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This Chinese action film starring Jet Li has been oft-compared to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.   I’d wager that if you enjoyed that movie then you’ll dig this one as well.   I did spy some illiterates stumbling out of the theatre when they discovered that this was a subtitled film.

The film is sort of a creation myth concerning the unification of China over 2,000 years ago, when the warlord of the Qin province was able to unite six warring provinces to create one Chinese nation (and piece together the Great Wall out of what had until then been individual provinces’ sections).  

However, the story doesn’t relate those events but takes place in the tumultuous period that led up to them.   An assassin played by Jet Li is summoned for an audience with the grateful Qin warlord (who would go on to become the emperor) to tell the tale of how Li killed three seemingly unstoppable assassins who had long been thorns in the warlord’s side.   Li tells him what happened…or does he?   As the warlord questions Li’s account and offers his own conjectures as to what really happened, we get several different versions of the story.   Each version of the tale is illustrated by a color (reminding me actually of Joyce’s Ulysses, in which each section has a corresponding color).  

Sometimes the story seems to be only an excuse for moving from elaborate fight sequence to the next, but said scenes are pretty dazzling: beautifully choreographed and photographed displays of movement, sound and scrumptious color.   They're surreal and dreamlike.   Directed by Zhang Yimou.

- Sep 24, 2004 


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