Zhang Yimou (Hero
) certainly understands how to wield the visual sensuality and rapture of color. His latest eye-dazzling martial-arts extravaganza is intoxicating and vibrant but more concerned with plumage and ballets of violence than Zhang’s usual mix of people, politics and philosophy. The story is set in 859 A.D. in China. The government is corrupt, and a band of rebels called the Flying Daggers is spreading unrest in the land. Two deputies are assigned to assassinate the leader of the Daggers, as the film takes a near-orgasmic focus on visual beauty that softens the human elements here, with women playing key roles within the seamless intermingling of melodrama and operatic action.