Nameless (Jet Li) is on a mission. Ten years ago he learned he’s Zhao. His family was wiped out when he was a child. He wandered into Qin and was adopted. Once he knew the truth he swore vengeance. He trained obsessively to perfect the skill “Death within 10 paces”.
Nameless can deliver a death blow with 100% surgical accuracy. He means to kill the King of Qin (Chen Daoming). His armies crush the opposition. They bring nations under his banner to expand his control of the vast continent. Uniting China is just the warm up. He plans on conquering the world.
Since the assassination attempt the King won’t allow anyone within 100 paces. But if someone killed Long Sky (Donnie Yen), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) and Broken Sword (Tony Leung) they will be allowed to get close. Moon (Zhang Ziyi) is Broken Sword’s apprentice.
Nameless presents the King with evidence. He’s brought before him to tell his tale. Each color scheme represents a different time.
Red: A lie explaining why Flying Snow and Broken Sword are estranged. Nameless killed Flying Snow’s ex-lover Long Sky. Broken Sword slept with Moon to make her jealous.
Yellow: Moon’s fake battle with Flying Snow. Moon tries to avenge the death of Broken Sword. But Flying Sword considers her a waste of time. Until Moon cuts off a piece of her hair. Then it’s game on.
Blue: Fake story of how Nameless impressed Flying Snow, Broken Sword and Moon with his martial arts.
White: Nameless didn’t count on the King having insight into Broken Sword and Flying Snow. He figures out everything Nameless said before was a lie. Long Sky had to be a friend of his. Broken Sword and Flying Snow would need more than talk. A martial arts exhibition to prove his cause is worthy.
Green: Broken Sword tells what happened three years ago. He and Flying Snow were forces of nature. They cut down soldiers like wheat. Flying Snow kept the soldiers busy outside. He went in to take care of business. Broken Sword and the King were evenly matched. Broken Sword could’ve killed him yet he didn’t. This is the reason why he and Flying Snow fell out.
The good: How swift thy sword. Kaleidoscope of colorful imagery. The awe inspiring Forbidden City. The costumes, props, other sets, location shoots and fight choreography.
The bad: Everyone considers the King a tyrant. Why does he want to rewrite history? Create one written language and standardize the alphabet throughout his kingdom?
The ugly: The movie could’ve been longer. Any chance of a prequel? If so, more Donnie Yen and Chen Daoming. Miramax delaying the release for two years.
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