Next up on my little double features are two films that are incredibly similar to each other. From what I’ve read in some research, Dangerous Liaisons is the Chinese remake from a Hollywood movie with the same name adapted from a French novel. I think I’ve heard of it but I’ve never seen (or read) it so I don’t know. If you know more about it, do enlighten me :) Cruel Intentions was another one of those remakes but with a different name. Point is, these two movies may be 13 years apart and in different languages and historical period but they are quite similar plot. I’m starting to shape these double features with a little more thought so here we go!
Let’s check it out! :)
Cruel Intentions (1999)
Director: Roger Kumble
Cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, Selma Blair, Joshua Jackson, Eric Mabius, Sean Patrick Thomas
Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Gellar) makes a bet that her step-brother, Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe), won’t be able to bed Annette (Reese Witherspoon) -a virgin, who wants to wait until love. If he loses, Kathryn gets his Jaguar, if he wins, he gets Kathryn. – IMDB
Cruel Intentions is an okay drama. The cast is good for this sort of movie because it needs some sort of attractive beings to really carry this sort of plot. The idea of it is set in an upscale snobby setting and it explores the themes of sexuality and innocence and of course, abstinence in that whole world of love and feelings as well. The only issue with this one is that the dialogue is kind of funny even when its trying to be all teasing and whatnot and that matches up with some below average acting going on here. It seems like everyone is aware that its a game and everyone is adding that extra bit to make sure its like the audience knows that they are all acting and its not the character’s real feelings. Everyone has something to hide and I guess that’s true.
I’m not saying I hated the movie because it was okay. I was pretty indifferent to it. I’m not a huge fan of Reese Witherspoon especially the earlier films that she did. This is a young cast so they aren’t exactly at the prime of their acting but the story is set around these young rich high school kids. Still, the connection and chemistry is there and that’s where I feel that this movie did good on. There were some passionate scenes which the dialogue kind of made me laugh a little which destroyed the mood a little.
The storyline has a huge potential. A little side fact (if you don’t know) is that the novel was originally published in 1782 so that gives this one a thousand chances for adaptations and remakes and so, little bits and pieces might even make it a little predictable. Cruel Intentions felt like that though. Maybe its taking the angle of high school students that make it hard but if I remember correctly, this might be the time when Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar (maybe even Reese Witherspoon) was really popular. At least I remember Buffy the Vampire Slayer being in that time frame. I guess what I’m saying is that with a stronger script and better acting, Cruel Intentions could’ve been a better movie.
Dangerous Liaisons (2012)
Director: Jin-ho Hur
Cast: Cecilia Cheung, Dong-gun Jang, Ziyi Zhang, Shawn Dou, Lisa Lu
In Shanghai, an aging socialite’s infatuation with her ex-boyfriend manifests itself as a risky game, where her former lover agrees to seduce, then abandon a naive young woman. – IMDB
Dangerous Liaisons, 2012 version, Chinese/Korean collaboration set in 1930s Shanghai is really quite good. If the book was anything like this one, I’d definitely pick it up. I’m going to go up front here and confess that while I know a few of you are fans of Zhang Ziyi, I don’t really think much of her. She’s not a great actress and I never really enjoyed the movies she’s been in. I don’t even think of her as being attractive or pretty so no girl/lady crushes for me. I have to admit that it put me off a little on this but this did expire at the same time as Cruel Intentions so I wanted to give this a watch. For one, I like Cecilia Cheung well enough. One of her earlier movie called Fly Me to Polaris was all levels of awesome and while she does a lot of really silly comedic movies now and does really well in those and even dated/married my absolute idol in real life, I still like her a good bit even during her crazy rebellious days. She’s unique and she can definitely pull off that aging socialite/pretty, charming, attractive, seductive lady sort of vibe. As for Dong-gun Jang, I’ve never seen him in any movies because I don’t watch a whole lot of Korean movies because they really are too slow for my taste but I spent a good bit of the movie debating if I thought he was attractive. There’s definitely something there but hmm..I wonder.
You tell me, what do you think? Good-looking dude, or no?
While I was a little skeptical and having watched Cruel Intentions just before this one (the night before) without knowing it was based on the same material, I started feeling a little unsure about it. But, this one is miles better than Cruel Intentions and there are strong performances across the board plus, Shanghai in that time frame had a lot of elegance and class even if the characters themselves, especially those two up there doing this bet that aren’t really asking the audience to respect them a whole lot either. But that is what their characters are asked of and the way the act and the style they have match up well to their characters. While I don’t quite like Zhang Ziyi, she was pretty good in this one also. Maybe its the fact that she’s not doing a touch chick and in this one, she’s a lot more vulnerable as a character, playing something I haven’t seen her do before.
What else did I like about this one? The story was set good. The atmosphere and tone was really engaging for the premise. The pacing was also quite good. Really, I think that the sum of all its good factors elevates this movie to be pretty intriguing even if I knew all along where it was headed. I was still willing to buy into the story and the characters. The dialogue added a little bit more seductiveness in a believable way.
Dangerous Liaisons may not be a perfect movie and I couldn’t even decide if Dong-jun Jang is an attractive man but the chemistry and the convincing performance along with the setting in 1930s Shanghai makes this a really enjoyable watch. Would I watch it again? Maybe I would. Its a really fun movie and also makes me want to go find that source material and see what its all about.
Without knowing much about the source material, I’d definitely recommend to see Dangerous Liaisons if you wanted to see one of these two adaptations. It may be foreign but it adds a little extra touch to it especially with some pretty outstanding performances that make it all the better. Something about that Shanghai setting and the beautiful clothes makes it really appealing to me. Cruel Intentions suffers from exactly what makes Dangerous Liaisons good. But then, how do you compare two movies that seem to be targeting a different audience? Maybe the teenage me would have enjoyed Cruel Intentions more. Who knows, right?
Have you seen Cruel Intentions or Dangerous Liaisons? How about other adaptations? Are you familiar with the source material?