Although it is a formula picture, 'Red Corner' crackles with energy and
is at times a taut and suspenseful thriller which has good supporting
characters and a leading man (Richard Gere) who has never really impressed me
much as an actor but he does a good job here. It was amusing watching Gere
get upstaged last year in 'Primal Fear' when a young, bright,
twenty-something actor (Edward Norton) stole every scene they were in
together. While Gere shines as the protagonist of 'Red Corner', it is a very
realistic situation that he encounters.
How many times have we picked up the newspaper and read about our fellow
citizens being held captive in a foreign country, subject to the laws of that
land they have allegedly broken. It happens often and it happens here. Gere
plays a lawyer again (as he did in 'Primal Fear') only this time the stakes
are higher. In 'Primal Fear' he played a criminal defense attorney and here
he plays a media attorney working to secure a large corporate contract for
entertainment programming in The People's Republic of China. He is a smooth
talker and one night he takes a woman to a hotel room and the next morning he
is arrested as she turns up dead in the room and Gere insists that he is
innocent but he can't remember what happened the night before.
That is the basis for the prosecution's case. How can this man say he
is innocent if he can't remember what happened? Gere's defense attorney (Bai
Ling) at first remains loyal to her country's system of justice and pretty
much tells Gere that in her country people are not presumed innocent like
they are in America and if he pleads innocent he will be shot within a week
and the cost of the bullet will be mailed to his family. She also tells Gere
that China has six times the population of the United States but only one
tenth the crime rate. The human rights issue is never a factor with her at
first. Slowly she starts to adopt western ideology and things start looking
up for Gere. Or do they?
Director Jon Avnet ('Fried Green Tomatoes', 'The War', 'Up Close and
Personal') works well with the subject matter here and the movie's strongest
quality is detail. It digs to the heart of a system in need of reform and
shows everyday life in a culture very different from the west in every way.
The movie is easy on politics and long on emotion. Writer Robert King's
screenplay is skillfully laid out with a convincing set-up, mid-section but
has a conclusion seen before in many whodunits but finds a way to be
entertaining using a different atmosphere.
Copyright © 1997 Walter Frith