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Review (7.5/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

Zhang Yimou's Hero is an epic movie of sorts, dramatically telling us the story of the quest of the King of the state of Qin (Chen Dao Ming) to unite the seven kingdoms of a wartorn third century B.C. China, under one emperor - himself. Three legendary assasins - Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) - have been attempting to kill the king and he has offered untold riches to any person who can eliminate the three assasins. Along comes Nameless (Jet Li), to collect the prize, as he tells the king his story of how he fought and killed all three villains. His story is told in flashbacks and each battle is shown in great detail with astonishing colours, fight scenes that resemble an artistic ballet more than conventional martial arts battles and settings that are simply breathtaking. With a budget of $30 million U.S., Hero is the most expensive Chinese movie ever made.

Hero is a movie that visually, may not be matched by any other movie this year. Unless, of course, Yimou can outdo himself with House of Flying Daggers, to be shown at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. The colour schemes, the photography, the cinematography, the costumes - the are all second to none. Even the ending of the movie is somewhat astonishing, if not slightly heartbreaking.

Where Hero shows a weakness is in the story-telling and the characters. Yes, each story is unique and compelling at times, but having each story told over and over again - I believe each one was told three, maybe four times, well, let's just say it became repetitive. As for the characters, well, as much as I admired Nameless, I wasn't completely compelled by the motives of the characters in the movie as a whole, but perhaps that is due to the fact the movie spent very little time dealing with this aspect of the story.

In the end, I still would highly recommend Hero, if not for the visual impact alone that this movie will have on you. The scenes with the thousands of arrows flying through the air are almost worth the price of admission - simply unforgettable. But watching the combatants skip across the water, hang in mid-air, fly through the trees or battle in the desert. Well, let's just say that Zhang Yimou has made a movie that falls oh so short of being a masterpiece.


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