Down 28,621 this week

The Guillotines (2012)
"Xue di zi" (original title)

R  |   |  Action, Drama  |  14 June 2013 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 4.7/10 from 1,023 users   Metascore: 35/100
Reviews: 12 user | 35 critic | 7 from

An elite crime-fighting unit in the court of the Chinese emperor relies on flying swords to defeat their enemies.


(as Andrew Lau)


(as Aubrey Lam) , , 4 more credits »
Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

From $1.99 on Amazon Video

The 25 Most Immersive Worlds in Cinema

Highly immersive cinematic worlds can carry a movie, and we've rounded up the best of the best.

See the full list

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 23 titles
created 14 Oct 2011
a list of 30 titles
created 10 Jan 2013
a list of 35 titles
created 18 Feb 2013
a list of 24 titles
created 19 Mar 2014
a list of 31 titles
created 02 Jun 2014

Related Items

Search for "The Guillotines" on

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: The Guillotines (2012)

The Guillotines (2012) on IMDb 4.7/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of The Guillotines.
5 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Assassins (2012)
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

Set in the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history, the story focuses on Cao Cao in his old age, exploring the areas of military tactics, love, and the relationship between father and son.

Director: Linshan Zhao
Stars: Yun-Fat Chow, Yifei Liu, Hiroshi Tamaki
The Four (2012)
Action | Crime | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

A government department known as the Six Panels appoints their best officer to infiltrate a special force called the Divine Constabulary, to ensure their way in stopping the circulation of counterfeit coin currency in the capital.

Directors: Gordon Chan, Janet Chun
Stars: Chao Deng, Yifei Liu, Ronald Cheng
Action | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

After the death of her father, a woman is forced to take over as empress and fight to save her kingdom.

Director: Siu-Tung Ching
Stars: Kelly Chen, Donnie Yen, Leon Lai
Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.9/10 X  

Four detectives, each with supernatural powers, dedicate their unique and special skills to solving crimes and apprehending powerful criminals.

Director: Gordon Chan
Stars: Chao Deng, Yifei Liu, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong
Tai Chi Hero (2012)
Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

Chinese steampunk martial arts blockbuster about the early years of Tai chi master Yang Luchan, the man who founded in the 19th century what has now become the most popular Tai Chi style in... See full summary »

Director: Stephen Fung
Stars: Daniel Wu, Qi Shu, Tony Ka Fai Leung
Wu Dang (2012)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.2/10 X  

In early Republican China, rumors were going around about the treasure in Wudang Mountain. An American conspirator took his well-trained kung fu daughter to Wudang by sponsoring a Taoist martial arts competition, to steal the treasure.

Director: Patrick Leung
Stars: Wenzhuo Zhao, Mi Yang, Siu-Wong Fan
Action | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.9/10 X  

This story is set during the Edo ages in Japan. On a rainy night, Kotono confronts the samurais who have killed her father. The samurai attack her one by one, but she manages to withstand ... See full summary »

Director: Gô Ohara
Stars: Minami Tsukui, Shigeru Kanai, Nao Nagasawa
Fantasy | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

An ancient fox spirit embarks on a diabolical quest to become human after escaping an icy prison, and becomes bound to a disfigured princess who seeks the love of a noble guard as her ... See full summary »

Director: Wuershan
Stars: Xun Zhou, Kun Chen, Wei Zhao
Action | Adventure
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Set three years after Dragon Inn, innkeeper Jade has disappeared and a new inn has risen from the ashes - one that's staffed by marauders masquerading as law-abiding citizens, who hope to unearth the fabled lost city buried in the desert.

Director: Hark Tsui
Stars: Jet Li, Xun Zhou, Kun Chen
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Nguyen Vu is the sole survivor of his family who was executed by the empress of Vietnam. Upon discovering that his family may have been framed for crimes they did not commit, he sets out to bring justice and clear his family name.

Director: Victor Vu
Stars: Huynh Dong, Midu, Khuong Ngoc
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  

Yue Feng (Yue Song) is a young thug with exceptional streetfighting abilities. He will stop at nothing to defeat all challengers - until, in an tragic accident, he kills a fellow competitor... See full summary »

Directors: Zhong Lei, Yue Song
Stars: Li Chang-Hai, Kang En, Yang JianPing
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

During a turbulent time when political upheaval, rebellion, and invasion are coming to a head two swordsmen are caught up in a violent and bloody struggle to seize control of the country ... See full summary »

Director: Joon-ik Lee
Stars: Jeong-min Hwang, Seung-won Cha, Ji-hye Han


Credited cast:
Ethan Juan ...
Purba Rgyal ...
Tian Gao ...
Yi Wei Zhou ...
Buka (as Zhou Yiwei)
Boran Jing ...
Peng Guo ...
Gong-E (as Jimmy Wang Yu)
Li Meng ...
Bai Lan (as Vivien Li)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Shih-Chieh Chin ...
Wan Jiang (as Jin Shijia)
Sofia Gonzalez ...
Walla Child (voice)
Wai-Keung Lau ...
Walla Child (voice)
Stephy Tang


During the Manchurian-ruled Qing Dynasty, Emperor Yong Zheng established a secret assassination squad known as the Guillotines to eliminate all who opposed him. Once heavily favored by the Emperor, the Guillotines are deemed expendable once Emperor Qian Long ascends to the throne and adopts Western ideas and technology. To consolidate his power under a new regime, the Emperor continues to use the Guillotines to persecute the conquered Han Chinese in a reign of terror and oppression. Written by Anynomous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

flying guillotine | See All (1) »


Action | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violent content | See all certifications »



| |


Release Date:

14 June 2013 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Guilhotina  »

Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Youqing suiyue
Performed by Shawn Yue, Xiaoming Huang', Ethan Juan
Composed by Kwong Wing Chan
Lyrics by Coek-Fai Lau
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A compelling watch thanks to rich and textured character-driven drama based on gripping themes of power, leadership and loyalty
12 December 2012 | by (Singapore) – See all my reviews

Just so you are under no illusion of the lethalness of a flying guillotine, a thrilling opening sequence sees the titular group of assassins under Emperor Qian Long's command using the feared weapon against a gang of rebels known as 'The Herders'. Dispatched from its wielder like a flying wheel, it locks around its target's neck, activating a volley of blades within capable of decapitating a head right off its body. It's not a pretty sight no doubt, but still a perfect precursor for what is lined up.

'The Guillotines' is not a pretty movie; rather, things look perpetually grimy and gloomy- much like the fate of the assassins led by Nala Leng (Ethan Juan). Plucked as orphans from a young age, they know no family but their own fellow comrades in arms. Then despite being the most formidable of the Emperor's soldiers, their status was never made official; lest the throne be accused of resorting to "dirty" methods to get rid of its enemies. And when the Emperor decides it is time for reformation, they are regarded as threats and hunted for dead.

In the hands of a lesser producer, such material might have been just the subject of another run of the mill big-budget period action blockbuster; but with Peter Chan on board, you can be sure that 'The Guillotines' will be so much more. And indeed you will not be disappointed, as Chan assembles some of his best screenwriters – Aubrey Lam ("Perhaps Love", "The Warlords" and "Wu Xia"), Joyce Chan ("Bodyguards and Assassins", "Wu Xia") and Jojo Hui ("The Warlords") – to pen a compelling story on power, leadership and loyalty.

Of the three, it is the last that gets most prominent play – not only are the Guillotines forced to re-evaluate their blind loyalty to the Emperor, their leader Leng is faced with an even bigger dilemma as he is made to choose between the brothers he has fought with and his childhood buddy and Imperial Agent Du (Shawn Yue) with whom he had sworn their allegiance with to the Emperor when they were mere children. Leng and his fellow agent Musen (Li Yuchun) are further challenged when their arch enemy Wolf (Huang Xiaoming) – the leader of the "Herders" – turns out to be much more than just an anarchist.

As bit by bit of each character's background and motivations are revealed, the viewer is challenged to put aside conventional archetypes of hero and villain, good and bad, right and wrong. Even as the movie begins with an action-oriented approach, director Andrew Lau adroitly adopts a much more elegant character-driven narrative towards the second half – and it is indeed an achievement when each character turns out to be more morally complex than we would have expected when we are first introduced to them.

Yet even while maintaining an intimate focus on the characters, Lau doesn't lose sight of the larger context against which the character struggles unfold. At the crux of the turmoil is the Emperor's thirst for power, the need to enslave the Han Chinese perceived to be antagonistic to his authoritarian rule. Then when the Emperor first sends the Guillotines and subsequently a whole regimen of fire-armed soldiers to quell the unrest and demand obedience, the film thrusts into prominence the consequences of a rule by force, even if it is meant to serve a greater purpose of unification. Right until an empathetic speech at the end on the importance of a rule founded on respect, the movie cleverly earns real-world relevance in its lessons on reform and revolution – especially given the recent leadership transition in Mainland China.

Such lofty ambitions rest on the shoulders of a young and fresh cast – thankfully, each perform at least adequately according to the demands of their respective roles. Up and coming Mainland actor Huang brings an appropriately rebellious yet grounded touch to Wolf; while Juan and Yue are well paired with each other as the "brothers" whose friendship is tested by their supposed unwavering loyalty to the Emperor. Li, who also sings the theme song, is surprisingly affecting as one of the Guillotines forced to re-assess everything she knows when she is taken hostage by Wolf. And with Peter Chan's assistance no doubt, the movie gets a nice boost from veteran actors Jimmy Wang Yu and King Shih-Chieh, who shine in their bit roles as the leader of the Guillotines and commander of the border Army respectively.

Compared to the excellent drama at play, the inevitable action sequences choreographed by veteran Lee Tat-Chiu seem to be merely perfunctory. Only two sequences – the first described at the start of this review and the second when Wolf's men conduct a daring ambush in broad daylight to rescue him – see the famed 'flying guillotine' deployed in its full glory, with the rest consisting mostly of some of the biggest explosions you've seen in Chinese cinema. That's not to say they aren't well done, but the most absorbing parts of the movie still belong to the character drama.

Considering the troubled production history behind the film – conceived first as a remake of the classic Shaw Brothers' film 'Master of the Flying Guillotine' and then losing first choice Teddy Chan as director – it's to both producer Peter Chan and director Andrew Lau's credit that the film is this outstanding. Deftly balancing complex character-driven drama with gripping action, Lau delivers one of his best and most challenging films since 'Infernal Affairs' – with Peter Chan proving once again that his Midas touch in films (whether as a producer or director) is still very much alive. Even though the Guillotines only lived as myth and were never officially recognised, this movie will go down as one of the finest examples of Chinese cinema this year.

6 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
flying swords? waldomarek
Not much use of the actual weapon... badgerbun
Discuss The Guillotines (2012) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page