FANTASTIC FEST: Chinese heartthrob finds love and loss in action war film


The director answered questions after his film’s screening.

Life & Arts Editor

To introduce the war film “Cold Steel,” an Alamo Drafthouse employee said, “If you like Japanese people and Japanese people being shot in the head by Chinese people, you’ll like this movie.”

“Cold Steel,” or “Bian di lang yan,” is a Chinese film written, directed and edited by David Wu, long-time John Woo (“Face/Off,” “Mission: Impossible 2”) collaborator.  It follows a romantic yet immature sharpshooter, Mu Liangfeng, as he is recruited to a special sniper team by the Chinese army. Mu, played by Peter Ho, must find a balance between his responsibility to his country and his budding romance with a teashop owner named Liu Yan, played by Song Jia.

“Cold Steel” was filmed entirely in Mandarin with English subtitles. The film was aesthetically beautiful. The actors were handsome, the light was flattering and the scenery was picturesque.

The war action was intense and did not hesitate to portray the true gore of war. If you were not watching, you could hear the squirts and sprays of blood. The fight scenes all involved gunplay, which has its own sort of morbid entertainment.

“Cold Steel” had all the workings of a great story, leaving the viewer desperately hoping for happiness among tragedy for Mu and Liu. The actors had fantastic chemistry. He showed it in his facial expressions that spoke volumes and she in her development from timid crush to passionate lover.

Viewers who are not well-versed in Chinese history and culture may find themselves confused about the who’s and why’s of this Chinese war. Distinguishing the numerous soldiers from each other while keeping up with the constant subtitles is difficult and can distract from the technical masterpiece that is “Cold Steel.”

In a Q and A session after the screening, Wu expressed his excitement about showing his film in America after it premiered in China last December.

“I’m so happy that it’s here in Austin…I always love to be in the theater with the audience…my most favorite people,” said Wu. 

Although he has been in the movie-making business for decades, Wu admitted that he is “still learning every day.”