THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN directed by Chen Kaige



Film / Video Reviews
THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN directed by Chen Kaige
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Jun 13, 2000, 07:04

THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN directed by Chen Kaige; Sony Pictures Classics

The plot of The Emperor and the Assassin is based on a historical figure, Ying Zheng, the king of Chin who first united China into an empire around 221 B.C. Gong Li plays his lover who takes part in a plot to arrange an assassination attempt on the king that will be used to justify an invasion of a nearby kingdom. She sets off to hire an assassin and eventually falls in love with the guy (who, true to cinematic form has renounced killing-for-hire in favor of spiritual contemplation when she meets him) and decides to kill the increasingly megalomaniacal Ying. The film plays out on the grandest of scales utilizing huge battle scenes and impressive palaces. It deals realistically with the historical growth of empire and the merciless drive to consolidation of power that took place in China around the same time Rome was creating an empire around the Mediterranean and for this reason the film is a nice counterpart to Gladiator. And while virtue and goodness are always upheld, the imperial motive of centralized power and the order it brings aren't shortchanged. In that sense, this is a really Chinese movie, acknowledging the creation of the Middle Kingdom and the central place the hierarchical state structure has played in the culture.

-Bruce Adams


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