Adapted from a 13th-century stage play, this historical melodrama seems torn between trying to be a theatrical fable and a flashy action film. When a coup by General Tu’an (Wang Xueqi) leaves all 300 people in the Zhao clan dead, their one surviving heir, an infant, is protected by kindly doctor Cheng Ying (Ge You). But Cheng loses his own son in the process, setting forth a long cycle of vengeance. Director Chen Kaige uses every device in his toolbox — slow motion, non-linear editing, sporadic over-the-top fight scenes, and a laughable amount of fade-to-blacks — to lend some prestige to this story of revenge. Still, the two hours crawl by, hanging on a series of exposition-heavy conference scenes, and it’s hard to stay emotionally invested in a plot so twist-heavy. But there are some wonderful wuxia-style fight scenes spread throughout, and a last duel finally shifts all the plodding backstory into a visual spectacle.