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Red Corner Review

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An American abroad is wrongly accused of the murder of a young woman and finds himself victim to the machinations of the Chinese justice system.

★★★★★

Of Richard Gere's two expressions here - the smirk and the pout - the latter predominates in a ludicrous but humourless anti-Chinese diatribe thriller, in which he's the victim of a filthy foreign conspiracy and an inscrutable foreign justice system.

Gere plays Jack Moore, a satellite TV corporation's attorney negotiating a deal in Beijing. After a night on the town and a boozy tumble with a remarkably accommodating model, Jack awakens covered in blood to find himself being arrested for the young woman's murder. Thus begins his nightmare ordeal: they beat him, they serve him gruel, they break his glasses, they bark at him in Chinese. Jack is set for a speedy trial and its foregone conclusion: execution.

Fortunately, the state-appointed token defence attorney is a brainy babe (Ling) whose initial stroppiness can't withstand our man's irresistible charm, and she begins to suss he's been - gosh! - framed. You don't need a fortune cookie to work out by whom; the villain of this piece all but has "It's me" seared on his forehead, although the "climactic" courtroom revelations apparently are supposed to come as something of a surprise.

Much more surprising is how much Chinese law Jack crams in a day, how much sleuthing he conducts from his squalid cell, and how few bruises he displays after repeated blows to the head from a peculiarly unsuccessful string of martial arts assassination bids.

Producer/director Avnet's efforts to pull off a Hitchcockian suspenser with a political message is a world away from his best work, despite the attractive job he's made of the budget, the sets, some furtive location filming in Beijing and his able, pretty find in Ling. It's all doomed by the far-fetchedness of the cocky hero's dilemma and its absurd action man development. Admittedly, there may not be much lucre to be made by a more authentic filmic exploration of Chinese human rights violations, but such self-important tosh as this merely distracts people from any of the real issues. Particularly when you want the insolent American to be propped in front of a firing squad.

Formulaic, xenophobic courtroom drama of the most predictable kind.