Before the emperors ruled before the Great Wall was built China was a land divided. Fractured into seven kingdoms, the people were constantly at war. Bloodshed and terror rained down upon the masses as each realm vied for power.
Obsessed with his wish to quell the conflicts and bring the others under his control, the King of Qin (Daoming Chen) sends his heavily armed forces marching down from the northern province. But the efforts of the dominant sovereign soon spark rebellion among the inhabitants of the small villages who are on the receiving end of the soldiers' sharp arrows and spears. Among the oppressed are three assassins who vow to kill the king.
Afraid for his life, Qin keeps a constant vigil in the castle. Suspicious of all, he allows no one to come near him. Then one day a highly revered warrior comes to the king's court.
Known only as Nameless (Jet Li), the once-abandoned orphan is now a mighty combatant. For ten years he has meticulously studied the secrets of the sword and vowed to defend the ruler.
Kneeling before the monarch, the honored guest initially assures the king his life is safe. Invited to come closer, he humbly describes how he single-handedly destroyed Qin's three most feared assailants, Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Sky (Donnie Yen) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung).
But the cautious ruler believes there is another side to the tale.
Using flashbacks and rich injections of color, the subtitled story unfolds with visually stunning effects; replaying again and again the sword fights between Nameless and the skilled enemies of the king. In the same vein as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the battles aren't confined to mere human abilities. Flying high above the trees, skipping nimbly across a lake and hanging spider-like from a wall, these rivals are able to fight from just about every conceivable position with deadly accuracy and intensity.
While the battles in this movie are virtually bloodless, the lifeless bodies left in the wake of these fierce opponents are almost innumerable. Later, a suicide and murder motivated by passion are depicted when a lovers' quarrel goes awry. The film also includes an unnecessary but brief, brutal and spiteful sexual encounter between a man and a young woman, which is unsettling even after we understand the rest of the story.
Unlike many reenactments of historically based events, this script doesn't settle for easily classified characters, where one is either totally good or irredeemably evil. These men and women are multifaceted their reasons for warring complex their definition of a hero varied. That makes Hero a poor choice for a casual date movie, as it demands your complete attention to capture the subtle details.
For parents and older teens, our B- grade reflects concerns over the noted sexual content. In every other way, this is a film of the highest caliber with the capacity to initiate serious discussion regarding the expense of war and the price that's paid for peace. Leveraged with unforgettable imagery, Hero may be an eye-opening experience for older teens and their parents.