China Insight Series: Chinese Movies 2-3

The Insight Series from 2014 continues into 2015! This series introduces excellent Chinese movies and encourages movie appreciation with focused themes.

Our series consists of four themes: Chinese History, Chinese Kung Fu, Chinese Cartoons, and China Today. For each theme, three movies will be introduced.

For the first theme, Chinese History, we will introduce: The Founding of A Republic, City of Life and Death, and Red Cliff.

For the second theme, Chinese Kung Fu, we will introduce: The Grandmaster, Hero, and Reign of Assassins.

Reign of Assassins

Reign of Assassins is a 2010 Kung Fu movie directed by Su Chao-pin and co-directed by John Woo. The movie is shot in China and set during the Ming Dynasty. The film stars Michelle Yeoh, who plays an assassin who tries to return to a normal life after being counselled by a monk. After saving her husband and herself from robbers, she attracts the attention of her former assassin gang, the Dark Stone gang.

A narration tells a legendary Indian Buddhist monk, Bodhi and the belief that his mummified remains have mystical powers. The Dark Stone gang, having found that half of the remains are in the Prime Minister Zhang's hands, sends assassins to kill him and his son Ren feng. Dark Stone's top assassin Drizzle steals the remains and flees. She encounters the monk Wisdom after dispatching a pursuing Ren feng at the top of a bridge. Wisdom is revealed to be an accomplished martial artist who demonstrates to Drizzle that her swordsmanship has four fatal flaws. Warning that she can be killed by a master, he attempts to persuade her to turn a new leaf and leave the life of an assassin. The three months of their association ends with him dying by her hands, a final demonstration intended to enlighten her.

After Wisdom's death, Drizzle is burdened with sorrow and guilt and decides to leave her old way of life. She goes to a famous surgeon who changes her appearance and she assumes the identity of Zeng Jing, a common cloth merchant. She attracts the attention of the messenger Ah-sheng whom she eventually marries. The Dark Stone gang's leader, Wheel King, recruits and trains a new assassin, Turquoise, a merciless girl who murdered her fiancé and in-laws on her wedding night.

The Dark Stone are still in pursuit of Drizzle and the mummified remains, and one of their top members (Fatty Chen) is mysteriously assassinated.

Later, Zeng Jing and Ah-sheng are in the bank when robbers enter. As the gang draws their swords, Zeng Jing defeats them and saves both her and her husband's lives. This act reveals her whereabouts to Dark Stone. The Wheel King summons three assassins in his gang - Lei Bin, the Magician, and Turquoise - to hunt Drizzle down. They locate Drizzle despite her changed appearance. However, Drizzle (now as Zeng) states that she just wants to live a normal life, and the Wheel King promises her freedom for Ah-sheng and herself in exchange for the half of the remains she took and help in collecting the other half. After Dark Stone secure the remains, Drizzle hands over the half she took before. The gang refuses to release her, and despite infighting that kills the Magician, she comes home wounded and collapses before Ah-sheng. Lei Bin and Turquoise follow her but are stopped by Ah-sheng, who surprises them by producing a pair of Cen-Ci swords. Lei Bin recognizes them as Ren feng's weapons. The two assassins are defeated and Ah-sheng takes Drizzle to the surgeon, who treats Drizzle's wounds and tells Ren feng that everything is pre-destined. Flashbacks reveal that Ah-sheng's true identity is Ren feng, who did not die from Drizzle's sword because he has situs inversus. He has also changed his appearance so that he can avenge his father's death. Drizzle finds out the truth and asks Ren feng if he has ever loved her. An emotional Ren feng tells her that is impossible because of what she and Dark Stone have done to his family, but he cannot bring himself to kill her and tells her to leave.

The Wheel King, having obtained the remains, attempts to use the power to restore his bodily "defect": he was castrated as a boy and uses the cover of being a low ranking eunuch to hide his criminal activities. Turquoise discovers this as she seduces him, and mocks him in anger and disappointment. The Wheel King is infuriated and buries her alive under a bridge. He sees the fireworks signal released by Drizzle, who has decided to engage him in a final battle. The Wheel King comes to a graveyard and finds Renfeng dead. Drizzle then battles him and wounds him fatally, using what Wisdom had taught her. Renfeng revives the next morning, since he was just given a tortoise powder by Drizzle in order to appear lifeless so he could witness Drizzle avenge his family with her life. He approaches her body to touch her and finds her still alive. Renfeng is overcome with joy and carries her in his arms. Drizzle whispers to him "After we get home, draw up the divorce papers." Renfeng laughs and tells her they have a long life ahead.

Main Characters

  • Zeng Jing / Drizzle: Dark Stone's top assassin. She steals the remains and flees from the Dark Stone Gang. Burdened with sorrow and guilt, Drizzle decides to leave her old way of life. She goes to a famous surgeon who changes her appearance and she assumes the identity of Zeng Jing, a common cloth merchant.
  • Jiang Ah-sheng/ Zhang Renfeng: The Prime Minister Zhang's son, who did not die from Drizzle's sword because he has situs inversus. He has also changed his appearance so that he can avenge his father's death.
  • Wheel King / Cao Feng: The Dark Stone gang's leader, having obtained the remains of the legendary Indian Buddhist monk, attempts to use the power to restore his bodily "defect": he was castrated as a boy and uses the cover of being a low ranking eunuch to hide his criminal activities.
  • Turquoise Leaf / Ye Zhanqing: A merciless girl who murdered her fiancé and in-laws on her wedding night. The Dark Stone gang's leader, Wheel King, recruits and trains her into a new assassin in order to replace Drizzle.

Find an expert

Search our experts database.