Jet Li is General Pang, a complex man, who survives on the battlefield by playing dead amongst his massacred company. He makes his way to a village, where he meets a girl whose love and compassion restore him to life.
Determined to regroup his army, he joins forces with a group of bandits led by Er Hu (Andy Lau). and Wen Ziang (Takeshi Kanesiro). The three become sworn blood brothers, but Pang learns that the girl who saved him is Er Hu’s wife.
Andy Lau as Er Hu, from bandit to Warlord
With his new army, Pang grows ever more ambitious, and ruthless. The actions he takes causes a rift with Er Hu – Pang is driven by karma, often taking ruthless action to ensure the greater good. Er Hu is driven by honor and compassion. When he promises life, and Pang brings death, he is unable to come to terms with Pang’s vision of a better world for all, and the sacrifices he believes are necessary to achieve it. Caught between the two, Wen Xiang becomes more and more disillusioned until he is finally forced to confront his own karma.
Takeshi Kaneshiro as Wen Xiang
Was Pang (or Ma Xinyi, on whom the character is based) a visionary, a good man, or a ruthless power-hungry despot? Jet Li draws a complex portrait of a remarkable man and he is ably supported by two fine actors. Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau were impressive in The House of Flying Daggers, and are completely at ease with each other – and the powerful presence of Li – in this.
Jing Lei Xu as Lian
Jing Lei Xu, as Lian, the woman loved by Er Hu and Pang, is the catalyst that strains the blood oath to breaking point, setting Wen Xiang on his personal path to perdition. This is a deeply absorbing movie, gorgeous to behold, with the faces of the three leads telling their own stories, especially Li and Lau, whose decades of life experience infuse every moment on screen. They are men, who have so much to bring to the screen it can barely contain them.