A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this English-dubbed action movie set in 1700s Kazakhstan is very bloody, with fights between armies as well as individuals wielding swords, spears, and arrows. Violence includes dismemberment, bloody wounds, and decapitation (heads are displayed as trophies). A vengeful mother insists that her son's murderer be killed; when he isn't, she attempts to poison him. All of the fighting results in bloody bodies and vows of vengeance.
What's the story?
Set in 18th-century Kazakhstan, this French-Kazakh co-production tells the story -- more or less -- of the Ablai Khan, a brilliant warrior who united the fractious Kazakh tribes against the brutal Jungar ruler Galdan (Doshkan Zholzhaxynov). As pronounced by Oraz (Jason Scott Lee), the prophecy holds that the Abali Khan will be born soon -- and lo, there he is, saved by Oraz from certain death as an infant, the raised as a mighty warrior named Mansur (Kuno Becker). The path of "the child of the prophecy" involves sacrifice: His mother dies when he's an infant, and his battles take tolls on his friends -- warrior Erali (Jay Hernandez) and spunky girl Gaukhar (Ayana Yesmagambetova). The boys both fall in love with the girl, though Mansur appears to have the upper hand. It's not long before Mansur must prove himself. He clashes with vengeance-minded Sharish (Mark Dacascos), performs amazing horse-riding tricks, saves his girl from captivity, and eventually leads his adoring men into a ferocious battle.
Is it any good?
If the movie's general description sounds conventional, its execution is troubling in a number of ways. First, for its U.S. release, the film has been dubbed into English, which is distracting because the lip movements and language don't match in the slightest. Worse -- and much stranger -- the principal men are Western actors (Los Angelean Hernandez, Mexico City-born Becker, and L.A.-born Lee, who's of Hawaiian and Chinese descent), while all villains, women, and extras are distinctly Asian. The Westerners are pretty enough, but they stand out by not looking like anyone else they're destined to save.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how foreign movies are perceived by U.S. audiences. What assumptions do people make about films from other countries? Do those assumptions depend on the type of movie it is? Is a foreign action movie more attractive to general audiences than a foreign drama? Why or why not? Families can also discuss the movie's take on destiny. Why do characters who believe in predestination still try to subvert it? Does accepting destiny lead to peace or sorrow in the movie? Why?
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