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Promise, The (2006)
Friday, May 26, 2006
For stylized violence and martial arts action, and some sexual content
Action, Fantasy, Romance
Hiroyuki Sanada, Jang Dong-Kun, Cecilia Cheung, Nicholas Tse, Chen Hong, Liu Ye
A little girl in rags scavenges for food among corpses on a battlefield. An older boy, the son of the commander of the troops she is looting, catches her and offers her a deal: if she agrees to be his slave, he will let her keep her findings. The little girl accepts but breaks The Promise immediately, fleeing with the food to find her mother. The Goddess Manshen (CHEN HONG) appears and tells the girl that her mother no longer has any use for the morsels - she is dead. The goddess then presents the girl with a fantastic proposition. She will lead a pampered life as a celebrated beauty, adored and kept by the most powerful in return for a small sacrifice: every man she loves, she will lose. The girl accepts.
Twenty years later, the mighty General Guangming (HIROYUKI SANADA) dons his magnificent red armor and prepares for a fierce battle. He sends a band of slaves in to absorb the first attack of the enemy and lure them deeper into the battlefield. Incredibly, one of the slaves, Kunlun (JANG DONG-GUN), survives the merciless task and provides the Crimson Army with the advantage by demonstrating a mythical ability to run faster than the wind. The General leads his men into battle and demonstrates his own talent -- for combat. He conquers the enemy with great skill and grace.
As the General and his troops celebrate, word comes of treachery in the Imperial City; the General must return immediately to save the King. He orders Kunlun to accompany him. Traveling through a dark forest, Kunlun runs ahead to find the way out. While they are separated, a frightening entity in a black cloak attacks the General. Kunlun returns to find the General seriously wounded but manages to lure the Assassin (LIU YE) away from his victim.
Astonishingly, the shrouded figure is able to match Kunlun’s impossible pace move for move. Locked in a deadly embrace, the Assassin stares intently at the Slave and asks if he is from the Land of Snow. Mysteriously, he leaves without killing Kunlun, disappearing into the night. The injured General instructs the Slave to put on the crimson armor in his stead and rescue the King.
Surrounded on a windy rooftop in the Imperial City, the King is confronted by Wuhuan, the Duke of the North (NICHOLAS TSE), who is intent not on capturing the throne but on possessing the Princess Qingcheng (CECILIA CHEUNG).
The little girl has indeed blossomed into a great beauty, and as she steps forward to address the invading soldiers, her loveliness subdues and intoxicates them. The King sees the effect she has on the troops and shamelessly taunts them with her, humiliating her in the process. She turns on him, and he pulls his sword on her. Arriving at the scene in the General’s armor, Kunlun witnesses the beautiful Princess in distress and instinctively drives his sword into the King’s chest.
The Slave and the Princess make a spectacular escape, but at the end of their dramatic flight, the Duke and his men surround them on a cliff. The Duke promises to let the Princess live if the man in the crimson armor will jump off the cliff into the ferocious waterfall below. Until now, the Princess has been disdainful -- the betrayal of her last benefactor is still fresh in her mind -- but when the man who has just saved her agrees to save her again at his own peril, the incredible act of valor moves her. She stares on in disbelief, as the man in the crimson armor disappears into the mist of the waterfall.
As word of the King’s assassination spreads, the General's men desert him in disgust, tying him up in a tree. The Goddess Manshen comes to him in a vision and tells him all he has truly lost -- he is no longer Master of the Crimson Armor. She speaks of the true master who has emerged -- an authentic god of war who will win the enviable love of Princess Qingcheng. Arrogantly, the General defies her. To prove he alone is the master she is describing, he will regain his armor and his honor. He will also, he adds with bravado, win the love of the legendary beauty.
Miraculously, Kunlun survives the waterfall and returns to his master. When the General learns that his reputation has been ruined in defense of a woman, he is furious. He will exact his revenge, but first Kunlun must help him. The General retrieves his armor, then dispatches the Slave to find the Princess Qingcheng.
At the Duke’s palace, Kunlun rescues the Princess from the gilded cage the insolent Duke has locked her in, but as they flee, the Princess sees the General wearing the costume of her savior and runs to him. Kunlun has no choice but to help them escape while he is left behind and captured.
The Duke learns the truth about the King’s murder and orders the masked Assassin to kill Kunlun. The Assassin and the Slave are evenly matched, but Kunlun’s desire for the Princess gives him the edge. He convinces the Assassin to help him escape. Once freed, Kunlun returns to his master only to find that he, too, has fallen under the spell of the Princess. Remembering her pact with the goddess, the Princess leaves to protect the General from his fate. Vexed, the General dismisses Kunlun.
Kunlun wanders the earth, abandoned and desolate. The Assassin finds him and takes him on a journey into the past to show him their common origin, the Land of Snow, populated by honest and noble people who can run faster than the wind. During this journey, Kunlun learns how he was sold into slavery at an early age and how the Assassin – the only other surviving member of the tribe – came to be the servant of the Duke of the North.
Kunlun returns to the General’s house, where he finds the once ruthless warrior now listlessly pining for the Princess. Kunlun offers to help find her. When they are reunited, the princess, weakened by love, is ready to surrender to her passion. But the Princess is in love with wrong man…
The lovers’ domestic bliss is soon interrupted by the arrival of members of the Crimson Army, who lure the General away and imprison him. While conspiring with the Princess, Kunlun offers to turn himself in as the true culprit in the assassination of the King. The Princess is delighted by the Slave’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his master, mistaking Kunlun’s love for loyalty to the General.
During the trial the Princess realizes that their “story” is actually the truth, and it becomes clear to her at last that it was the lowly Kunlun who risked his life to save hers. The deeper realization that she has loved the wrong man all along takes root as the court sentences all three of them to death.
While the three await their fate -- poetically bound within view of each other in a courtyard with food and water just out of reach -- the Duke comes to mock their misery. He offers the fallen General, once the hero of the land, the opportunity to serve as his personal slave. But the Duke does not realize that the love he has sought to destroy runs deeper than the circumstances from which it sprung; it runs deeper – and faster – than destiny itself.
Promise, The (2006) | Review
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