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Warriors, The


Stars: Jet Li, Xu Jinglei, Andy Lau

Director: Peter Ho-Sun Chan

Blood spurts on to the screen amid more slice and dice in 19th century China. Full of grim and grimy close-ups of faces immured in war, it comes across as a sort of Once Upon a Time in the East. But its tragic, Hamlet-style ending is pursued by the director at the expense of all logic.

Having said that, the battle scenes are all that we've come to expect from this kind of Hong Kong-made period epic.

The film opens on a battlefield of corpses. The only survivor of this slaughter is General Pang (Li), let down by backers from the Qing Dynasty, who left him and his men vastly outnumbered by Taiping rebels. Meeting a woman (Jinglei), Pang spends the night with her, only to find she's the wife of the chief in the village of brigands to which he's been taken.

Persuading them to join forces with hjim, Pang assembles 800 men and amazes the treacherous authorities in Peking (Beijing) by taking Sun City, his first target in a body-strewn, five-year road to Nanking.

The company's synopsis suggests that Pang is subsequently corrupted by power, but Li's performance - one of his best - implies more a man who only does what he thinks is right, notably in the massacre of 400 surrendered soldiers, in order to save food supplies to his own men.

The love element is too low-key, but scene of the year-long siege of a city are among the film's most impressive.

David Quinlan

Hong Kong/China 2008. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Colour by Kodak.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

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

Review date: 02 Nov 2008