Fast and bloody action, complex characterization and subtle character interactions, great cinematography, ferocious battles and insights into death, glory and the human condition that would do Kurosawa, or even Homer, proud.
Just don't expect "wire-fu" because Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Yu Rong Guang (Iron Monkey) are in it. There's enough sword play, spear fighting and archery that the "wire fu" isn't missed. The third act drags a bit but there's enough action to keep one entertained.
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With singing heroes, cross-dressing heroines, narcissistic villains, and fantastical action choreographed like dance, the film launched a new wave of Hong Kong filmmaking and you can feel its' influence in everything from Bruce Lee in the 1970s to Jackie Chan's Drunken Master to the Tsui Hark new wave of high energy, special effects adventures in the 80's.
Cheng Pei Pei is stunning in the role as Golden Swallow, a young woman on a mission to free her brother who has been taken hostage by a group of ruthless bandits, while retaining poise, elegance and coolness when delivering some deadly kung fu action. Rent this before considering Tarantino's remake coming soon....
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