Flowers abounds with well-worn movie archetypes and slathers on schmaltz.
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This film has too many weak, unconnected strands (what's the subplot about the narrator's father doing here anyway?), too much overtly expositional dialogue, and too unfocused a narrative to really cohere. And then there's that whole matter of expendable whores.
Zhang's mixture of unsparing violence, mawkish sentimentality and garish flourishes creates one uncomfortable aesthetic.
The biggest problem, however, is the way Zhang romanticizes the unimaginably awful, turning gold-hearted prostitutes and virginal orphans into cinematic martyrs. Though his talents are vast, there may be too much truth in this particular story to suit his extravagant tastes.
Scene by scene, The Flowers of War is an erratic and ungainly piece of storytelling, full of melodramatic twists and grotesque visual excesses (a bullet pierces first a stained-glass window and then a girl's neck), which are nonetheless delivered with startling conviction.
Mr. Bale, turning in a respectable if oddly chipper performance under the circumstances, has the unfortunate task of playing a character who doesn't really add up.
Ultimately an inspiring, stirring and unforgettable human drama in the face of a horrifying war. It is highly recommended.
Zhang Yimou, one of China's best-known filmmakers, deserves a great big lump of coal in his holiday stocking thanks to his ludicrous soap opera The Flowers of War.
Affecting at times, but finally feels overblown and heavy-handed.