out of Five
Running time: 114
Beautifully designed, visually stunning epic with impressive battle sequences, although the soap-tastic plot takes a while to really get going.
What's it all about?
Directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), Curse of the Golden Flower is set in the year 928 and stars Gong Li as the Chinese Empress, who discovers that her husband, the Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) is slowly poisoning her, which may or may not be a result of her affair with her own step-son, Crown Prince Wan (Liu Ye). However, Wan plans to run away with Chan (Li Man), the daughter of the Imperial Doctor (Ni Dahong).
The Empress concocts a revenge plot that revolves around the Emperor's favourite son Prince Jai (Jay Chou), but she has underestimated the bitter jealousy of her younger son, Yu (Qin Junjie) and when the Emperor returns, the stage is set for a series of increasingly bonkers revelations and a showdown of epic proportions.
The film is gorgeously designed and visually stunning to look at, awash with rich reds and glowing golds. In addition, Gong Li is as wonderful as always as the scheming Empress and there's strong support from Chow Yun-Fat and from Jay Chou as the understandably conflicted Prince Jai.
The individual fight scenes aren't as central to the plot as they were in Hero and Flying Daggers, but they're no less enjoyable for that, even if they're not quite as exciting. However, Zhang pulls out all the stops for a stunning climactic battle sequence that wouldn't look out of place in The Lord of the Rings.
The only problem is that the plot takes a while to really get going and the action drags considerably before the various soap-opera-style twists and revelations kick things off in the second half.
Curse of the Golden Flower is not quite on the level of Zhang's previous films and it takes a while to get going but this is definitely worth seeing for its stunning second half.
Curse Of The Golden Flower (15)