Issue #203a           HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES            March 15th, 2004

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Warriors of Heaven and Earth
(2003; Columbia Pictures Production Asia/Huayi Brothers & Taihe Film Investment Co/Xi'an Film Studio Corp./China Film Co-Production Company)

Cantonese: Tin dei ying hung
Mandarin: Tian di ying xiong
English: Heroes of Heaven and Earth


RATING: 6/10


When he disobeys the orders of The Tang Emperor to eliminate some Turkish civilian prisoners, Lt. Li Zai (Jiang Wen) and a small group of loyal men break rank and disappear. Japanese emissary Lai Xi (TALES OF THE UNUSUAL's Kiichi Nakai) is dispatched to eliminate them on the promise that, once his mission is fulfilled, he may return to his homeland. After ten years of pursuing Li, Lai arrives at the remote town of Frontier Pass, where he is asked to protect young maiden Wen Zhu (Vicky Zhao Wei). Lai's chance to confront "Butcher" Li finally comes but, by mutual agreement, the duel is interrupted so that the latter can fulfil his obligation to protect a convoy transporting a Buddhist monk and some scrolls. Unbeknownst to everyone, the young monk also has a sacred relic in his possession and it is desired by the insane Master An (YELLOW EARTH's Wang Xueqi) and his Turkish cohorts. Li and company have a confederate in Lai, who is determined to see that his quarry survives until they can finish their duel.

Jiang Wen Kiichi Nakai Vicky Zhao Wei

WARRIORS OF HEAVEN AND EARTH (from He Ping, director of RED FIRECRACKER, GREEN FIRECRACKER) gets off to a frustrating start for English speakers, thanks to a series of untranslated intertitles. The premise is soon made clear but the inclusion of the relic introduces a silly fantasy element that the movie would been far better off without; a mundane scroll or treasure would have served the plot just as well (if portions of the film seem to have been inspired by MUSA, the climax is right out of a certain Steven Spielberg movie from the early '80s). Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman contributes a suitably majestic but somewhat offbeat score for a Mainland period epic. However, with the costumes and setting, the film more closely resembles a western/desert epic hybrid, so the music is not really out of place (and there is a brief sequence featuring some dancing maidens). In addition to fine performances by Jiang and Nakai (in the familiar but dependable role of adversaries who develop a mutual respect for one another), the eye-popping locations and superb cinematography by Zhao Fei (RAISE THE RED LANTERN, THE EMPEROR AND THE ASSASSIN) are the main attractions here. There is some wirework but Stephen Tung Wai and Leung Mau-hung's action choreography is, alas, more of the Western style, with tight framing and attention deficit editing creating a confusing mass of clashing swords and tumbling bodies. Those hoping to see Vicky Zhao in another action-oriented role after SO CLOSE will be disappointed to learn that she is just a flower vase, serving as narrator and proxy for the viewer.

Wang Xueqi Wang Deshun Kiichi Nakai


The transfer looks outstanding: razor sharp throughout and beautifully detailed. A few strays speckles are in evidence but you really have to be looking to see them. Most of the time, your eyes will be too dazzled by the vivid colors and spectacular scenery to notice such minor imperfections. The mix gives the proceedings the appropriate degree of epic sweep and the score is well-served. There are no extras, unless you count the six trailers provided for other movies. Sony may give this a limited U.S. theatrical run later in the year, so a region 1 DVD (that hopefully includes the missing intertitle translations) will eventually be available.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Columbia Tristar. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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DVD Specifications

  • Hong Kong Release
  • NTSC -- Region 3 Only
  • Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment #00711MNWS
  • Sync Sound Mandarin Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Thai
  • 28 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (2.40:1)
  • 120 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Hong Kong: IIB
  • Singapore: PG
  • Contains moderate violence and cruelty to animals (horse tripping)


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful