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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
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
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.