Rated R - Running time: 2:04 - Released 10/31/97

A little tip: don't get too friendly with any Chinese babes you meet in Beijing. I tellya, they're nothing but trouble. The differences between our culture and that of mainland China are underscored in this excellent film written by Robert King and Ron Koslow and directed by Jon Avnet. The film starts with a high-tech fashion show featuring runway models showing off the latest in occidental clothing. American businessman Jack Moore (Richard Gere) is watching the show, celebrating after having closed a satellite deal with the Chinese Ministry of Radio, Film, and Television. But when he gets involved with one of the models, he never expects to be awakened by police officers arresting him for the girl's murder. Gere is intense in his portrayal of a man who falls through the cracks of international diplomacy.

I feel, however, that his character is somewhat muddled by the script. At the beginning of the film, he appears as a suave, almost sleazy businessman, pulling the wool over the eyes of the naive Chinese. Exactly the kind of American stereotype that is despised by that conservative government. But as the film progresses, he becomes a little lamb, unjustly persecuted by the evil Chinese and neglected by the sidestepping American embassy. Moreover, Yuelin (Bai Ling), Moore's court-appointed attorney, suffers a similar fate. She comes on as a tough-as-nails defender, assigned to defend a morally bankrupt American, someone about whom she should not care a whit. Certain that he is guilty, she insists that he plead that way, explaining that those who do so are afforded more leniency by the court. But eventually she comes around to the point of putting her career on the line and going up against the well-established male-dominated system, all for his sake. This is explained with a teary story she tells about watching her father being persecuted and doing nothing--vowing never again to remain silent in the face of injustice. But still, it seems unlikely that a young, female attorney in such a conservative country, defending a decadent American, would pick this case to stand up against the "good old boy" network of the Chinese legal system.

The acting on the part of Gere and Bai Ling is excellent and the growing relationship between them touching, but the script seems uncertain at times about how they should be portrayed. Lots of exciting action, though, including an unlikely but well-shot chase scene. ****

Copyright 1997 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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