Director: Yimou Zhang
Premise: European mercenaries help defend The Great Wall of China from monsters known as the Taotie.
Cast: Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Jing Tian, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau
Oh what might have been. The film’s cool premise, mercenaries team up with an army to prevent monsters from getting past the wall, could have been one of the best action films of the year. It certainly had a lot going for it with a strong cast and a brilliant director in Yimou Zhang (Hero and House of Flying Daggers).
The plot is pretty simplistic and follows a rinse and repeat formula. Little bits of exposition are chucked in between fights scenes in ways that can only be described as clunky. This unfortunately leads to you wishing the next fight scene will happen. Thankfully the film’s fast pacing means that you aren’t waiting too long
The cast are fine. Damon et al provide good work with what little they have been given for their characters. Damon’s William is barely given much backstory other than solider for hire. His friendship with Pedro Pascal’s Tovar provides a few chuckles and gives a good sense of their relationship but nothing more. Jing Tian’s Lin is arguably the most developed with a backstory that worked into the story organically.
Verdict: A disappointing monster film that could have been so much more.