The Emperor And The Assassin

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama, Historical, War

Grand historical epic, the old-fashioned way: massive sets, a cast of thousands and enough star power to set it all ablaze. The subject is equally monumental: the third century B.C. unification of the Chinese Empire under the iron fist of Yin Zheng, King of Qin, who gained an empire but lost his soul. Sworn to uphold the mandate of his ancestors, Yin Zheng...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Grand historical epic, the old-fashioned way: massive sets, a cast of thousands and enough star power to set it all ablaze. The subject is equally monumental: the third century B.C. unification of the Chinese Empire under the iron fist of Yin Zheng, King of Qin, who

gained an empire but lost his soul. Sworn to uphold the mandate of his ancestors, Yin Zheng (Li Xuejian) embarks on a brutal campaign to unite all seven Chinese kingdoms. His sights are set on the northern Yan kingdom, and Lady Zhao (Gong Li) -- Yin Zheng's devoted lover and a native of the Zhao

kingdom -- suggests he hire a assassin from Yan to stage an attempt on his life; invading Yan would then appear just retaliation. She even offers to do the legwork and has her perfect face branded with the mark of a criminal to make her exile to Yan look convincing. Once there, she tries to

persuade sword-for-hire Jing Ke (Zhang Fengyi) to "murder" the would-be emperor, but things quickly get complicated. Jing Ke has sworn off killing, Yin Zheng grows more barbarous by the day and, as Lady Zhao dutifully works on her assassin, Yin Zheng's blood-soaked army advances toward her own

beloved homeland. After the baroque psychological melodrama of 1996's TEMPTRESS MOON, writer-director Chen Kaige returns to the epic scale of his most popular film -- FAREWELL MY CONCUBINE -- for what now stands as the most expensive independently produced Asian film to date. Every yuan is

right there on the screen, from the elaborately staged battle sequences to the kind of meticulous attention to historical detail that would put James Cameron to shame. Inevitably, the sheer size of the production dwarfs the human drama. But Chen has wisely staged it in purely Shakespearean terms,

and lined-up a knock-out group of larger-than-life stars who rival the sets in sheer stature.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Grand historical epic, the old-fashioned way: massive sets, a cast of thousands and enough star power to set it all ablaze. The subject is equally monumental: the third century B.C. unification of the Chinese Empire under the iron fist of Yin Zheng, King o… (more)

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