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The Children of Huang Shi

Melodrama about rescuing Chinese orphans caught in war

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In 1937 China, a young English journalist named George Hogg (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) gets caught up in the ongoing civil war/Japanese occupation. Thanks to the timely intervention of a Chinese rebel fighter (Chow Yun-Fat) and an Australian nurse (Radha Mitchell), Hogg is shuttled to a rural orphanage, where he becomes the abandoned kids' protector. As the war closes in, drastic measures are called for. Roger Spottiswoode's film is handsomely photographed (discounting some obvious digital backgrounds), and the leads are certainly an attractive, engaging trio. (Michelle Yeoh has a small role as a benevolent opium dealer.) Unfortunately, their travails have all the emotional and intellectual heft of a well-produced TV movie. Much of the plot is telegraphed well in advance, so there are few surprises: War is bad for children and other living things, humanity will prevail, and tetanus shots are recommended. This uplifting tale is reportedly based on a true story, but it can't quite shake its rather hoary narrative conceit of the Noble White Westerner who saves exotic children. In English, and some Japanese and Mandarin, with subtitles. (AH) [capsule review]

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