Once upon a time in Hong Kong, there was a man named Jackie Chan who made reckless, bounding, entertaining movies. You might squint and see that Chan in 1911, during a brief, melancholy fight scene. The rest of the time, 1911 features a diminished, earthbound Chan, now mouthing Beijing’s cant via this interminable historical epic, which begs viewers to feel overwhelming emotion at the sight of barely recognizable characters in the slo-mo throes of revolutionary martyrdom. 1911 commemorates the centenary of the successful Xinhai Revolution in China, which ended the oppression of “two thousand years of feudalism.” By the time the credits roll, you feel you have endured just as much. Sun Yat-sen (Winston Chao) is the revolution’s San Francisco–based proselytizer, theorist, and fundraiser, destined to be the first provisional president of the Republic; Huang Xing (Jackie Chan) is his ally, the movement’s military genius. If the success of epic storytelling were determined by the sheer number of unnecessary on-screen name tags, 1911 would be a masterpiece. But the small matters of characterization, audience identification, and scene-making are entirely absent here.
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