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The latest action epic from Hong Kong new wave director Tsui Hark (Once Upon a Time in China) is a fact-based historical drama set in 689 AD, a period when "all hell was about to break loose," according to the dense narration that opens the film. Underscoring this point, several officials working under the command of soon-to-be-Empress Wu Zetian (Carina Lau) burst into flame. Between the spontaneous combustion and the tattooed talking deer, it's safe to say Tsui plays as fast and loose with historical fact as stunt director and frequent collaborator Sammo Hung does with the movie's exhilarating action sequences, which feature the usual wire work and set-extending CG trickery. Recognizing the threat to her throne, Wu springs exiled detective Dee Renjie (Andy Lau), enlisting him as Chief Judge to the Empire. Translated into English, that means he's an ass-kicking Sherlock Holmes, aided by Li Bing Bing as a sexy, whip-wielding Watson.

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