Mar 27, 2008|
Never has the triumph of love over war seemed so wrong. Tony Ching Siu-tung’s “An Empress and the Warriors” is a schizophrenic mix of over-the-top action and over-the-top romance. It’s the latter aspect that’s hard to stomach. It’s also the one that congeals in your mouth long after the credits roll.
The action takes place during the Warring States period, when the emperor of the Yan kingdom is murdered by his nephew. A general played by Donnnie Yen is set to succeed him, but in a bid to avoid the enmity of his peers nominates the king’s daughter (Kelly Chen) instead. Naturally, it only stirs up more enmity and ill will, and a dirty battle for power ensues while the kingdom faces its own outside battles with its neighbors. Somewhere in the midst of all this, the would-be empress finds herself subject to a murder attempt in the forest and rescued by an outcast tree-dweller (Leon Lai), who promptly wins her over with his values of peace, love of nature and a maudlin Mandopop soundtrack.
To be fair, the film does have some saving graces. The costume and set designs make for fabulous eye candy, while the action scenes are brilliantly and brutally executed. Murder machine Donnie Yen isn’t wasted, pulling spears out of his chest as he mows down an entire army in a graphic scene that might make the less-inured viewers wince. Yet the rest of the film promises to make everyone wince twice as much with its cloying cuddliness and vulgar sentimentalism, and it’s this that trips the film flat on its armored face.