Red Corner

on October 31, 1997 by Melissa Morrison
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   Richard Gere is the name-brand star of "Red Corner," but co-star
   Bai Ling has the best part. Her character, a Chinese lawyer who defends Gere's American lawyer against charges of rape and murder in the People's Republic, gets to transform, unlike Gere's. She starts out a moralizing apparatchik and becomes a seeker of truth. She also gets to be a counterpart to Gere, not an appendage--her character, Shen Yeulin, has equal screen time, doesn't cower against a wall when a weapon is brandished, and acts independently. Although she's very beautiful, she doesn't even have to confess passion for her client in the modern tradition of filmdom's lawyer-client couplings.
   Gere's Jack Moore, on the other hand, is ever stalwart as the American whose business negotiations to sell "Baywatch"-type satellite TV programs to the Chinese go sour when he's found with a murdered woman in his hotel room. He's Mr. Perfect, reading the entire Chinese criminal code in one moonlit night in his cell, remaining hale and clear-thinking even after no sleep, no food and not a few beatings. In short, he's boring.
   With the exception of Bai's strong role, "Red Corner" is a standard Asian-set thriller. There's the inevitable Confucius-like quote that starts and ends the movie. There's the expected naked, beautiful and, ultimately, dead woman (Jessey Meng). There's the depiction of a uniformly evil foreign system. Not that the American government comes off looking much better, letting Jack languish in prison so pending trade deals aren't endangered. The lone man vs. the world idea is stretched to the point of ridiculousness in an extended scene in which Jack--handcuffed and bleeding from a bullet wound--outruns the entire Beijing police department across the city's rooftops. And all this so the Chinese can see "Baywatch."    Starring Richard Gere and Bai Ling. Directed by Jon Avnet. Written by Robert King. Produced by Wolfgang Petersen and Gail Katz. An MGM release. Thriller. Rated R for some violence and a scene of sexuality. Running time: 118 minutes.
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