Although there are some satisfying fight scenes in this film, potential audiences should be warned that this is really more of a historical drama than an action film. It concerns a Ming Dynasty Viceroy who raised a private army to fight off Japanese pirates in his region. In doing so, he committed his army to the most rigid military discipline - which leads to the terrible moment when he must decide to execute his own son for disobeying orders.
Although the mood, the cinematography, general design and acting approach are all of a type with Hong Kong cinema of the 1970s (best known for the 'chop-socky' school of kung-fu movies), there's a real effort to push the envelope of quality for these various approaches. The acting is theatrical but energetic, there are occasionally fine touches of cinematic style, as with the scene with the bereaved mother, and my bare-bones report of the plot doesn't indicate the interesting twists and turns concerning a traitorous general.
Overall, a fine attempt to overcome the conventions of the era. Not a great film, but on the whole a respectable study in the burdens of the ethical exercise of authority.
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