This epic by Red Firecracker, Green Firecracker director He Ping follows a caravan mission through the Gobi Desert after a Tang Dynasty emperor dispatches a Japanese emissary to murder a revered Chinese lieutenant for not wanting to kill innocent Turks. The Chinese imperial agent, Sir Lai Xi (Jiang Wen), gangs up with his adversary, Lai Oi (Nakai Kichi), and together they help the rag-tag caravan negotiate both the slings and arrows of outrageous bandits and Mother Nature’s CGI wrath. This period fantasy suggests a hybrid of The Seventh Samurai and Braveheart, but it’s neither as richly characterized as Kurosawa’s über western or as blood-thirstingly bonkers as Gibson’s Medieval homoerotica. Despite the breathtaking locales, Warriors of Heaven and Earth is impossibly cheesy—backstory is explained via breathy voiceover, the tedious sword fighting is strictly of the ooga-booga variety, and the bad guys are readily identifiable by how slowly they twirl their moustaches and clap their hands. History in Zhang Yimou’s pre-Christian Hero is encoded in its giddy, color-coded showdowns. But the straightforward Warriors of Heaven and Earth is an all-around bore, failing both as history lesson and performance art. Though the film means to celebrate an era of Buddhist reinvigoration in Mother China, what is the film’s Buddhist idol but a lazy Macguffin used to excuse a last-act contrivance of soulless CGI brouhaha?
- Sony Pictures Classics
- 114 min
- He Ping
- He Ping
- Jiang Wen, Nakai Kichi, Wang Xueqi, Zhao Vicki, Harrison Liu, Hasi Bagen, Wang, Deshun, Yang Haiquan, Mahepushen Yeerjiang, Zhao Wei, Zhou Yun
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: