International action legend Jet Li stars in this gripping martial arts epic set three years after the infamous Dragon Inn was left in ruins. A new gang has taken over the wayward place, using it as their base for uncovering a nearby treasure. But secrets lie within its walls, as a pregnant palace concubine and a swordswoman take refuge from a determined royal eunuch tracking their every move. As an explosive mix of warriors, fugitives and assassins converge in the desert for a deadly showdown, only one man can protect the women, the mysterious Zhao (Li). Filled with spectacular special effects and stunning battle sequences, this martial arts masterpiece delivers knock-out action that has to be seen to be believed.
Director Tsui Hark's second remake of the venerable King Hu martial arts film Dragon Inn
(1967) features remarkable 3-D visuals and some exceptional set pieces that do much to counteract its often convoluted storyline. Though Jet Li is top-billed in the historical drama, set in Ming-dynasty China, the action superstar is actually off-screen for the majority of the picture, save for a jaw-dropping opening battle (which also briefly features the legendary Gordon Liu of 36th Chamber of Shaolin
and Kill Bill
fame) and the conclusion. Most of the film focuses on a dizzying array of personalities who converge on the remote Dragon Inn, including swordswoman Ling (Zhou Xun), who is mistaken for Li; fugitive Su (Mavis Fan), who carries the emperor's illegitimate child; and Wind Blade (Chen Kun), who bears a striking resemblance to the assassin (also played by Kun) hired to dispatch Su. Add to the mix a hidden cache of gold, a horde of fortune hunters, and an impending sandstorm that threatens to wipe out the inn, and viewers may require a scorecard (or a slide rule) to keep track of the characters and their allegiances. Longtime martial arts fans, especially of the '80s and '90s variety on which Hark cut his filmmaking teeth, will find the labyrinthine plotting a comforting throwback to the Hong Kong action heyday, a notion also borne out by the vast array of elaborate fight sequences, which bring together modern CGI with old-fashioned wire work in a 3-D format that often takes the fullest advantage of the process's visual capabilities. A slew of behind-the-scenes featurettes offer interviews with cast and crew and staging of action scenes, which occasionally suffer audio issues due to the inclement weather at the desert locations. --Paul Gaita