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STUDIO: Weinstein Company
MSRP: $19.97
RATED:  Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 99 Minutes

The Pitch

After the death of her “father”, a lady becomes Empress. Some people have trouble with this.

Only 1 more dungeon until Nobunaga can enter Death Mountain.

The Humans

Leon Lai, Kelly Chen, Donnie Yen, Guo Xiaodong and Kou Zhenhai

The Nutshell

An Empress and the Warriors is yet another Chinese epic drama. The Kingdom of Yan has nearly been destroyed during a length battle with the Zhao army. The Yan Emperor decides to flee and leaves the Empire in the hands of a war orphan. This little lady steps up to the plate and assembles her soldiers to prepare for a final strike against their Zhao enemy. Naturally, she has to find herself before she can the will of her warriors.

The Lowdown

Yan Feier is the new Empress of the Kingdom. The Emperor’s legitimate heir challenges her appointment and starts to fracture the Kingdom. Feier needs the legitimate heir Hu Ban to nut up and follow the Kingdom game plan. But, she also has to win back the Emperor’s warriors. Donnie Yen plays Xuehu, the trusted soldier who helps Feier to bring everyone together. The usual battle scenes take place and we get a heaping helping of historic melodrama to pad it out.

An Empress and the Warriors is so bound by Chinese Historical film tradition that you can almost pinpoint where everything is going to happen. The young female hero finding herself, then having to rely on men for their military strength. The cliche scenes of finding purpose among her countrymen, but only enough to further future goals of conquest. I’m not going to say that taking a rather bright eyed approach to tales of a nation’s past is exclusively a Chinese staple. It’s just that coming off similar works by a Zimou or a Tong, you’re left wanting more.

Kelly Chen is a very pretty Chinese actress who is completely miscast in the role of Yan Feier. She feels almost like a J-Pop singer trying to summon all of their native ability to make you feel for a lady that comes across as a Holy Warrior. There’s too much material thrown onto Chen’s shoulders and she collapses when held against Donnie Yen or her co-stars. The brief runtime doesn’t allow for Chen to find her pace and she slips through the cracks among the historical epic checkpoints. When she appears in battle, she feels like a porcelain doll among pewter men. Her weakness as a lead only further goes to undermine the picture as a whole.

What hurts the film is how low-rent it feels when compared to similar releases of the past two years. Sure, a fifteen million dollar budget can only go so far. It’s just that you can’t do an epic in a ninety minute timespan. There’s too many concessions made to bring characters to completion and force in the necessary battle scenes. There are better films out there. Hell, there’s better films in the Dragon Dynasty collection.

An Empress and the Warriors follows the gameplan established by the past Dragon Dynasty releases. If it’s a smaller title that the Weinsteins can’t pimp up in marketing, then it gets limited special features. The usual commentary from Bey Logan and the making-of featurette should have a mold by now. The material is interesting, it just stinks of unoriginality.

The Package

comes with rather amazing A/V Quality. Hell, it makes me wonder why the Weinsteins don’t attempt to create Blu-Rays for these martial arts releases. The market and audience is there, so why not try to milk a few extra dollars? I wish they’d ditch the slipcovers, though. Between shipping and store display, these things tend to get destroyed by the time they make it your Home Theater.

It’s Shogun Storytime.

6.1 out of 10

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