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Year: 2002
USA: Miramax Films
UK: Buena Vista International UK
Cast: Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Dao Ming, Donnie Yen
Director: Zhang Yimou
Countries: Hong Kong / China
Language: Mandarin (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 99 mins
USA: Rated: PG-13 for stylized martial arts violence and a scene of sensuality
UK Certificate: 12A contains moderate violence
USA Release Date: 27 August 2004
UK Release Date: 24 September 2004


The time... two thousand years ago.
The place... the violent dawn of the Qin dynasty.
The story... the soon-to-be First Emperor of China is on the brink of conquering a war-torn land. Three opponents are determined to assassinate him and one loyal subject stands in their way.

At the height of China's Warring States period, the country was divided into seven kingdoms: Qin, Zhao, Han Wei, Yan, Chu and Qi. For years, the separate kingdoms fought ruthlessly for supremacy. As a result, the populace endured decades of death and suffering.

The Kingdom of Qin was the most determined of all. The Qin King was obsessed with conquering all of China and becoming her first Emperor. He had long been the target of assassins throughout the other six states. Of all the would-be killers, none inspired as much fear as the three legendary assassins, Broken Sword, Snow and Sky.

To anyone who defeated the three assassins, the King of Qin promised great power, mountains of gold and a private audience with the King himself. But defeating the killers is a near impossible task. For ten years no one came close to claiming the prize. So when the enigmatic county sheriff, Nameless, came to the palace bearing the legendary weapons of the slain assassins, the King was impatient to hear his story. Sitting in the palace, only ten paces from the King, Nameless told his extraordinary tale:

For ten years, Nameless studied the way of the sword and resolved to challenge the three assassins. Using the secrets of swordsmanship, Nameless defeated the mighty Sky in a furious showdown. Following this initial victory, he destroyed the famed duo of Snow and Broken Sword, this time using a weapon far more devastating than his sword - their extraordinary love for each other.

The King hung on every detail of this curious story. But then something most unexpected happened - the King has a different story to tell of how Nameless really came to sit there, face to face with the King!

It appears that everything was not so simple. In the center of the intrigue sits Nameless - a solitary ranger and the King of Qin - the ruler of the Kingdom, with only ten steps between them. Within those ten steps holds an earth-shattering tale of love, honor and duty, a story that moves beyond the reaches of history. A story about what it means to be a HERO.

Historical Background

HERO is based on events in China during the Third Century BC.

From 475 - 221 BC, the land was divided into seven major Kingdoms: Qin, Zhao, Han Wei, Yan, Chu and Qi. Named 'The Warring States Period' because of the power struggle between the Kingdoms, this was a time of endless brutal wars and much hardship and suffering.
War was the predominant way of life. Technological advances enabled the casting of individual weapons, which in turn allowed the arming of foot soldiers. This precipitated a new order of warfare. In previous eras, aristocrats on chariots had fought battles. A General-led infantry replaced this, with peasants pressed into the front lines and commanders directing the strategy. Many treatises on warfare were written during these turbulent times, including the celebrated 'Art of War' by Sun Tzu. This in-depth study of warfare remains a Bible of the battlefield to this day.

Dominated by power struggles, the Warring States was nevertheless a period of great classical thought. This cultural flowering is known as the One Hundred Schools Period. Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism developed during the Warring States, and some of the most memorable poetry and prose in China were written at this time. The incessant warfare also contributed to other social changes. It sparked reforms in the economy and the development of iron greatly increased agriculture, precipitating a population explosion.
During the Warring States period, a feudal system became firmly established. The Warring States saw the feudal lord of each state vying for hegemony. Each of them believed that they were destined to unite 'All Under Heaven', a phrase taken to mean civilization as they knew it. The King of Qin was most ruthless and ambitious of all. Historically chronicled as a brutal tyrant, the King was determined to conquer and control all of the states. Throughout history, there have been stories of how assassins from all over China plotted to kill the King of Qin. HERO is one of these stories.

The seven states would stop at nothing in their goal to create the first Chinese Empire. They placed huge garrisons and enormous walls along their frontiers, military advisors schemed to defeat foreign armies, and alliances between states were formed only to be broken. In the middle of the fray were the wandering warriors. They were skilled fighters who would lend their skills to various states against their enemies. In HERO, the fate of China rests in the hands of three such legendary warriors.

To bring to life this epic tale of love, loyalty, jealousy and intrigue, HERO assembled an unprecedented collection of Asia's hottest talent. International martial arts superstar Jet Li heads the stellar cast as Nameless, the enigmatic county sheriff who earns his audience with the mighty King of Qin. Hong Kong megastars Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Maggie Cheung Man Yuk, fresh from their award-winning performances in Wong Kar Wai's IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE, reunite to play the assassins Broken Sword (Leung) and Snow (Cheung). Zhang Ziyi, who has gone from strength to strength since her critically acclaimed debut in THE ROAD HOME plays Broken Sword's devoted servant, Moon, whilst distinguished veteran Chen Daoming plays the powerful King of Qin. Rising star and martial artist Donnie Yen plays the third assassin, Sky.

Presented in its original format with English subtitles, the Academy Award-nominated HERO is directed by two-time Academy Award nominee Zhang Yimou and written by Zhang Yimou, Li Feng and Wang Bin. Produced by award winning CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON producer Bill Kong and Zhang Yimou. Cannes Technical Grand Prize winner Christopher Doyle is the director of photography. Production designers are Huo Tingxiao and Yi Zhenzhou. Straight from his roaring success in SHAOLIN SOCCER comes action director Tony Ching Siu Tung. Academy Award winning costume designer Emi Wada and Academy Award winning composer Tan Dun complete the formidable, star-studded crew.

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