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Hong Kong/China 2002
produced by
Zhang Yimou, William Kong, Dou Shoufang (executive), Zhang Weiping (executive) for Elite Group, Beijing New Picture Film Corp.
directed by Zhang Yimou
starring Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung, Zhang Ziyi, Chen Daoming, Donnie Yen, Yuan Liu Zhong, Yong Zheng Tia, Qin Yan, Yang Chang Xiao
written by Li Feng, Wang Bin, Zhang Yimou, music by Tan Dun, action choreographed by Ching Siu-Tung, Tung Wei

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Swordsman Nameless (Jet Li) brings the King of Qin (Chen Daoming) the swords of 3 assassins who tried to kill him 10 years ago, to prove that he, Nameless has killed them now. As a reward, the king lets Nameless sit 10 paces from him - normally he accepts noone nearer than 100 paces - & tell him the story of how he killed them.

The first one was Sky (Donnie Yen), whom Nameless killed with one single stroke, after they had a lengthy battle fought exclusively in their minds.

Then he visits the other 2 assassins, lovers Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) & Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) at their calligraphy school, & helps them defend the school against the Qin troops who try to bring the school down with a rain of arrows ...

Later though, he reveals to them that he has killed Sky, & that Sky, who had once an affair with Flying Snow, has hoped she would avenge him. Furious that hte affair has been brought up again, Broken Sword beds his own student Moon (Zhang Ziyi) in a way that Falling Snow can see it ... & before long, she murders him in a fit of rage, only to immediately regret it ...

The next day, she is challenged to a duel by heartbroken Moon & has to kill her as well before she can fight Nameless. But since she is greatly irritated by previous events, it's an easy task for him to kill her ...

A good story, but the king doesn't believe it. He believes that Nameless himself is an assassin & that he had plotted with the others only to get near enough to the king to assassinate him: Sky has freely agreed to be defeated & killed in a duel by Nameless for the good cause, & then Nameless has asked for a duel with either Broken Sword or Falling Snow to get him near enough (one of them is enough to get him near enough to the king). & Falling Snow, not wanting her lover to be killed, has wounded him so he can't fight in a duel & she has to take the fall for the good cause. Broken Sword has subsequently only given him the sword only because he doesn't want his & Falling Snow's sword to be seperated ...

Nameless admits that the king's story is more accurate than his ... but not quite right. Actually, Nameless has kileld nobody but knows a stroke to make his opponent seem dead ... which he first applied on Sky, but when he came to Broken Sword & Flying Snow for assistance, he refuses to help, claiming he would let nobody kill the king ... after which Flying Snow fights & wounds him. The next day she & Nameless put on a show for the Qin soldiers in which she is killed (or so it seems, of course her death was just a fake), & Nameless gets her sword. When leaving for the king's palace, he meets up with Broken Sword again, who gives him his own sword (as I noted, he doesn't want the swords to be seperated) & can't keep him from killing the king due to his injury ... but he explains his motives: He hates the King of Qin as much as the next man, & he has reason to want revege, but at the same time, the King of Qin is a man who can grant relative peace, & his death would solve nothing ...

Having heard that, the King is moved that Broken Sword, one of his fiercest enemies, is the man who understands him the best. He gives Nameless his sword & allows him to kill him ...  but only after he has thought Broken Sword's words over ... & in the end, Nameless just can't kill the king for the cause of peace (but is himself killed a short time later by the king's guards for attempted assassination).

Meanwhile Flying Snow learns that Nameless has not killed the king, & it's all Broken Sword's fault, so she challenges him to a duel ... but he lets her kill him rather than fight back ... & ultimately, she kills herself too with the very sword she has killed him, to be together with him in the next life ...

Hero is a real feast for the eyes, there's no image that is less than perfect, & the many action scenes are both inventive & superbly staghed ... yet the film is not all that good: The plot is much too constructed to really get the viewer involved & is actually drowned in monumental images, & the characters stay too lifeless to really care about them. So the end result is a martial arts flick with great pictures & great fights, but the film, despite the best efforts, just doesn't go beyond that.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD