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Hero (Chinese: 英雄; Pinyin: Yīng Xióng) is a Chinese martial arts/drama film, directed by Zhang Yimou and starring Jet Li. more...

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Hero is a film of the wuxia genre, directed by Zhang Yimou, whose Raise the Red Lantern was nominated for an Academy Award. It stars Jet Li as the nameless protagonist, loosely based on the legendary Jing Ke. A group of assassins, played by Maggie Cheung (Flying Snow), Tony Leung Chiu Wai (Broken Sword) and Donnie Yen (Long Sky), have sworn to kill the King of Qin (Chen Daoming), and No-Name comes to the royal capital to claim the reward offered for their defeat. His conversation with the King of Qin, and the flashbacks depicted therein, form the bulk of the movie. Zhang Ziyi played a minor role as Moon, Broken Sword's apprentice. The closing-credits music was sung by Faye Wong.

Hero was first released in China on October 24, 2002; it was both the most expensive and the highest-grossing motion picture in Chinese cinema history. Miramax owned the American-market distribution rights, but did not release the film to theatres until August 27, 2004, mostly at the behest of Quentin Tarantino; for this reason, his name was attached to the credits as the film's "presenter." Tarantino's instincts were accurate: Hero topped the American box office for two weeks and eventually set a record as the highest-grossing opening-weekend foreign language film in the United States. The U.S. DVD, with Mandarin, English, and French soundtracks, was released on November 30, 2004.


The film is set during the Warring States Period, shortly before the unification of China (circa 225 BC). It tells the story of assassination attempts on the king of Qin by legendary warriors who seek revenge for his subjugation of their nation. The king justifies his actions as necessary for the unification of China, pointing to the convoluted Chinese written language as illustration. In the text at the end of the film, the king is identified as Ying Zheng, who in 221 BC did indeed unite China under his command and become its first emperor and dynast, Qin Shi Huang (lived 259-210 BC; reigned 246–210 BC); among many accomplishments, he unified smaller structures into the Great Wall of China, standardized a system of weights and measures, and invented a singular writing system that is still used today.

The film was Zhang's first attempt at this genre, and it uses a highly unusual structure. Conflicting versions of the events are recounted by different characters, in a structure reminiscent of Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950). Each section uses a different color scheme depending on the narrator's point of view, similar to how different color schemes are adopted in different rooms in Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover; Zhang's films often feature rigorous color schemes.


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