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Stars: Jet Li, Sun Li

Director: Ronny Yu

Supposedly Jet Li's last martial arts epic, this marks somewhat of a return to basic chop-socky, Van Damme-sty;le, even though its' an elaborately staged historical saga with echoes of The Last Samurai, in that man o' war Li is converted to peace by an enforced spell in a country village, where he's looked after by a blind girl (strikingly attractive Sun Li).

The action stretches from Central China in 1880 to Shanghai in 1910. Seeing his father humiliated in a fight after refusing to administer a death blow, Hu Yuanji (Jet Li) determines to become the most feared fighter in China.

Unbeatable but arrogant, he pays a heavy price for killing a rival, and flees the region - returning a changed man, resolved to found martial arts academies and free China from the Western yoke.

Full of brutal, skilfully-staged fights against opponents with a variety of weapons, the film revolves around Li, who's looking a shade long in the tooth now, though that's OK for this movie as his character is 42 when the story ends.

It has elements of interest, as befits a yarn based on fact, but is still little more than a means to an end - bone-crunching action.

David Quinlan

Hong Kong 2005. UK Distributor: UIP (Focus). Color by De Luxe.
102 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 12 Jul 2006