Zhao shi gu er (Sacrifice) (2010)




Director:     Kaige Chen.

Starring:     You Ge (Cheng Ying), Xueqi Wang (Tu Angu), Fengyi Zhang (Gongsun Chujiu), Xiaoming Huang (Han Jue / Han Xianzi), Bingbing Fan (Princess Zhuang), Hai-Qing (Cheng Ying's Wife), Wenzhuo Zhao (Zhao Shuo / Zhao Zhuangzi), Guoan Bao (Zhao Dun / Zhao Xuanzi), Dong-xue Li (Ti Miming), Bo Peng (Duke Ling of Jin).

to save the only child of the Zhao Family, whose entire clan was massacred, a doctor sacrifices his own son and later seeks vengeance; set in the Jin State



Spoiler Warning:

A man is nailing pieces of wood onto his door to keep a room closed permanently. 

Flashback.  Two men are eating noodle soup.  Someone outside shouts:  "The army is off to war."  The two men talk about who's leading the army.  One man says Sir Tu'an Gu, probably.  No, says the other man, General Zhao Shuo has taken over.  He was taking the pulse of Lady Zhuangji when he heard the news.  The lady is pregnant and should not be riding in a carriage.  And his wife will son give birth, so he must stay with her. 

Grand Councilor Zhao Dun arrives in a carriage.  Then arriving is General Zhao Shuo.  And now arrives Lady Zhuangji. The Emperor says to Sir Tu'an Gu that he wonders why his sister is here?  A woman of the royal family is about to give birth to a Zhao.   And once he's born, the Emperor will be his uncle.  He adds that Grand Councilor Zhao Dun has a son that is off to war and he will surely return a hero. 

The Emperor tells his brother-in-law Zhao Shuo that he has come to see him off. 

The first battle goes well for General Zhao Shuo. 

The army is returning.  The Emperor shoots a pebble from a sling shot and hits a horse pulling the Grand Councilor in a carriage.  Both horses raise up and the back of the carriage hits the dirt road. 

Tu'an Gu congratulates General Zhao Shuo on his victory.  The General's father, the Grand Councilor, holds up the pebble shot by the Emperor and asks Tu'an Gu is this is the way he greets his son?  The Emperor comes down and pretends that Tu'an Gu was the one using the sling shot.  He tells Tu'an Gu to apologize and Tu'an Gu does apologize. 

Tu'an Gu is thinking of having someone assassinated. The adviser shows how an insect can kill a rabbit with his sting. 

The doctor speaks to a customer about his new baby boy that his wife recently had.  He says that he thinks the next child will be a boy too.  His wife rings for him and he goes inside to see what she wants. 

The advisor tells Tu'an Gu that he has never killed a woman.  Tu'an says he will not kill Lady Zhuangji.  The adviser asks if Tu'an intends to kill the baby?  Tu'an does not answer the question. 

The Grand Councilor and his son come to the court to celebrate the great victory.  Tu'an brings a gift for the emperor.  It's a dog, he says, that can tell a patriot from a traitor.  The dog is big and a bit aggressive.  Word comes to the Emperor that his sister has given birth to a baby boy.  The Emperor says he is an uncle now and tells General Zhao to go and see his wife and new baby. 

Birth, however, has not taken place.  And a rope across the road is raised to cause General Zhao's horse to fall.  Then Zhao is hit by two arrows that lode in his breast plate armor.  He pulls the arrows out and throws them to the ground.  Many men come after him.

The Emperor drinks some special wine, while the dangerous insect is released.  It flies to the back of the neck of the Emperor and stings him.  The Emperor falls backwards in his chair, overturning it.  The shout is that the Emperor has been poisoned.  Tu'an shouts to kill Zhao Dun and exterminate his whole clan!  Soldiers rush into the court and a big fight occurs between them and the Zhao forces. 

The doctor says the baby will be a late delivery, but that's good.  It denotes a noble birth.  He tells the Lady that his own boy was born prematurely.  She tells the doctor to name his son Cheng Bo. 

There is a great deal of fighting outside the royal court on the compound grounds.  A huge fellow keeps the Grand Councilor safe.  He even puts Zhao Dun into a carriage and has the carriage move out.  The problem is that someone has sawed the back axle in half and a wheel falls off.  The huge man holds up what's left of the axle as he jogs alongside the carriage.  The escapees now face a barrage of arrows.  The big fellow drops his hold on the axle and the carriage falters, but then the horses and the carriage with the Grand Councilor fall into a trap  --  the earth breaks from underneath the horses and carriages and they all fall several stories to the bottom of the giant pit. 

While the doctor treats the Lady, news arrives that the Grand Councilor has been murdered. 

Inside the compound of the Zhao warriors, the soldier archers strike all  the warriors down.

The doctor starts to leave but sees soldiers all around the compound.  He rushes back into the house to warn the Lady.  She tells him not to worry because there is a way out.  As they start walking they find the body of the very wounded General Zhao.  He tells his wife to flee; hurry; escape.  He dies.  She then tells Cheng Ying to help her deliver her baby. 

Tu'an comes to see a place where the Zhao's have been slaughtered.  He checks the list of Zhao names and sees that they have all been killed and checked off the list. 

The Lady has given birth.  She now ties a pillow in place to make it look like she is still pregnant.  She gives the baby to the doctor and tells him to take the secret passage and take the boy to Sir Gongsun. 

A man named Han Ju comes into the room.  He is under orders to take the child, but the doctor can go out the secret passage.   The Lady and the doctor now fight with the man for control of the baby.  They put up a determined fight, so the swordsman says if they keep coming after him, he will have to kill the baby.   The Lady makes a deal with the baby snatcher.  The man can let the doctor and child go and she will let him kill her.  He can then say that he killed the pregnant Lady and let Tu'an think that the last Zhao is dead.  She now stabs herself in the chest. 

Tu'an checks on the body.  He then checks on the baby and finds the pillow.  He now slashes Han Ju's face with his sword, calling him an idiot.  Tu'an now gives the order to close the city gates so nobody gets in or out. 

The doctor reaches his house safely.  His wife tells him it's not safe for him to go with the baby to see Sir Gongsun.  If the baby cries, Cheng Ying could be caught and killed.  She tells him to go tell Sir Gongsun to come to their house to get the baby.  The doctor goes to the man's house, but finds out that he is not at home.  He has left. 

On his way back home, the doctor sees soldiers grabbing newborn babies.  He gets home and his wife explains that they grabbed the Zhao baby from her.  Cheng Ying explains that their baby, the last alive newborn baby, will now be thought to be the Zhao baby.   He then tells his wife:  "He [the Zhao baby]  didn't take our son's place.  Our son took his."

Sir Gongsun now comes to see the doctor, who now has to tell his wife that the man is here to take the child with him.  He says they will give their son to Gongsun, because that way their boy will be safe.  His wife says she will go with Gongsun and the baby.  Gongsun comes into the room and the wife hands the baby to him. 

Surprise!  Gongsun nor anyone else can get passed the gates.  So he takes the married woman and the baby to his house.  And now, the wife/mother confesses to Gongsun saying that the child is really hers.  She says that she will go tell Tu'an that it's her baby.  Gongsun says then Tu'an will kill both the babies.  He will hide her behind a wall.  She has medicine given to her by her husband that can stop the baby from crying. 

Tu'an's advisor tells Tu'an:  "When we checked the names, we found all parents present, except those of one boy.  The boy belongs to a doctor called Cheng Ying. Just before you returned, he finally showed up."

Gongsun tells the mother that he will tell Tu'an that he took the child outside the town. 

Tu'an calls Cheng Ying out of the crowd of parents whose newborn have been taken from them.  He asks if this baby [the Zhao child] is his child.  The doctor says yes.  Tu'an takes the doctor inside to interrogate him.  If the doctor does not tell him the total truth, then he will have to kill the 100 newborn babies he has.  With that hanging over his head, he gives up the name of Gongsun.  The new Emperor goes out to tell the parents that their babies will be saved. 

Now they go to Gongsun's place.  Gongsun says that the Zhao child is already far away from here.  Tu'an doesn't believe him and has the whole house searched.  And now the cry of the baby is heard.  Gongsun fights the soldiers to keep them away from the mother and child, but he is stabbed in the mid-section.  The wall is torn down.  Tu'an says he will be forced to kill the child, if the mother does not give the child to him.  Tu'an steps out.  The doctor takes the baby and gives him to Tu'an.  The man throws the baby on the floor hitting it's head there.  The mother tries to pick up a sword to go after Tu'an and she is killed with a sword thrust by a soldier.

So now Cheng Ying is given the Zhao baby because they think this is Cheng's real baby.  Cheng takes the baby home with him.   

 Back to the present.  Cheng nails pieces of wood onto the door to his biological son to prevent anyone from entering the room.  He drinks liquor until he falls unconscious.  The Zhao baby cries and cries.

Tu'an trains a young boy to be the Emperor. 

The doctor adapts himself to taking care of the Zhao child.  He also serves Han Ju as his doctor.  He makes up an ointment to help heal the terrible scar the man has across his left forehead and below the eye socket.  The two men talk about revenge against Tu'an.  Cheng Ying says he will raise the boy well and the boy as a man will avenge the doctor's biological son.

The doctor goes to Tu'an and shows him is son (actually the Zhao child).  He says that Tu'an owes him, because he helped Tu'an avoid killing some 100 babies.  Tu'an agrees and the doctor keeps bringing the boy to see the man he now refers to as "godfather". 

The doctor teaches Cheng Bo how to sword fight.  And he says he will teach him how to read and write. 

One night Han Ju comes over to speak with the doctor.  The little boy listens in on their conversation.  He hears that that he as a man is to kill godfather after Han Ju and he tell Cheng Bo who they are and who godfather is. 

The next day Cheng Bo asks his father, why does that man that comes at night always make father sad?  He says he will tell godfather about that man and godfather will put him in jail. 

Cheng Bo does talk to godfather and one morning godfather shows up with soldiers behind him.  The doctor is worried, but he relaxes when Bo says that he told godfather that sometimes he would like to do things by himself without his father always watching him so closely.  So godfather has come to take Bo to school without his father as a chaperone.  Father takes Bo into a room where he can put on some clothes more appropriate for school.  He kind of bribes the boy to keep secrets to himself and not tell godfather in exchange for father's permission to let Bo go to school by himself.  Bo agrees. 

Godfather, however, doesn't take Bo to school.  He and the soldiers ride out with Bo outside the town.  The principal of the school shows the grounds to the concerned father.  Cheng Ying recognizes the school as the home of Lady Zhuangji.  The principal says it's in honor of Lady Zhuangji's child.  It was the idea of Sir Tu'an.

Godfather takes Bo out to run and play in the meadows.  Bo asks godfather if he has any enemies?  Godfather says no because in the year Bo was born he killed all his enemies. 

When Bo comes he asks his son what he learned at school today?  He says he learned about enemies and how to behave so you won't have any.  Dad calls him a liar and says he knows he didn't go to school today.  Was he with his godfather?  Yes, says Bo.  Now dad says he really will not let the boy out of his sight.  Bo says that dad drives him crazy.  He already promised dad not to tell any secrets to godfather. 

Han Ju says that maybe Bo already told Tu'an about his father and Han Ju.  They have to think of a way to find out if Bo did tell Tu'an, and, if he hasn't, think of a way to make sure the boy never tells Tu'an. 

Dad lets Bo meet Han Ju.  Bo points at the man and says he is godfather's enemy.  Han Ju says Bo has already told godfather about him.  Bo says he will tell godfather tomorrow.  So now they know Bo hasn't ratted on them.  And now to make Bo scared of ever telling godfather, Han Juo threatens to kill Bo.  Father says Han Ju will have to go through him first to get at his son.  So they stage a little scuffle, then Han Ju thrusts dad's hand behind his back and pushes him over the counter to where his head is flat on the counter.  He now tells Bo that if he ever tells on him to his godfather, he will kill his father and then he will kill Bo.  Dad tells Bo to run and escape.  Bo runs. 

Han Ju asks the doctor why did he tell the boy to run away?  That ruins everything.  He leaves.  Bo comes running back with his sword in his hand.

The next day dad says Bo can't go to school.  Bo says he will tell on father and Scarface.  Dad says Bo won't be leaving at all today.  He is staying home.  But Bo runs over to a window, props it open and jumps outside.  He runs to godfather and his father comes right behind Bo.  Bo says he wants to go to school with godfather.  Dad forcefully takes the boy away.  Bo starts calling for godfather to help him and godfather forcefully takes his godson away from dad.  Then dad pulls out godfather's swords from its scabbard.  Godfather is shocked and now he wants to know why is dad so upset about godfather taking Bo to school that the matter was worth drawing swords over.  He thinks something other than grief is effecting the actions of father. 

Godfather says that father truly hates him.  And now the doctor lets it all come out.  He tells Bo that his godfather's soldiers murdered his mother.  Godfather gets very angry and tells father that he promised not to tell Bo.

Alone with dad, Bo says he doesn't want to be that man's godson anymore.  Dad says if Bo doesn't learn martial arts from that man, he will never be able to beat him.  Bo asks his father to stop following him everywhere.  He won't tell the secrets of dad and Uncle Scarface.  So, now dad says Bo can go to school.  And he lets Bo go by himself.  Bo grabs his book case and takes off running. 

Seven years later.  Dad is mad at Bo because godfather is going to take him to war at 15 years of age.  Godfather tells dad not to let his own feelings stop his son from becoming a warrior.  And now he wants to speak with Bo in private.  He tells dad to go somewhere away from them.  Dad obeys. 

Han Ju is fed up with all this waiting to tell Bo the real truth.  Dad says that would just scare the boy.  So Han Ju says he is leaving.  The doctor says no because Bo must know that it was Han Ju that saved his life. 

Bo comes running to godfather dressed in his armor.  Tu'an looks hard at Bo and sees in him someone he knows or knew in the way the boy walks.  He recognizes how much the boy looks like General Zhao.

Tu'an confers with his old advisor.  He tells the adviser about Bo being the Zhao boy.  The adviser now realizes that the son they killed was Cheng Ying's own son.

Now dad tells Bo that his surname is not Cheng, but Zhao.  His father was the hero General Zhao Shuo and his mother was the king's sister Lady Zhuangj.  The day Bo was born Tu'an exterminated 300 members of Bo's family. Bo was the last of the Zhaos.  Han Ju now tells Bo that Cheng Ying saved Bo's life by letting another boy take his place.  And he lets it be known that that other boy was Cheng's own son.  Bo says that Tu'an is his dad's enemy, but not his.  He will not kill the man for dad.  He won't kill his godfather on the basis of a made-up story to keep Bo from going to war.  He leaves

Han Ju says that was 15 years of waste.  Dad says Han Ju is right.  And, anyway:  "Who'd believe that story?" 

Bo reports to godfather who says he's worried about the boy.  He will go with Bo. 

Bo knocks off one enemy after another.  He breaks through the enemy attack and then goes to meet another onslaught.  He has a few of his men with him.  Bo slices his way through the second group of enemy.  He stops his horse as he sees no more enemy.  He is about to turn around and go back when another group descends upon him.  Now all alone he decides to ride back to his men.  He gets knocked off his horse.  And now a large group of men descend upon him.  Tu'an is in the area with some soldiers, but he is not going to rescue Bo.  Instead he leads his men away from the enemy, leaving Bo behind all by himself. 

Bo runs but runs right into another group of the enemy.  He calls out for his godfather to:  "Help me!!!"  Godfather turns around and starts killing enemy after enemy.  He is so driven to kill that he scares the rest of the enemy away.  He congratulates his godson on a job well done.  As he goes to get on his horse, a dart strikes godfather in the back.

Han Ju returns home, goes over to the doctor and throws dad's crossbow down on the floor.  Dad hugs Han Jue, but the one with the scarred face just stands there without hugging back. 

Bo returns home demanding that his father give him some medicine that can save his godfather's life from the poisoned dart.  Dad won't cooperate, so Bo hurries around to find the medicine himself.  He finds the medicine but dad takes it away from him.  Bo says he will die with his godfather if father does not give him the medicine.  Dad gives it to him and Bo takes off. 

Bo hand feeds the medicine like a warm soup to godfather, who survives. 

And now godfather tells Bo that he is really the son of General Zhao and that the good doctor let his own son die in Bo's place.  He tells Bo to go get his father so he can thank him properly. 

Bo goes home and asks dad to prove it was his own son that died.  Dad goes over to the boarded up room that served as the nursery for mother and son.  He tells Bo that this was his biological son's room.  And Bo is the orphan of Zhao.  Bo says that dad is weak and a loser.  Dad slaps the boy across the face, but Bo says Cheng Ying is not his father.  Chen Ying cries and Bo hugs him vigorously. 

Father and son now go pay a visit to godfather.  Godfather asks the doctor who did he get to to shoot him in the back with this dart?  Dad says Han Ju.  He and Han for fifteen years plotted Tu'an's death.  The two of them were there when Lady Zhuangji died.  She begged them to save her baby's life.  Godfather wants to know why didn't the doctor just poison him?  Because he wanted to raise Bo first, so he could repay the killer of his biological mother and father.  Godfather wants to know why he and his wife did not tell him that the child he already had was the Zhao child?  Because his son's death convinced Tu'an that he was the Zhao child.  He goes on to say that his son would have died anyway.  But the way he died saved the lives of 100 newborn babies. 

Godfather says dad's mistake was the first day he brought the Zhao child to him.  The boy does not want to kill him. 

But Bo does want to kill him.  He tells godfather to arm himself.  The problem is that godfather is bigger and stronger than Bo and is a better swordsman. 

Dad intervenes telling Tu'an that it's he who should be the one godfather kills.  Tu'an just says that the doctor is next after Bo.  He moves toward Bo, but dad tries to stop him.  So then godfather shoves his sword through the small frame of the doctor.  But in doing so, it gives Bo the chance to run his sword into godfather.  Dad and godfather both fall to the floor.  Dad tells Bo that let this be the end of the revenge.  The good doctor is able to walk.  Along the way he imagines he sees his wife and child waiting for him.  He follows them, but cannot keep up.  He stops and falls backwards onto the ground dead.  



Worth watching.  It's hard to find an actual historical connect with the movie, which was based on the play "Orphan of Zhao" (the earliest Chinese play to be known in Europe; attributed to the thirteenth-century dramatist Ji Junxiang).  The play was feudal propaganda that exalts loyalty to the aristocracy, but the movie deals with a successful coup d'etat.  (Mentioned by (Malaysia) in the IMDb review of the film.) 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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