Ian Struan Dunross is chairman of Struan & Company, the oldest and largest of the British-East Asia trading companies. To the Chinese, that also makes him "Tai-Pan" ("supreme leader") of the... Read allIan Struan Dunross is chairman of Struan & Company, the oldest and largest of the British-East Asia trading companies. To the Chinese, that also makes him "Tai-Pan" ("supreme leader") of the "Noble House". Unfortunately, with his power, he inherits ancient promises, dark secrets,... Read allIan Struan Dunross is chairman of Struan & Company, the oldest and largest of the British-East Asia trading companies. To the Chinese, that also makes him "Tai-Pan" ("supreme leader") of the "Noble House". Unfortunately, with his power, he inherits ancient promises, dark secrets, and deep financial problems on a small island full of people, who want to see Struan fall... Read all
The performances hold up well. Pierce Brosnan is fascinating as Ian Dunross, Tai-Pan of the Hong Kong company Struan's, the Noble House of the title. Brosnan is convincing as the man in charge of a 150 year old company who struggles to deal not just with the crises of today but with the weight of legacy of the Noble House upon his shoulders as well. While Dunross is not above perhaps less than savory at times, Brosnan nevertheless makes clear that is a likable man with a strong sense of honor and duty no matter the cost. It is Brosnan as Dunross that ultimately ties in the various diverse plots together and, if his performance was anything less than what it is, I'm not sure Noble House would work as well as it does.
Moving on from Brosnan, there's a strong cast behind him. There's John Rhys-Davies as Quillan Gornt, the head of Struan's biggest rival and a man who seems to live for nothing but bringing it down. There's Deborah Raffin and Ben Masters as the heads of the American company Par-Con whose motives and actions are questionable throughout the entire miniseries. From there the cast of characters ranges from police Superintendent Robert Armstrong (Gordon Jackson) to Struan employees such as John Van Dreelen as Jacques DeVille, Michael Siberry as Linbar Struan and fellow Hong Kong businessmen such as Damien Thomas as Lando Mata. Rounding off the cast in two cameo roles are Denholm Elliott as outgoing Tai-Pan Alastair Struan in the first part and John Houseman as Hong Kong governor Sir Geoffrey Allison in the last part.
Where the cast, and indeed both the writing and the miniseries as a whole, runs into trouble is with its native characters. The writing (and as a result the performances) mean that they are often walking and talking clichés, especially Khigh Dhiegh as Four Finger Wu and Tia Carrere as Venus Poon as well as the less savory characters who figure in its first half. Even characters such as Burt Kwouk's Phillip Chen, the compradore of Struan's, fall into moments of cringe worthy dialogue that undermine them considerably. Somehow it seems a shame that the script couldn't treat these characters with the same respect, though how much of that is down to the original source material I'm not sure.
Despite that problem, Noble House otherwise makes excellent use of Hong Kong itself throughout. In fact the city and its surrounding areas (including Macao) are as much as a player in events as Brosnan's Dunross or anyone else. The large amount of location filming gives the various story lines a strong sense of verisimilitude.
The miniseries is also blessed both with a large amount of screen time and a script that makes the most use of it. Based on the massive novel by James Clavell, Noble House makes the most use of its six plus hours and four parts. There's everything from business dealings ranging from a deal between the Noble House and Par-Con to Gornt's trying bankrupt the Noble House, kidnapping, murder, romances, concerns over Hong Kong's return to China (which was still a few years off when the miniseries was made) and international intrigues as well. Behind all that is the characters and how they change and develop (or don't) as they face not just those events but disasters natural and man-made. As a result there's much going on as there are not only multiple plot lines but ones that intersect, often in the most unexpected ways. Whatever else can be said then, this miniseries is definitely not lacking in incident.
Across more than six hours, Noble House lays out a tale filled with business dealings, murder, romance, intrigues and much more. It is carried by its performances and a fascinating portrait of late 1980s Hong Kong and the people who inhabit it (despite some clichéd writing and performances). If nothing else, Noble House is a sprawling epic that makes for fascinating viewing a quarter century on.
- Mar 24, 2013