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The emperor and the assassin (Jing ke ci qin wang)

Threat advisory: Guarded - General risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Set in the 3rd century BCE, The emperor and the assassin tells the story of Ying Zheng (Xuejian Li), a power-hungry heir to the throne of the kingdom of Qin, whose only goal is to conquer the other six kingdoms existing in China and merge them into his own, and under his rule.

In preparation for the second of his six assaults, Ying gains the help of his concubine Zhao (Gong Li), who travels to the kingdom of Han as a spy, in order to make the king believe that she has fallen out of favour with Ying. Once in Han, and together with the king, Zhao will find an assassin, who will be sent to kill Ying, but Ying will be prepared for the assassin's onslaught, and in defending himself, will be considered unstoppable.

While walking through the marketplace in the kingdom of Han, Zhao discovers Jing Ke (Fengyi Zhang). Struck by his subtle demeanour and able swordsmanship, Zhao approaches Jing Ke about becoming the assassin for whom she has been looking and begins a campaign to convince him to kill Ying, using all her powers of persuasion. It is through her dealings with this modest man, that she finds herself falling deeply in love...

Theatrical propaganda posters

The emperor and the assassin (Jing ke ci qin wang) image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film China history empire Qin emperor assassin war kingdom Han

Persons of interest

  • Gong Li .... Zhao
  • Xuejian Li .... Ying Zheng
  • Fengyi Zhang .... Jing Ke
  • Zhiwen Wang .... Marquis Changxin
  • Kaige Chen .... Prime Minister Lu Buwei
  • Xiaohe Lu .... General Fan Yuqi
  • Haifeng Ding .... Qin Wuyang
  • Benshan Zhao .... Gao Jianli
  • Changjiang Pan .... The Prison Official
  • Xun Zhou .... The Blind Girl
  • Peigong Wang .... Screenwriter
  • Kaige Chen .... Screenwriter
  • Kaige Chen .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

A whole lot, but you get that with a film which runs for 154 minutes.

If you're a Sinophile and you want to see some 2000-year-old proto-Chinese culture through the eyes of a contemporary Chinese filmmaker then this is a film you'd enjoy. If you're after an artistic tale of love and betrayal told against a burning landscape of ambition and war - with subtitles - then this is a film you'd enjoy.

If you hate those long, abstruse art films that waffle on about nothing the whole time, then this is a film you'd hate.

Is that clear? Good. I wouldn't want to think I'd ever confused you, dear readers; it's my job to make things clearer for you after all.

Back to The emperor and the assassin: there are parts of it that are pure epic: 500,000 warriors besieging an ancient city, troops imperial guards murdering a horde of assassins in the imperial palace, emperors, concubines, princes, war. Cool. Unfortunately it's wrapped up in a Chinese theatrical sensibility which doesn't sit well in the Western mind. Those of you with delusions of realistic performances in the arts (Neighbours anyone?) will have no idea how to handle the grandiosisms of this foreign form; the film is made without pandering to the six-minute attention span of you round-eyed devils.

The performances are pretty damned intense if you can get your head around the alternate Styles, the cinematography is awesome and the settings astounding. It is an Eastern film made on a Western budget and you can see every dollar on the screen: a visual symphony of form and colour, if you will. But it does go on for a long while. It's hard to watch this kind of film when there is so little reward at the end. Remember that this is a docudrama and that everyone knows that China exists, so the dramatic conclusion (Qin creates an empire) cannot be a surprise. You foreign devils need more and more spice in your entertainment to overcome your debauched and jaded palettes.

In summation, then, if you are a hard-core art film junkie who thought that The kingdom was pure heaven then The emperor and the assassin is for you - if you are anything else, give it a miss.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Surround
  • Languages: English, Mandarin
  • Picture: Widescreen 1.85:1/16:9 enhanced
  • Special features:
    • Biographies: Talent profiles
    • Commentary: Kaige Chen
    • Trailers: Theatrical
  • Subtitles: English

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level violence, adult themes)

Surveillance time

154 minutes (2:34 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

VHS rental: 11 April 2001
DVD rental: 26 February 2003
VHS rental: 26 February 2003

Cinema surveillance images

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