Red Corner is a 1997 American mystery thriller film directed by Jon Avnet, and starring Richard Gere, Bai Ling and Bradley Whitford. Written by Robert King, the film is about an American businessman on business in China who ends up wrongfully on trial for murder. His only hope of exoneration and freedom is a female defense lawyer from the country. The film received the 1997 National Board of Review Freedom of Expression Award (Richard Gere, Jon Avnet) and the NBR Award for Breakthrough Female Performance (Bai Ling). Ling also won the San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jon Avnet|
|Written by||Robert King|
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Cinematography||Karl Walter Lindenlaub|
|Edited by||Peter E. Berger|
|Box office||$22,415,440 (USA)|
Wealthy American businessman Jack Moore (Richard Gere) is on a business trip to China attempting to put together a satellite communications deal as part of a joint venture with the Chinese government. Before the deal can be finalized, Moore is framed for the murder of a powerful Chinese general's daughter, and the satellite contract is instead awarded to Moore's competitor, Gerhardt Hoffman (Ulrich Matschoss). Moore's court-appointed lawyer, Shen Yuelin (Bai Ling), initially does not believe his claims of innocence, but the pair gradually unearth evidence that not only vindicates Moore, but implicates powerful figures within the Chinese central government administration, exposing undeniable conspiracy and corruption. Shen manages to convince several high-ranking Chinese officials to release evidence that proves Moore's innocence. Moore is quickly released from prison while the conspirators responsible for framing him are arrested. At the airport, Moore asks Shen to leave China with him, but she decides to stay, as the case has opened her eyes to the injustices rife throughout China. She does admit, however, that meeting Moore has changed her life, and she now considers him a part of her family. They both share a heartfelt hug on the airport runway, before Moore departs for America.
- Richard Gere as Jack Moore
- Bai Ling as Shen Yuelin
- Bradley Whitford as Bob Ghery
- Byron Mann as Lin Dan
- Peter Donat as David McAndrews
- Robert Stanton as Ed Pratt
- Tsai Chin as Chairman Xu
- James Hong as Lin Shou
- Tzi Ma as Li Cheng
- Ulrich Matschoss as Gerhardt Hoffman
- Richard Venture as Ambassador Reed
- Jessey Meng as Hong Ling
- Roger Yuan as Huan Minglu
- Chi Yu Li as General Hong
- Henry O as Procurator General Yang
- Kent Faulcon as Marine Guard
- Jia Yao Li as Director Liu
- Yukun Lu as Director Liu's Associate
- Robert Lin as Director Liu's Interpreter
Red Corner was shot in Los Angeles using elaborate sets and CGI rendering of 3,500 still shots and two minutes of footage from China. In order to establish the film's verisimilitude, several Beijing actors were brought to the United States on visas for filming. The judicial and penitentiary scenes were recreated from descriptions given by attorneys and judges practicing in China and the video segment showing the execution of Chinese prisoners was an actual execution. The individuals providing the video and the descriptions to Avnet and his staff took a significant risk by providing it.
Upon its theatrical release in the United States, Red Corner received negative reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes the film received a 30% positive rating from top film critics based on 23 reviews, and a 49% positive audience rating based on 7,795 reviews.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times described Red Corner as "a contrived and cumbersome thriller designed to showcase Richard Gere's unhappiness with Red China, which it does with such thoroughness that story and characters are enveloped in the gloom. The Chinese do this better to themselves. Unlike such Chinese-made films as The Blue Kite, and To Live (1994 film) which criticize China with an insider's knowledge and detail, "Red Corner" plays like a xenophobic travelogue crossed with Perry Mason."
Cynthia Langston of Film Journal International responded to the film, "So unrealistic, so contrived and so blatantly 'Hollywood' that Gere can't possibly imagine he's opening any eyes to the problem, or any doors to its solution, for that matter."
In his review in the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan called Red Corner a "sluggish and uninteresting melodrama that is further hampered by the delusion that it is saying something significant. But its one-man-against-the-system story is hackneyed and the points it thinks it's making about the state of justice in China are hampered by an attitude that verges on the xenophobic."
Salon film critic Andrew O'Hehir noted that the movie's subtext "swallows its story, until all that is left is Gere's superior virtue, intermixed with his superior virility—both of which are greatly appreciated by the evidently underserviced Chinese female population." O'Hehir also noted that the film reinforces the infamous Western stereotypes of Asian female sexuality (as in those of The World of Suzie Wong) as well as the hoariest stereotyping.
Total Film gave a 3/5 star rating, stating that Red Corner was "A semi-powerful thriller let down by pedestrian direction and a lacklustre Richard Gere. Even so, newcomer Bai Ling and an unblinking stare at the Draconian Chinese legal system prevent Red Corner from being an open-and-shut case" and describes some scenes depicting the harsh treatment of the Chinese legal system as "thought provoking" yet describes the rest as only "mildly entertaining".
- MGM at a prelim, Variety, January 22, 1997
- "Red Corner". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
- "Awards for Red Corner". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 19, 2012.
- "Full cast and crew for Red Corner". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- Jon Avnet (Director) (1997). Red Corner (DVD). Los Angeles: MGM. External link in
- "Red Corner (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- Ebert, Roger (October 31, 1997). "Red Corner". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- Red Corner. Film Journal International.
- Turan, Kenneth (October 31, 1997). "'Corner': A Heavy-Handed Battle With Justice in China". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 20, 2012.
- O'Hehir, Andrew (October 31, 1997). "Richard Gere Seduces China". Salon. Retrieved March 20, 2012.