God of War (2017; Gordon Chan)
By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, June 2, at the AMC Van Ness 14 in San Francisco.
Hong Kong-born yeoman Chan delivers this war epic about Japanese pirates battling with Chinese armies in the 16th century.
An unholy alliance forms between scurrilous pirates and honor-bound samurai looking to assert Japan’s dominance, with the much larger Ming Army getting beaten back time and again by the entrenched invaders. Enter General Qi (Wenzhuo Zhao), an innovative warrior who remakes the militia by forging a deal with a scrappy band of small-town street fighters.
The battle scenes in God of War seem more influenced by the nonstop, scale-bursting thrust of Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings films than by the spatial elegance of something like The Seven Samurai. It’s not necessarily a beautiful film – there’s no “One. Perfect. Shot.” to single out, and a lot of the shots that come close are compromised by lame CGI explosions. However, the sustained intensity of the action is thoroughly thrilling, even if the narrative often feels cut up and compacted.