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Red Corner

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Red Corner

Starring: Richard Gere, Bai Ling
Director: Jon Avnet
Rated: R
RunTime: 122 Minutes
Release Date: October 1997
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Bradley Whitford, Byron Mann, Peter Donat, Robert Stanton, Tsai Chin, Tzi Ma, James Hong

Review by Walter Frith
3 stars out of 4

Although it is a formula picture, 'Red Corner' crackles with energy and is at times a taut and suspenseful thriller which has good supporting characters and a leading man (Richard Gere) who has never really impressed me much as an actor but he does a good job here. It was amusing watching Gere get upstaged last year in 'Primal Fear' when a young, bright, twenty-something actor (Edward Norton) stole every scene they were in together. While Gere shines as the protagonist of 'Red Corner', it is a very realistic situation that he encounters.

How many times have we picked up the newspaper and read about our fellow citizens being held captive in a foreign country, subject to the laws of that land they have allegedly broken. It happens often and it happens here. Gere plays a lawyer again (as he did in 'Primal Fear') only this time the stakes are higher. In 'Primal Fear' he played a criminal defense attorney and here he plays a media attorney working to secure a large corporate contract for entertainment programming in The People's Republic of China. He is a smooth talker and one night he takes a woman to a hotel room and the next morning he is arrested as she turns up dead in the room and Gere insists that he is innocent but he can't remember what happened the night before.

That is the basis for the prosecution's case. How can this man say he is innocent if he can't remember what happened? Gere's defense attorney (Bai Ling) at first remains loyal to her country's system of justice and pretty much tells Gere that in her country people are not presumed innocent like they are in America and if he pleads innocent he will be shot within a week and the cost of the bullet will be mailed to his family. She also tells Gere that China has six times the population of the United States but only one tenth the crime rate. The human rights issue is never a factor with her at first. Slowly she starts to adopt western ideology and things start looking up for Gere. Or do they?

Director Jon Avnet ('Fried Green Tomatoes', 'The War', 'Up Close and Personal') works well with the subject matter here and the movie's strongest quality is detail. It digs to the heart of a system in need of reform and shows everyday life in a culture very different from the west in every way. The movie is easy on politics and long on emotion. Writer Robert King's screenplay is skillfully laid out with a convincing set-up, mid-section but has a conclusion seen before in many whodunits but finds a way to be entertaining using a different atmosphere.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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