Red Corner - * *

Richard Gere’s views about China are well know. That is why when you see him starring in a film about China, such as Red Corner, you know it’s not likely to paint a flattering view. However, he could have made a stronger case with a stronger film.

Jack Moore (Richard Gere) is a businessman on the verge of negotiating a very important business deal in China. His company is about to become the primary supplier of American television programming for the Chinese. It looks like nothing can go wrong with the deal…

Until Jack wakes up one morning with a murdered woman in his hotel room. His clothes are soaked with her blood, and his prints are on the murder weapon. All evidence points to Jack’s guilt…except for one fact: he didn’t do it.

Now, Jack is forced to fight for his innocence in a legal system that presumes his guilt. His only hope is a court appointed lawyer, Shen Yuelin (Bai Ling), who has grown up in the system, but gradually begins to believe Jack.

Red Corner’s heavily critical view of the Chinese legal system is perhaps the most interesting thing in the film, far overshadowing the particulars of the legal case. But with the film’s obvious agenda, you’re left to wonder how accurate the portrayal is.

Gere’s character is extremely cocky and arrogant, to the point that you almost wish that the Chinese would just shoot him and get things over with. Hardly the sort of connection you want for an “everyman” character.

Although Bai Ling’s lawyer is more sympathetic, the film never creates a believable connection between her and Gere. Why does contact with his character all of a sudden make her doubt her lifetime of propaganda?

Then there’s the murder case. Perhaps the film would have been better if it opened with Gere waking up, accused of the killing. At least then there would have been a smidgen of mystery in the film. As it stands, there’s no doubt as to Gere’s innocence, and the real killer makes his presence known all too obviously.

There’s a little tension during an escape attempted in the film. However, there’s little doubt to how it will eventually end, removing a lot of the suspense that could have been there.

In fact, that’s the problem throughout the film: too little suspense. You would think a courtroom murder mystery thriller would have you on the edge of your seat. Not Red Corner. From its political views to the outcome of the trial, everything is obviously laid out in a neat little path. The film has a story to tell, but it could have told it better.

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