Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The Sponsor Page
- The FAQ Page
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit
Asian Blu-ray discs at
The Message
Li Bing-Bing and Zhou Xun in The Message (2009)

Lee Bing-Bing embraces Zhou Xun in The Message.


Year: 2009  
Director: Chen Kuo-Fu, Gao Qunshu  
  Producer: Chen Kuo-Fu, Wang Zhongjun, Wang Zhonglei
  Writer: Chen Kuo-Fu, Jia Mai (original novel)
  Cast: Zhou Xun, Li Bingbing, Zhang Hanyu, Huang Xiaoming, Wang Zhiwen, Alec Su, Ying Da, Ni Dahong, Zhang Yibai, Duan Yihong, Liu Weiwei, Wu Gang
  The Skinny:

While slightly overdone, The Message is a tense and well-made thriller with dynamite performances from its cast. A solidly entertaining mainland commercial film.

by Kozo:

All-star Chinese thriller The Message is a tad overblown, but it ultimately provides solid entertainment value to match likely audience expectations. Exec-produced by Feng Xiaogang and directed by Chen Kuo-Fu (Double Vision, The Personals) and Gao Qunshu (Tokyo Trial), The Message tells the story of a spy hunt set during the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Japanese Imperialists controlled a good portion of China. A mysterious individual called Magnum is masterminding the deaths of numerous Japanese officers and Chinese co-conspirators. Looking to quell the wave of terrorism, the Japanese army set a trap to flush Magnum and the Resistance out into the open.

The authorities plant false information about the future location of Japan-backed Commander Zhang, and after the some observation determine that the leak must be located in the Counter-insurgency Center, staffed by a five-member team under the command of Captain Wu Zhiguo (Zhang Hanyu). Without delay, his team is forcibly invited to be guests at a remote castle that's opulently decorated and also possessing of a fine set of torture devices. The Japanese authorities, led by Colonel Osamu Takeda (Huang Xiaoming) and Chief Wang (Wang Zhiwen), plan to keep Wu's team in custody until one of them confesses to being “Phantom”, the spy who passes info to Magnum and the Resistance.

That's when the games begin. While their captors scheme in the background, the Counter-insurgency Team proceeds to point fingers at one another. Captain Wu initially seems above the fray, but becomes incensed when sassy little princess Gu Xiaomeng (Zhou Xun) fingers him as a possible Phantom. Meanwhile, the overweight Jin (Ying Da) finds himself pitted against prissy Lt. Bai (Alec Su), who's under suspicion despite being the "special friend" of Commander Zhang. Given these characters' willingness to see one another executed, one wonders how they ever get along in the workplace. The most reasonable member of the group is also the most vulnerable; lead codebreaker Li Ningyu (Li Bing-Bing) seems beyond reproach, but her situation worsens when her boyfriend is brought in as one of Magnum's co-conspirators.

There's a ticking clock, too. Phantom is stuck in the castle with no way of communicating with the outside, and if word doesn't get out within five days that the upcoming hit on Commander Zhang is a trap, then it could mean the end of the Resistance. Since Phantom's identity is kept a mystery from the audience, his or her thoughts are communicated via frequent intertitles, which emerge snazzily onto the screen like they're being sent through the Matrix. Message may take place over sixty years ago, but the technique employed is modern in its undue flashiness. Dizzying establishing shots, bombastic music, MTV-style cuts, copious steadicam – technically, this is a very confident production, and audiences seeking commercial thrills should be pleased with the strong, forceful technique on display.

Directors Chen Kuo-Fu and Gao Qunshu were wise to mount Message in such a commercial manner because the film is essentially just an amped-up chamber drama. The thrills are largely confined to several rooms in one location, and action is sparse aside from a few tense but not graphic torture sequences, plus one meeting room dustup where someone gets a pen stuck where it shouldn't be. The acting is strong and suitably overdone. Zhou Xun is all sultry sass as well-to-do party girl Gu Xiaomeng, and has a fine foil in the commanding and charismatic Zhang Hanyu. As the most sympathetic character, Li Bing-Bing shows a convincing and felt vulnerability, and Wang Zhiwen brings more to his character than the script really allows. Steely-eyed Huang Xiaoming has screen presence to spare as the nominal bad guy. Really, the filmmakers' finest achievement here may be their choice of lead actors.

The Message is not without convention, as its plot twists and reveals are sometimes easy to predict. However, the film is never clumsy or insulting, and even when a character's true intentions are easily read the story retains its suspenseful, entertaining edge. The film ultimately portrays Phantom and the Resistance's roles as heroic ones, but any flag-waving in the film never seems more important than narrative need and good, old-fashioned storytelling. Basically, this film may possess the expected patriotic leanings, but not at the audience's expense. The Message may only disappoint those who look at the combination of talent, budget and subject matter and expect something super-exceptional. This film isn't that, but for your average moviegoing audience – that is, the people who look for well-made, solid entertainment – this Message gets through. (Kozo 2009)


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Joy Sales, Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Original Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Various Extras
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

Find this at

image credit: Emperor Entertainment Group Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen