Hollywood blockbuster Miami Vice finally made it into the Chinese mainland cinemas yesterday, three months after the film premiered in the United States.
Gong Li's appearance at the Beijing premiere on Monday created a media circus and won over her many adoring fans. She jokingly called her partner Colin Farrell "the best actor in the world." Farrell said he was in awe of China's most successful international actress.
Michael Mann's remake of his own 1980s TV series hit about two undercover cops would have been another mediocre gang movie without Gong's performance, according to many critics.
The story is nothing new. Two policemen infiltrate a drug gang, and one of them usually the more handsome one falls for the "kingpin's woman." The cop must choose between his mission and his new love.
Playing an Asian Cuban mistress of the drug baron, Gong has to play it sexy, cool and dead smart. She does it all, mostly without saying a word. A simple facial expression or a piercing gaze is enough.
Although the controversial sex scenes are shortened for the Chinese cinema, the editing does not distract from her on-screen sexual magnetism.
Sparks fly between Gong and Farrell creating a believable chemistry, which is one of the highlights of the film.
Gong's English has a strong accent, just as she did in Memoirs of A Geisha and flows well.
Mann first noticed Gong in Raise the Red Lantern, 10 years ago and has wanted to work with the stunning artist, who has won more international film awards than any other Chinese actresses.
Mann said: "The part of Isabella required complexity and beauty, both of which she has."
The two male characters, by contract, do not present many pleasant surprises. Mann is known for his magic in re-shaping stereotyped actors, such as Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans, and Tom Cruise in Collateral. Cruise was more than just a pretty face. However in remaking his own popular TV series, he fails to give us a new-look Farrell and Jamie Foxx.
They both give passable performances, but add nothing special. Although Mann uses a digital video to shoot the film to reflect people's confusion and loneliness in a metropolis, the general feeling of the film is style-over-substance.
The flick has made tongues wag in the film industry, and Gong Li's performance is the main talking point. Although she is the most successful Chinese actress in Hollywood, her next movie is a Chinese epic with her old pal Zhang Yimou, who produced internationally acclaimed hits, such as Red Sorghum and Raise the Red Lantern.
Curse on the Golden Flower, their latest imperial conspiracy story and a possible candidate for the Academy Awards, will open nationwide on December 14.
During a promotion tour in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Zhang said he was very satisfied with the co-operation with Gong after they stopped working together for 14 years.
"She is very smart. She raised many meaningful suggestions and she has reached the best time in her life," Zhang said.
Gong, 40, also wishes to work with Zhang again. She credits her increasing importance in international films to the opening of Chinese film industry.
"Chinese filmmakers are more capable than ever and this has gained international recognition. Still, my root is in China," said Gong in an interview with domestic media.
(China Daily November 3, 2006)