An engrossing film set in the turn of 20th Century China and Hong Kong. A local businessman enlists the aid of his employees, a giant monk, a drug addict Martial Arts Master and actress to protect a Japanese envoy sent to Hong Kong to help establish democracy in China and overthrow the murderous Manchu empire. His wife enlists the aid of the father of her daughter, a gambling addict, to also protect the envoy.
But the Manchu Queen has sent her legions of assassins to intercept the Envoy and kill him at all costs. The small group must protect the Envoy in his journey through Hong Kong preaching democracy.
A powerful movie, the first half sees the establishing of the background and characters, the various relationships and conflicts that arise which leads to final "Gauntlet" run. Towards the end, it becomes heart breaking and emotional, even though the Mission was completed, it was an insight into how many lives that were lost for history to begin. Of course, the Martial Arts is right in the second half, as it doesn't let up. But the movie is more storytelling than action.
A great cast led by the impressive Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Tony Leung and comedy veteran Eric Tsang and supported by the liked of popular youngster Nicholas Tse, its another quality period piece,but it does lack that special something that would make it stand out... the concept and story just doesn't do it enough I think. Maybe its slow start could be an issue, because it is very un-Hong Kong, but in the end it was a successful result.
Ironically, looking at today, a movie like this could only have been a dream, as the message and fight for democracy wouldn't sit well with the reigning government of the PRC, hence why it was set in back in the day.
Something interesting to watch and think about, as it does show that the fight for freedom and liberty is everyone's responsibility, no matter who you are, a gambler, a drug addict, an exiled religious figure or even the son of a powerful businessman... or a businessman yourself.