Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Gong Li, Jay Chou, Liu Ye, Chen Jin
928: Tang Dynasty China. The emperor returns with his hotheaded second son from fighting at the frontiers to a palace fraught with intrigue. The empress has been carrying on with her stepson and is being slowly poisoned by the imperial physician on the orders of the emperor. The emperor's first son, meanwhile, has himself been seeing the physician's daughter, with potentially disastrous results. The third son simmers resentfully in the background.
A visual feast, though an overripe one for some tastes, the palace a positive slew of colours bordering on punk, this Shakespearean concoction scores highly in the acting stakes. The major weakness is that in his desire/commercial need to go one further than Hero and Flying Daggers, Yimou has left himself with an uneasy mix of the Ninja wirework and formalist battle effects of these films together with the up-close-and-personal realism of the chamber piece it dearly needs to be - kind of I, Claudius meets Gladiator.