RED CORNER (1997)

Director: Jon Avnet

Starring: Richard Gere, Ling Bai

Rated "R" Running time: 119 minutes

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Imagine being on trial in a foreign country where you don't speak or understand the language. Where it is the policy of the courts to presume you are guilty. The court proceedings serve only to determine your punishment. If you admit your guilt, you will be dealt a more lenient sentence. The sentence will be a harsh one, but less so than if you stubbornly cling to the idea that you are guilt free.

I haven't made up my mind if I'm a Richard Gere fan or not, but I did enjoy his performance in RED CORNER, as the American "fish out of water" trying to survive the Chinese judicial system.

Gere's character is Jack Moore, a wheeler-dealer lawyer from the U.S. who is putting together a big deal to open the mainland Chinese television market to his company. Of course there's competition. And apparently, the competition likes to play rough.

After a pleasant evening spent in the company of a lovely Chinese model, Jack Moore is dragged from his hotel room bed. He is covered with the blood of the, now dead, Chinese model.

What follows is a courtroom drama, Chinese style, as Moore tries to convince his appointed lawyer and the courts that he was framed.

I've heard comments of "Chinese bashing" regarding this movie in its efforts to depict the Chinese way of prosecuting and handling criminal cases. The inference being, that if Richard Gere is in it, then it must be biased against the Chinese (because of his vocal opposition to the treatment of Tibetan Buddhist monks by the official Chinese government).

If you can set aside your preconceived notions of what is and isn't biased regarding the depiction of the Chinese people, I think you will find this movie quite fascinating. Yes, there are differences between western and eastern judicial systems. The Chinese way is referred to by the director, in this case, as a "show trial." The Chinese court wants to make certain everything is done "properly" because they stand to lose a lot of "face" if things become anymore chaotic than they already are.

I strongly urge you to watch this film on DVD so that you can also listen to the director's commentary about how the film was made...and where. Many of the Chinese actors in the film were from Beijing, China. Their dialect is Beijing Mandarin, not Cantonese. And according to the director, Jon Avnet, members of the filming crew were able to visit courtrooms and were also able to get details and descriptions of the court and court proceedings from some of the few criminal lawyers currently practing in China. (Most of the lawyers were executed in the revolution...)

I think RED CORNER stands up well as a courtroom drama.


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