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Chen Kaige clearly intended this Chinese fantasy-action spectacle to top Zhang Yimou's Hero, and I must admit that I prefer it to the earlier movie: the digital effects are sometimes excessive, yet Chen's story of a loyal slave, his master, and a wealthy, seemingly doomed princess is more affecting, especially in the closing stretch. Chen's original U.S. distributor, the Weinstein Company, ordered the movie shortened from its original 128-minute running time, then dropped it. (It's worth recalling that Chen's 1996 feature Temptress Moon was severely damaged by Miramax's recutting.) Now Warner Independent Features has released the abbreviated 102-minute version, and it's well worth checking out. PG-13.

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