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On the Chinese (region 6) DVD edition (anamorphic with 5.1) Zhou-sun's scene, the blind girl pleading for death after the assassin had killed her whole family, is completely replaced by the assassin's verbal depiction of the incident. The end credits, however, did include Zhou-sun. See more »
This is an epic film about the unification of the ancient kingdoms of China in the third century BC. What makes it interesting is the tragic downfall of the king and all the palace intrigue going on around him. It reminded me a bit of "King Lear" and some of the other Shakespeare plays.
The king starts out with noble ambitions, to unify the kingdoms under one ruler and to stop all the quarrelling so that the people can prosper and lead better lives. He and his childhood sweetheart, played beautifully by Li Gong, concoct a scheme whereby she pretends to go into exile in a rival kingdom in order to recruit an assassin to kill the king, thus giving him a pretext to go to war. But while she's away, the king becomes sadistic in his lust for power and goes on a killing spree.
There are numerous side plots that keep the action going. There is the Marquis, who pretends to be stupid and foppish but who's really very clever and wants to become king himself. He fathers two children with the king's mother and manages to keep it secret for years. Then there is the Prime Minister, a political rival to the king, who turns out to really be his father.
The assassin is a complex character himself. An adept swordsman and killer, he is undergoing a reformation when the king's lover comes to recruit him. He wants nothing more with killing, but is eventually won over by Li Gong (who wouldn't be?) when he sees how cruel and vicious the king has become.
Some spectacular cinematography, especially the battle scenes that are carried out on a grand scale - like they used to say, a cast of thousands, literally. The acting is OK, nothing special. It's the story that's interesting, though at over two and a half hours, it pushes the limit.
Definitely worth viewing.
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