This pinwheeling period-fantasy action film is all over the map--in its plotting, for starters, but also in its action sequences, staged by A Chinese Ghost Story's Ching Siu-tung, which are so frenetic that we can barely keep track of who's skewering whom. Based on a serialized swordplay novel by leading Chinese pulp writer Gu Long, the endless twists and turns in the conflict between two rival clans of quasi-magical warriors are all but impossible to follow. The result of this multilayered confusion is a less than completely involving cinematic experience, although the dashing Michelle Yeoh ( Tomorrow Never Dies) and soulful Tony Leung Chiu-wai ( Hard Boiled) are an unusually classy pair of comrades in arms. Newcomers interested in the distinctive Hong Kong subgenre known as wu hsia pian ("martial chivalry films") should consider beginning their researches elsewhere, with either Raymond Lee's Dragon Inn or Ronny Yu's The Bride with White Hair. --David Chute
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