When The Emperor send their firstborn Prince Jai (Jay Chou) away for military training and combat experience. Wan now has a new lover in the Imperial Doctor’s daughter Jiang Chan (Li Man).
The Emperor is having his wife poisoned. He’s making her drink a cup of mediated tea. Exactly every hour on the hour for an unknown block of time. He’s diagnosed her as being ill-tempered due to moodiness and snark.
They have another son. Prince Yu (Qin Junjie) is treated like he doesn’t exist. He retaliates by spying on his family. He’s valuable only if something happens to his older brothers.
But The Emperor’s first wife isn’t dead. The Siam Princess turned Ninja assassin Jiang Shi (Chen Jin) is very much alive. The Empress knows she’s poisoned. She offered a reward to anyone who told her the secret ingredient. That is slowly driving her insane. Jiang Shi provided that info.
Crown Prince Wan’s guilt makes him nominate Jai for the throne. The Empress drafts Jai into her military coup. He agrees only after learning about the poison. She wants her husband to live in exile. Jai is to become the new Emperor.
The Emperor knew about the affair and coup. His army slaughters the opposing army. Then the royal family is brought together for a celebration. Jiang Shi crashes to reveal her true identity and a devastating secret.
Crown Prince Wan’s lover Jiang Chan is her daughter. That’s right he’s been doing his sister. There’s more but don’t want this to turn into a remake of ‘Scanners’.
The good: More backstabbing than the Ides of March. Another outstanding performance by the always awesome Gong Li. A return to form for Chow Yun Fat in a meaty dramatic role. Please do more epic period films.
Powerful acting from Liu Ye and Jay Chou. Your characters were in heartbreaking situations. Both roles garnered sympathy. Spotlight on Qin Junjie (Prince Yu). Felt sorry for Yu until he turned out to be a slimy little blackmailing weasel. Great job!
Another spotlight on Chen Jin (Jiang Shi). Felt your character’s rage. Your first husband marries only so he can ascend the ranks. He becomes Emperor then has you and your entire family imprisoned. Where they all later died. Plus he told your son you died in childbirth. Awesome job!
The bad: Rendered speechless by the mind blowing third act.
The ugly: It didn’t win an Oscar for 2006’s Best Foreign Film.
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