Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2006-12-31
Summary: Two top actors at their best...
In Zhang Yimou's newest martial arts epic, the dark underbelly of the Tang dynasty royal family is exposed to the light. The Emperor (Chow Yun-Fat) and the Empress (Gong Li) loath each other in secret, but publicly put forth the face of the heads of a happy royal family. Anything other would leave the country with ill feelings about their leaders. After the return of the Empress's son, Prince Jai (Jay Chou), from military training in the countryside, she discovers that the medicine she has been taking for years has, by the order of the Emperor, started to be laced with poison. With the Festival of Chrysanthemums occurring in just a few days, she starts to devise a plan for revenge. The Emperor and Empress use their three princes as pawns in their quests for power, and when the festival begins it sets into motion both of their final plays for the throne.

Having read a lot of somewhat negative reviews, I went into this film worrying a bit. I've always liked Zhang Yimou's films and I was afraid I was going to be witnessing a retread of Crouching Tiger. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. Curse of the Golden Flower is an excellent drama piece, with a few martial arts scenes interspersed. If you go in expecting elaborately choreographed martial arts battles you'll be a bit disappointed. If you expect incredible sets and top-notch acting you'll be very pleased. Chow Yun-Fat amd Gong Li are absolutely mesmerizing and dominate every scene in which they appear. They are certainly two of the top actors in the world and prove it in every minute the are on screen. Jay Chou does an admirable job as well, as does the love interest of Prince Wan, Chan (Li Man). There is also an incredible final battle scene that typifies Yimou's tendency in the film to show hundreds of people doing the same thing. The look of tons of extras running in battle formation makes for quite a spectacle on the screen, as does the massive expanse of the Forbidden City as a field of combat. Curse of the Golden Flower is certainly in the same vein as Feng Xiaogang 's and Yimou's recent dramas, but can certainly stand on its own as a very enjoyable movie.

8/10
Reviewer Score: 8