113 user 228 critic

The Assassin (2015)

Ci ke Nie Yin Niang (original title)
Not Rated | | Action, Drama, History | 27 August 2015 (China)
2:35 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Prime Video

A female assassin receives a dangerous mission to kill a political leader in eighth-century China.


Hsiao-Hsien Hou


Cheng Ah (screenplay) (as Zhong Acheng), T'ien-wen Chu (screenwriter) | 3 more credits »
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 32 wins & 63 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

More Like This 

Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Three stories set in three times, 1911, 1966 and 2005. Two actors play the two main characters in each story.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Fang Mei
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

The ethereally beautiful Vicky recalls her romances with Hao Hao and Jack in the neon-lit clubs of Taipei.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Qi Shu, Jack Kao, Chun-hao Tuan
Hai shang hua (1998)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

In the "flower houses" (upscale brothels) of Shanghai, various interweaving stories of love, loyalty, and deceit play out subtly.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Michiko Hada, Michelle Reis
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The semi-autobiographical film on director Hou Hsiao-Hsien's childhood and adolescence, when he was growing up in Taiwan, living through the deaths of his father, mother and grandmother.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Chia-bao Chang, Neng Chang, Chih-Chen Chen
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A beautiful, historical film based upon the complex lives of four brothers.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, Shu-Fen Hsin, Sung Young Chen
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

The story revolves around Yoko Inoue, a pregnant woman in search for a cafe that's frequented by a Taiwanese composer whose life she is researching.

Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Stars: Yo Hitoto, Tadanobu Asano, Masato Hagiwara


Credited cast:
Qi Shu ... Nie Yinniang
Chen Chang ... Tian Ji'an, governor of Weibo
Yun Zhou Yun Zhou ... Lady Tian
Satoshi Tsumabuki ... The Mirror Polisher
Dahong Ni ... Provost Nie Feng
Mei Yong Mei Yong ... Yinniang' Mother
Zhen Yu Lei Zhen Yu Lei ... Tien Xing (Yinniang's Uncle)
Nikki Hsieh ... Huji,Tian Ji'an's concubine (as Hsieh Hsin-ying)
Ethan Juan ... Xia Jing, the aide-de-camp (as Juan Ching-Tian)
Fang-yi Sheu ... Princess Jiacheng / Princess-Nun Jiaxin
Jacques Picoux ... Lady Tian's Teacher
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Shao-Huai Chang ... Chiang Nu
Ti-Ying Hsueh
Fang Mei ... Yinniang' Grandmother
Chun Shih


In 8th century China, 10-year-old general's daughter Nie Yinniang is handed over to a nun who initiates her into the martial arts, transforming her into an exceptional assassin charged with eliminating cruel and corrupt local governors. One day, having failed in a task, she is sent back by her mistress to the land of her birth, with orders to kill the man to whom she was betrothed - a cousin who now leads the largest independent military region in North China. After 13 years of exile, the young woman must confront her parents, her memories and her long-repressed feelings. A slave to the orders of her mistress, Nie Yinniang must choose: sacrifice the man she loves or break forever with the sacred way of the righteous assassins. Written by Ipsith

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

china | black magic | wuxia | nun | love | See All (41) »


Action | Drama | History


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

Official site [Japan]


Taiwan | China | Hong Kong | France



Release Date:

27 August 2015 (China) See more »

Also Known As:

The Assassin See more »

Filming Locations:

Wudang, Hubei Province, China See more »


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$47,892, 16 October 2015, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$613,556, 13 December 2015
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Hou Hsiao-hsien planned to make a period piece when he is older and when he decided that he is older he began doing the film. See more »


Xia Jing: [subtitled version] The way of the sword is pitiless. Saintly virtues play no part in it.
See more »

Alternate Versions

In Japan, the film has been released with an additional footage contains the scene involving the Mirror Polisher (Satoshi Tsumabuki) and the wife of the Mirror Polisher (Shiori Kutsuna). This version is only available on Japanese Blu-Ray from Shochiku Home Video but without English subs. See more »


Featured in Dragon Girls (2016) See more »


Rohan / Duc de Rohan
Music by Pierrick Tanguy
Performed by Bagad Men Ha Tan and Doudou N'Diaye Rose
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

A Never-Ending, Sleep-Inducing Period Piece Disguised As A Martial Arts Flick
14 December 2015 | by CinemaClownSee all my reviews

There is absolutely no denying that The Assassin is one of the most beautiful looking films ever made for every frame of it qualifies as a masterwork of breathtaking photography. But there is also no denying that it is an insufferably boring film for just being able to sit through this picture is no mere achievement in itself.

Set in 8th century China during the Tang Dynasty, The Assassin follows Nie Yinniang; an exceptionally skilled assassin who was raised by a nun from the age of ten and kills on her command. But when she fails to perform her duties on one occasion, she is tasked with a ruthless mission that requires her to kill the man she was once betrothed to.

Directed by Hou Hsiao-Hsien, The Assassin may give the impression of a martial arts movie but in actuality, it is more a period piece than anything else. Hou's direction is impressive when it comes to staging the shots, choosing the locations & capturing every image in an aesthetic, artistic & intimate manner but as far as story goes, this is cinema on a standstill.

The plot relies on minimal dialogues and is visually narrated. And although there is nothing wrong with that method, the immensely slow pace at which its events unfold is going to infuriate many. Nothing happens in the movie for the most part as camera simply pans from one end to another and whatever little action does exist, it's all very short-lived & scattered all over.

From the technical standpoint, The Assassin is virtually flawless. Throughout its runtime, the images retain its sharpness, clarity & piercing quality. Cinematography is truly a highlight for every moment is expertly staged, beautifully shot & the colour composition is wonderful. The camera may appear static but it's almost always in motion, the lighting is ideal, and I've got nothing but praise for this particular aspect.

Even the costumes, make-up & production design exhibit a meticulous amount of research that went into the period it tries to bring alive on the screen. Coming to the performances, the only one worth a mention is Shu Qi who plays the eponymous assassin in an incredibly calm, composed & balanced manner and manages to express her character's inner turmoil really well plus she's finely supported by the rest of the cast.

On an overall scale, The Assassin deserves full marks for its mind-blowing cinematography alone but the stillness of its plot, lack of action, tranquillising pace & lifeless characters turn it into an excruciating viewing experience. While I'm certain that there's an audience for this kind of storytelling, I'm equally sure that I'm not one of them. All in all, it is difficult to not fall in love with its imagery but its sleep-inducing narration that goes on for eternity ultimately destroys it for me.

P.S. On an unrelated note, this could actually cure my insomnia!

25 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 113 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed