I feel, however, that his character is somewhat muddled by the script.
At the beginning of the film, he appears as a suave, almost sleazy businessman,
pulling the wool over the eyes of the naive Chinese. Exactly the kind of
American stereotype that is despised by that conservative government. But
as the film progresses, he becomes a little lamb, unjustly persecuted by
the evil Chinese and neglected by the sidestepping American embassy. Moreover,
Yuelin (Bai Ling), Moore's court-appointed attorney, suffers a similar fate.
She comes on as a tough-as-nails defender, assigned to defend a morally
bankrupt American, someone about whom she should not care a whit. Certain
that he is guilty, she insists that he plead that way, explaining that those
who do so are afforded more leniency by the court. But eventually she comes
around to the point of putting her career on the line and going up against
the well-established male-dominated system, all for his sake. This is explained
with a teary story she tells about watching her father being persecuted
and doing nothing--vowing never again to remain silent in the face of injustice.
But still, it seems unlikely that a young, female attorney in such a conservative
country, defending a decadent American, would pick this case to stand up
against the "good old boy" network of the Chinese legal system.
The acting on the part of Gere and Bai Ling is excellent and the growing relationship between them touching, but the script seems uncertain at times about how they should be portrayed. Lots of exciting action, though, including an unlikely but well-shot chase scene. ****
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