasts, and we also see some instances of Gere's bare butt in nonsexual situations. Profanity is rather light -- considering the situation -- and has less than five "s" words at its worst. Finally, the film is quite one-sided regarding its attack of the Chinese criminal/legal system, and that and the fact that Americans think their rights extend throughout the world are good topics of discussion with children. While it's questionable how many children will want to see this film, you should look through the content in case you or someone else in your family wishes to see it.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Jack and Lin Dan drink champagne at a fashion show and others drink as well.
  • Jack and Hong Ling drink more champagne, and later during the trial it's reported that they had two bottles of champagne and two bottles of Scotch (Jack says there was just one bottle of the latter). The police also report that he was drunk while he claims he wasn't.
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Jack's shirt has some blood stains on it after the murder. Later, when he's hosed down in prison, we see the reddish water going down the drain.
  • We see several quick glimpses of Hong Ling who has been murdered and the side of her neck and head are bloody. Later, we see more shots of this as well as photos during the trial.
  • Jack's just a little bloody after some guys beat him up.
  • Jack's arm is bloody after a being grazed by a bullet.
  • We see several dead animals at an outdoor butcher shop and see a man cut off a duck's head with a cleaver.
  • A man is a little bloody after being shot.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • Some viewers may not like the film's critical (and one-sided) portrayal of the Chinese judicial system.
  • Obviously those responsible for the woman's murder have both.
  • American audiences will see Jack's treatment in prison as having both, but some of what occurs to him may be standard operating procedure in China.
  • Nonetheless, they do treat him bad in several scenes. In one, they rinse out his food bowl in his in-ground toilet, and then put his new food in it.
  • The guards turn out Jack's cell lights to keep him from reading their criminal law book.
  • We also find out that someone planted another bottle of Scotch in Jack's hotel room, and that they have deleted some incriminating phone records.
  • Some old-line generals try to force Shen Yuelin to drop her case.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • The police awaken Jack and arrest him for a murder of which he wasn't aware.
  • Since much of the story focuses on Jack in prison, many scenes have a tense aura about them as we're never sure of what's going to happen next.
  • Three men attack Jack in a stairwell. They repeatedly punch and kick him and throw him down a flight of stairs. They then try to throw him over the railing and he barely holds on.
  • Jack and Shen Yuelin find themselves in a locked car. A man then approaches and shoots at them through the window, grazing Jack's arm. Jack then grabs the man's arm and they struggle over the gun that's fired several more times. Finally, Shen Yuelin bites the man's arm and he flees. Jack then gets out of the car and makes an extended run for the American embassy. The police chase him through the roads and across rooftops and fire their guns at him.
  • A man puts a bag over Shen Yuelin's head and kicks her several times and kicks another man as he steals a videotape from them.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Knife: Used to kill Hong Ling (we see just the stabbing motion and no impact on the body).
  • Handguns/Rifles/Machine Guns: Used to shoot at and wound or kill several people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Stun gun: Used to zap Jack while in prison.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrase: "Go to hell."
  • JUMP SCENES
  • None.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • There's a moderate amount of suspenseful music during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • None.
  • PROFANITY
  • 3 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals (the "d" word), 3 hells, 1 ass and 1 use of "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • A TV show that Jack's trying to sell to the Chinese is a "Baywatch" type show, and we see lots of buxom women in skimpy bathing suits during its promo.
  • Hong Ling shows some classic nude sketches/drawings of women to Jack.
  • While sketching him, Hong Ling runs her foot up to Jack's crotch. Later, as they passionately kiss in an elevator, she takes his hand and places it on her breast. In a hotel room, they undress and then we see them rolling around on a bed. It's implied they have sex but we don't see any explicit activity or nudity.
  • Later, however, we see her standing nude in their dark room and her breasts are clearly seen while we partially see her bare butt in the shadows.
  • We see part of Jack's bare butt as he's hosed down in prison, and again later when he's put into solitary confinement.
  • SMOKING
  • Several minor characters smoke here and there during the movie.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • Jack mentions that he had a wife and seven-year-old daughter who were killed in a car accident and he's felt guilty since then because he should have been with them.
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The accuracy of the film in portraying the Chinese judicial system.
  • That different countries have different rules about judicial and/or police matters.
  • Shen Yuelin makes the point that while China has six times the population of the United States, they only have one tenth the crime rate. She then asks Jack which country's police and judicial system is better.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Though not initially seen, Hong Ling is murdered. Later, however, we see some flashbacks showing her assailant smashing her through a glass wall and later repeatedly stabbing her (we see only the stabbing motion).
  • We see archival TV footage that shows several guards executing bound prisoners with handguns.
  • An officer punches Jack while questioning him.
  • A guard zaps Jack with a stun gun.
  • Three men attack Jack in a stairwell. They repeatedly punch and kick him and throw him down a flight of stairs. They then try to throw him over the railing and he barely holds on.
  • Jack and Shen Yuelin find themselves in a locked car. A man then approaches and shoots at them through the window, grazing Jack's arm. Jack then grabs the man's arm and they struggle over the gun that's fired several more times. Finally, Shen Yuelin bites the man's arm and he flees. Jack then gets out of the car and makes an extended run for the American embassy. The police chase him through the roads and across rooftops and fire their guns at him, and several bystanders are knocked over in the process.
  • A man puts a bag over Shen Yuelin's head and kicks her several times and kicks another man as he steals a videotape from them.
  • A man walks up and shoots another man as he's leaving the courtroom.



  • Reviewed October 23, 1997

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