Thursday, September 27, 2012


I've owned a Korean DVD of this film for the past 3 months and have watched it several times. But I still wanted to see the film on the big screen because it's filled with striking visuals (the use of color is fantastic), a complex story and characters (told like a Tarantino film) and breathtaking fight scenes (Donnie Yen vs. Jet Li rocks). Sure it's no Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but it definitely strives to be and succeeds in most respects, especially when considering the plotless and characterless films Jet Li usually stars in.

It's the story of an assassin who takes out the leaders of several small rebellious provinces in China in the name of a warlord who wants to unite them. The film is told in flashbacks by the assassin to the warlord, recounting his victories. But things get interesting when the assassin retells these stories from his own point of view. Are the assassin's stories true? Are they a fabrication to get close to the warlord?
Jet Li is great here. Not only does he perform some awesome wire-fu fights, but his restrained acting works wonders to make his character all the more mysterious. Maggie Cheung, who normally plays Jackie Chan's girlfriend in Hong Kong films, is awesome as well. Even Zhang Ziyi performs admirably despite her character's semi-annoying nature.
The film does get a little pretentious now and then, mainly by comparing martial arts to calligraphy, music and art. There are also a lot of unnecessary shots of scenery during fight scenes that took me out of the action. There is also a very drawn out fight over a lake that isn't particularly detrimental to the story, it's just eye candy.

Still, this is a great film. Any fan of martial arts films, historical dramas and art house films will appreciate it. I know I sure did.

4 out of 5

*written 8/27/04

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