Director Peter Chan
Cast Jet Li, Andy Lau,Takeshi Kaneshiro
Running Time 120 minutes
Film Certificate (UK) TBC
Cinema Play Date Fri 07 November 2008
In the year 1850, the suffering of the 430 million Chinese people under the corrupt rule of the Qing dynasty set the stage for the Taiping Rebellion. During the chaos of the decade long civil war, 50 million people died from either hunger or battle. In the fall of 1870, General Pang (played by Jet Li) stands high atop the city walls fully attired in governor’s robes. Peering down upon the site of his inauguration, he is filled with dreams and ambition. Pang has taken a path of no return; had he chosen differently, he might have been one of the heroes to later overthrow the corrupt Qing imperial regime and establish a new China. He could have changed the course of history… …But two bandits and a woman have changed the course of his life – helping him achieve his goal, but ultimately causing his demise. The two bandits are his sworn blood brothers: Zhao Er-Hu (played by Andy Lau) and Jiang Wu-Yang (played by Takeshi Kaneshiro). The woman who comes between them is Zhao’s wife Lian (played by Xu Jinglei). A born leader, Zhao Er-Hu is a man of honor. To ensure the survival of his village during a time of war, he leads a band of marauding bandits. They raid other impoverished villages, but leave their victims with enough to sustain themselves. Zhao maintains a code of honor even among thieves, as well as his compassion for the poor. Sharing his spoils with his villagers, he has earned their loyalty and respect. There were two loves in his life -- his wife Lian, and his little brother Jiang Wu-Yang who he adopted when Jiang was orphaned at 13. Jiang Wu-Yang is a charismatic outlaw, a cold-blooded killer full of romantic idealism. He possesses both the callousness and the innocence of youth. He is like an animal operating on instinct but also values the ties of brotherhood over his own life. When Pang takes an arrow for him in a battle against the Taiping rebels, Jiang owes Pang his life and develops an intense attachment to Pang. He worships Pang above all else – including Zhao the brother who adopted him. After a Qing troop pillages Zhao’s village, causing devastation, Pang convinces Zhao and his bandits to join the Qing army. Jiang agrees to the proposal under the condition that he joins their brotherhood. With the future interests of the village in mind, Zhao also agrees to make Pang his blood brother, and relinquishes his role as leader and “big brother.” Pang’s initial motive is to end war and restore peace to the land – to do so he must first rise to power. With the help of Zhao, Jiang and their bandits, Pang establishes the Shan Regiment under the Qing army in the name of countering the Taiping Rebels. As his forces grow more powerful over the years so does his ambition. Corrupted by his hunger for power, Pang soon stops at nothing to eliminate his enemies and achieve his goal, including the massacre of 4,000 prisoners of war who Zhao vowed to protect. As a result, the brotherhood collapses. Zhao severs his ties with Pang while Jiang remains devoted to Pang, and his promise of a better future. But Pang’s ruthlessness and his desire for Lian, leads inevitably to his murder of Zhao. Poised to become governor, Pang is about to ascend the platform for his inauguration, literally just a step away from the seat of power. But his past betrayals and the murder of his brother Zhao Er-Hu catch up with him. At the moment of glory, his life ends in the hands of an assassin – his beloved brother Jiang.