Zhang Yimou’s ‘Cliff Walkers’ to Debut in U.S. Day-and-Date With China

Zhang Yimou’s historical spy thriller “Cliff Walkers” will hit North American cinemas on April 30, day-and-date with its China release.

“Cliff Walkers” was previously title “Impasse” in English. Its Chinese title translates to “On the Cliff.” It will be distributed abroad by CMC Pictures.

The film marks Zhang’s first foray into the spy genre. Based on a script by Quan Yongxian, it is set in the 1930s in China’s snowy northeast, known then as the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. It follows four Communist party special agents who return to China after receiving special training in the Soviet Union. They are sent on a secret mission code-named “Utrennya,” but the moment they parachute in, they find they’ve been sold out by a traitor, and are now in deep water.

The title stars Zhang Yi (“Operation Red Sea”), Yu Hewei (“I Am Not Madame Bovary”), Qin Hailu (“The Pluto Moment”) and Zhu Yawen (“The Captain”).

In China, the weekend of April 30 is a three-day public holiday to mark Labor Day on May 1. Locally, “Cliff Walkers” will face an unusually strong field of competitors, with 14 new releases currently scheduled to debut that weekend.

According to Maoyan data,  the most hotly anticipated titles among them are “My Love,” a rom-com starring Taiwan’s Greg Hsu and Zhang Ruonan (“Cry Me a Sad River”), and thriller “Home Sweet Home,” which stars Hong Kong’s Aaron Kwok and Zhang Zifeng — who is currently riding high on the unexpected success of her film “Sister,” still in theaters. The more artistic “Cliff Walkers” currently ranks eighth.

Fifth Generation director Zhang is one of China’s best-known helmers abroad. His last two films to release in the U.S. were the stylish martial arts film “Shadow” (2018) — which grossed just $521,000 domestically, but $90.5 million in China — and the infamous Matt Damon-starring co-production “The Great Wall,” (2016) which grossed $45.5 million stateside and $171 million in China.

His latest film “One Second” finally debuted last November in China after being plagued by censorship problems from early 2019, when it was abruptly yanked out of the Berlin International Film Festival. It grossed $10.6 million. No plans have been announced so far for a U.S. release.

Zhang’s current project is set during the Korean War, and tells the story of a Chinese sniper renowned for his skill at gunning down U.S. soldiers. It is eyeing an October release, likely in time for the country’s patriotic National Day holiday.

Watch the trailer for “Cliff Walkers” below.

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