The Great Conqueror's Concubine (1994)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2005-07-29
Summary: Plodding but very good acting...
This review refers to Tai Seng's DVD release of the first part of the film. I believe the Part 2 DVD was released afterwards, as the movie is over 3 hours long.

The Great Conqueror's Concubine tells the story of Xiang Yu (Ray Lui) and Liu Bang (Zhang Feng Yi), two military officers who forge an tentative agreement in order to overthrow the rulers of the Qin dynasty, which they feel has become corrupt and tyrannical. Liu Bang's wife, Lu Zhi (Gong Li) turns out to be the true mastermind behind the alliance, and manages to talk Liu Bang into betraying Xiang and making a bid for absolute power. Lu Zhi is incredibly coniving in her scheme, using Xiang's naive concubine Lady Yu (Rosamund Qwan) against him in the battle for his trust. The first part ends with Xiang saving Lady Yu from a fiery death within a burning palace, but having made severe problems for himself with his followers in the future.

Being the first of a pair of films (The Great Conqueror's Concubine 2 followed a year later in 1994), you really only feel like you caught half of the story, as this first movie works at laying the groundwork of the characters and their motivations. Gong Li is magnificent as always, truly coming across as a incredible schemer and the driving force behind a majority of decisions made by the people she manipulates. Ray Lui is also very entertaining as the charismatic leader of the Chu people, and has great chemistry with both female leads. In addition to the powerful acting, there are also some great battle scenes reminiscent of Braveheart, with huge armies clashing on the open battlefield. The Great Conqueror's Concubine is a very enjoyable period piece with a great story, strong acting and an epic feel. However, I would recommend renting both movies at the same time, as you will feel that the although the first film was essential, it leaves you hanging, as it seems like the most important and exciting part of the story is yet to come.
Reviewer Score: 8