Yimou Zhang's stunning all-action film is set during the time of China's warring states, before the country was unified. To the court of the King of Qin (Chen Dao Ming), who seeks to rule the united country, comes Nameless (Jet Li), who claims to have killed three deadly assassins (Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung and Donnie Yen) who were all determined to kill the King. As Nameless recounts his exploits in flashback, each time the wily King responds with his version. Is Nameless a true servant of Qin or does he have a secret agenda?
Released in 2002, the film is more expensive than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the money can all be seen on screen, including a breath-taking duel on water as the protagonists dance across the lake, and another in an autumnal forest where the whirling orange leaves are as much a weapon as the sword.
Coupled with stunning wire-work, it would be easy to dismiss the film as all-action but Zhang tells his subtle multi-layered story through the use of colour, which becomes the distinctive motif for each scene, and the cast is a who's who of Chinese film. And as Nameless tell his version of his exploits, the King, wise in the ways of duplicity, offers an alternative version of the truth in a gripping, Rashomon-like story that intrigues to the last reel.