Battle of the Warriors- -
In 370 B.C, China was separated as seven nations and several other small tribes, one of these being the city state of Liang. The nation of Zhao is led by the terrifying Xiang Yangzhong who orders his troops to conquer the small city. Leaping to the defense of the people of Liang is 'Ge Li' from the Mo-Tsu tribe, their last hope from the terrors of Yangzhong's troops.
The big-budget period-epic genre takes a turn toward grand strategy games in Jacob Cheung’s A Battle of Wits.
Based on the Japanese manga Bokkou and backed by producers from Hong Kong, China, Korea and Japan, the movie brings together a pan-Asian cast for the saga of a city’s wartime crisis.
Set in 370 B.C. in the middle of China’s turbulent Warring States period, A Battle of Wits commences as the troops of the Zhao army bear down on the remote fortified kingdom of Liang. The walled town is just a stop on the way to the Yan Nation that the Zhao troops plan to invade, but Liang locals aren’t ready to give in without a fight. A Mozi military strategist has been called for and, just as the Zhao troops are readying their attack, Ge Li (Andy Lau) strolls up to the Liang ramparts. An adherent of the Mozi school of thought that promotes universal love and pushes advanced military-defense techniques, the new arrival promptly applies his skills to repel the enemy forces.
Celebrations in Liang don’t last long, however, and the Zhao troops are rallied under leader Xiang Yanzhong (Ahn Sung-ki), who vows to take over Liang. As the invaders set about a siege, the hugely outnumbered Liang soldiers follow Ge Li’s Mozi strategies, preparing for a standoff and trying to anticipate every move their rivals may make. But not everyone is so keen on the new helper, and Ge Li’s heroic presence and fast rise to command stirs up wariness from highest level.
A Battle of Wits marks a major change of pace for director Cheung, having realized his long-gestating project (he secured the rights to the new film’s material in 1997) after a history of making small contemporary dramas like Cageman and The Kid. Set largely in desert locations and kept to earthen colours and rough edges, A Battle of Wits largely relies on a plot of power plays, countermoves and characters to win over viewers, rather provide the lavish pageantry more common in its genre. While there’s no shortage of players in the bold battle scenes, reliance on other effects is largely pushed to the back seat as the key personalities are developed.
The multinational cast brings authoritative performances in the leads, from Andy Lau’s planner’s role to Korean Ahn Sung-ki’s military leader to mainland actor Wang Zhiwen’s bothered Liang King. Fan Bingbing is a rare female face in the central parts, her cavalry officer inevitably distracting Ge Li from his principled ways. As Cheung’s human drama plays out and battle tensions rise, the central Mozi figure sets about pitching peacemaking ideals to the people of Liang, a worthy message building in strength to transcend A Battle of Wits’ already ambitious approach to its genre.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival