Returning to his roots after a stint in Hollywood, Woo has made the most expensive film in mainland Chinese history, a pleasantly traditional picture that marks a new direction for one of the world's premier action maestros.
The compelling emotion that marks the best Woo movies is AWOL. The pacing is choppy, with most of the human moments lopped off. Is the Han emperor the good guy? Or should we cheer the rebellious opposition warlords? And what the heck is a viceroy?
What remains on screen is impressive -- grand battles, dazzling action, sumptuous sets, magnificent panoramas. What's lost in the abbreviation is the emotional element as Woo chronicles an epic clash of warriors in the 3rd century.
Any war picture in which the heroine stalls the villain with a quiet, painstaking tea ceremony until the wind shifts direction and the good guys can firebomb the bad guys into oblivion is too ineffably Zen not to love.
Balances character, grit, spectacle and visceral action in a meaty, dramatically satisfying pie that delivers on the hype and will surprise many who felt the Hong Kong helmer progressively lost his mojo during his long years stateside.