More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Awesome: 39.29%
Worth A Look53.57%
Average: 3.57%
Pretty Bad: 3.57%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 10 user ratings

Latest Reviews

Pick of the Litter by Jay Seaver

Fahrenheit 11/9 by Peter Sobczynski

House With A Clock In Its Walls, The by Peter Sobczynski

Life Itself (2018) by Peter Sobczynski

Unity of Heroes by Jay Seaver

Hanagatami by Jay Seaver

Predator, The by Jay Seaver

Fahrenheit 11/9 by Rob Gonsalves

Madeline's Madeline by Jay Seaver

Won't You Be My Neighbor? by Rob Gonsalves

subscribe to this feed

Emperor and the Assassin, The
[] Buy posters from this movie
by EricDSnider

"A fantastic, sweeping Chinese epic."
5 stars

Chen Kaige's "The Emperor and the Assassin" is an epic-length film with some breathtakingly filmed epic-sized battles and palace scenes ... yet it all boils down to a simple, non-epic story of love, loyalty and power.

It is 221 B.C., and Ying Zheng (Li Xuejian), king of the Chinese kingdom of Qin, has been charged by his ancestors with the duty of unifying all seven kingdoms of China. He takes this seriously, figuring the best way to do it is to conquer them. To that end, he invades the kingdom of Han, with the intention of moving on to Zhao and Yan next.

Ying Zheng's prime minister, Lu Buwei (Chen Kaige), objects to these tactics, and is summarily fired. Ying Zheng's mother (Gu Yongfei), who is having a secret affair with the oleagenous Marquis (Wang Zhiwen), objects (she's a Zhao native) but is quiet about it, as is Lady Zhao (Gong Li) herself, with whom Ying Zheng grew up and who is occasionally his lover.

Lady Zhao, seeking to help Ying fulfill his destiny with as little bloodshed as possible, suggests a rather Shakespearean plan: She'll go to Yan, where the prince (Sun Zhou) is openly furious at Ying's plans and gain his trust. Then, she'll convince him to send an assassin to kill Ying. Ying will be ready, of course, and will not be assassinated -- but the attempt will be political justification for his invasion of Yan; the prince might even give up voluntarily, once he sees his error in trying to kill Ying.

Lady Zhao gets in good with the prince and they seek out a professional hitman. Yan's best assassin, Jing Ke (Zhang Fengyi), however, is a weary, aging man, racked with guilt over his life of killing for hire. It's not the best time to ask a man to kill an emperor, and Jing Ke refuses to do it, which lands him in prison. Lady Zhao, seeing his inner goodness, begins to fall in love with him and doubt her loyalty to Ying Zheng. (The assassin, it turns out, is less monstrous than the emperor.) The emperor's terrifying, malicious invasion of Lady Zhao's homeland does little to help her change her mind.

A film that is 160 minutes long has its work cut out for it, needing to justify its length to audiences who prefer their movies around two hours. "The Emperor and the Assassin" just about succeeds at that, introducing subplots that may seem like tangents, but which all add to the ongoing theme of Ying Zheng's ruthlessness and Machiavellian attitude: He must unite China even if it means killing everyone in it.

There are surprises and revelations that keep the movie interesting, in addition to building its themes; indeed, the film doesn't feel the least bit padded.

One senses almost immediately that this will be a tragedy -- there's a vague feeling of doom that increases as the film goes on -- and it truly is. It's a masterpiece of story-telling, marked by impeccable acting and fine direction, a film that is every bit worthy of the time it takes to watch it, as it will stay in your mind for a long time after it's over.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 07/04/03 12:06:07
[printer] printer-friendly format  

User Comments

9/07/04 W Stewart A movie that captured your attention and awed you with its vastness of imagery, scenes 5 stars
6/20/03 Sammy kinda drags in some places but is overall a good movie 4 stars
2/27/02 Gracy Lionheart A movie that leaves you going huh? But in a good way. 4 stars
12/09/01 Karen Good...too much melodrama!!!!!!!!!!:P 4 stars
6/14/01 Poxont Historically relevant, rich in human emotion. 5 stars
6/09/01 Genghizkhan66 Stunning epic, visually compelling ...right down there along the realm of my ancestors. 5 stars
4/30/01 y2mckay The movie that wouldn't end - nearly 3 weary hours for an utterly forgettable ending. 2 stars
10/20/00 Viking Even better than Gladiator !!!!! 5 stars
12/19/99 Mr Showbiz Chen Kaige directs this lavish, yet uninvolving period epic about a young Chinese warlord. 3 stars
12/19/99 allyjack A compelling epic...staggering. 5 stars
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  17-Dec-1999 (R)



Directed by
  Kaige Chen

Written by
  Kaige Chen
  Peigong Wang

  Gong Li
  Li Xuejian
  Zhang Fengyi
  Sun Zhou
  Lu Xiaohe
  Wang Zhiwen

Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast