White Vengeance (2011)
Director: Daniel Lee.
Starring: Shaofeng Feng (Xiang Yu), Leon Lai (Liu Bang), Hanyu Zhang (Zhang Liang), Anthony Wong Chau-Sang (Fan Zeng), Yifei Liu (Yu Ji), Jordan Chan (Fan Kuai), Andy On (Han Xin), Qing Xiu (Xiao He), Haifeng Ding (Xiang Zhuang), Xiang Dong Xu (Xiang Bo), Chen Zhi Hui (Xiahou Ying), Kuan Tai Chen (Bearded warrior), Huinan Zhao (King Huai II of Chu), Qing Jia (Female assassin), Wen-Ting Sun (One of the Nangong Sisters).
beginning of Battle of Red Cliff
"A military mystery that lasts for 2000 years."
Twelve years after Gaozu of Han's death. [Emperor Gao (256 BC or 247 BC – 1 June 195 BC), aka Gaozu and Liu Bang, was the founder and first emperor of the Han Dynasty, ruling over China from 202 to 195 BC.] "The grand tutor Liu Xuan took his students to the site of the Hongmen Banquet."
The tutor tells his students that Emperor Gaozu had a great reputation and authority. Gaozu completely defeats his rival Xiang Yu by mobilizing his forces to Xianyang and ambushing him from all sides. He then forces Xiang Yu to commit suicide by the Wujiang River. A student interrupts the teacher to ask about some memorial tablets with no characters on them. He asks who are these tablets for? This makes the tutor angry because the question has no direct bearing on what he has been talking about. The same lad asks where would Emperor Gaozu sit? The other students just laugh at the fellow for asking too many random questions. And the tutor is irritated again. He says the monarch should face south. And Xiang Yu called himself the monarch and would surely face south. So then, Gaozu could only face north.
The tutor now leads the students in a ceremony of salute to His Majesty Gaozu. At this moment an older man steps forward to say that the memorial tablets are for Gaozu. The talker in the class asks then whose tablets are those behind Gaozu's? They are the tablets of the most important people in Gaozu's life. In fact, there's even a lone tablet for Xiang Yu.
And now their host says he will explain all of this by beginning the story at the beginning when the two men first met.
Flashback. The first Qin Emperor planned to conduct an imperial ceremony that day. Because the Emperor had taken command through violence and because the people resented him for his tyranny, his soldiers were extraordinarily vigilant that day. [The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 206 BC and was formed after the conquest of the six other states by the state of Qin, and its founding emperor was known as Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of Qin.]
Xiang You and his men were there pretending to be Qin officials, but they have come to assassinate the Qin Emperor. There is another group there interested in killing the Emperor and their leader Liu wonders who these other people are? Xiang Yu starts the assassination attempt but there are too many soldiers protecting the Emperor that the would-be assassins have to retreat fast.
Liu and Xiang came together and formed an insurgent army. "If King Huai of Chu hadn't sown discord between them, they might never have become enemies."
Back to the present. The great tutor says that King Huai of Chu was just a temporary king. Their host says that King Huai was the head of the insurgent army. He knew the two men and knew also that they were both very ambitious. King Huai was aware that as soon as the Qin dynasty fell, the two rivals would eliminate him. So he sought the advice of three goddesses of war. They said in unison that Huai should issue a decree that who ever takes the Qin capital Xianyang first will be the Lord of Qin The two rivals will fight each other to be the first.
Flashback. Xiang and Liu both chase after the Qin army. General Xiang Bo arrives to tell Xiang Yu that General Jin Hu has taken 100,000 reinforcements to outflank them. Xiang Yu says they will have to take the town of Chengyang Guan before the reinforcements arrive. He says the left flank General Liu Bang will be here any minute.
Liu Bang and his army arrive on the scene. They will have to spearhead the attack. And the reason for that is they have to take orders from Xiahou Ying because he is the leader of their army.
Liu Bang attacks the massive numbers of soldiers standing outside the city walls. There are so many soldiers that the enemy completely surrounds Liu Bang and his allies. Liu wonders why Xiang Yu does not come to his rescue. One of the allied commanders says it's obvious that Xiang Yu wants them to die. So Liu Bang decides to retreat. The men break a hole in the circle and surge away from the main body of the enemy troops.
Xiang Yu says he is waiting to enter the fray when one man gets here. That one man, General Jin Hu, and his men arrive on the scene. Xiang Yu ambushes the oncoming 100,000 enemy soldiers, descending down a steep hill to get at the enemy. Xiang Yu kills Jin Hu by slitting his throat, but in the process is hit by an arrow.
Liu Bang as doctor removes the arrow from Xiang Yu's left shoulder. After the removal, Xiang Yu tells the "doctor" Liu Bang that Zhang Han leads the last troop of Qin's army and he is heading quickly to provide assistance to Xianyang. So Xiang Yu will send out his troops to prevent this from happening. And once Zhang Han is defeated, the town of Xianyang will surrender. This will be a dangerous movement so he wants someone he can trust to take the beautiful Yu Ji, Xiang Yu's girlfriend, home. And that man is Liu Bang himself.
The love couple met in Peng City, two years ago. Xiang Yu bumps into a young, pretty woman. They both turn to look at each other. He picks up something the woman dropped and brings it to her. Someone calls out to Yu Ji that they are running late and she must hurry up. She leaves. Xiang Yu likes the looks of the lady.
Yu Ji plays and sings for a musical group that entertains restaurant diners. The song offends a group of Qin officials who make a scene because the musical group is singing a Chu song. Yu Ji goes to the huge man who is offended and explains that the Chu have been defeated by the Qin and now the Chu have become the people of the Qin. So why shouldn't a song of Chu become a song of Qin? The big guy slaps Yu Ji across the face.
Xiang Yu comes down the stairs of the restaurant singing the Chu song. He says he is from Chu and the female singer offers a very good rendition of the song. The Qin customer tells the woman to take off her clothes or he will kill the gentleman from Chu. Xiang Yu asks her why is she undressing? She says because she doesn't want to see the man from Chu get hurt. He asks if the woman likes him and she says yes. Does she want to be with him? Yes.
Now the big man comes after Xiang Yu. Xiang Yu dispatches the three Qin officials, but now the Qin guards come after the intruder. Liu Bang joins the fight on Xiang Yu's side. He says why don't they become sworn brothers? That's fine with Xiang Yu and he says for his brother to take care of his sister-in-law for him.
Liu Bang tells this story to one of his allied commanders, but the guy is worried that Liu Bang is being too innocent toward Xiang Yu, because the man clearly plans to stop Liu Bang from getting to Xianyang first. Liu Bang replies that as head of their army, Xiang Yu should be Lord Qin! The disgruntled commander says that Liu Bang has changed. He said he would free the people from the Qin, but now it seems he has forgotten his promises. Another commander agrees saying the people want Liu Bang's benevolence and clemency. Liu Bang has faithful followers and it is not fair to them if their leader no longer even wants to win the throne.
Listening to these criticisms Liu Bang says his commanders are right. He will strive to capture Xianyang. This is thrilling news to his commanders.
So now Liu Bang and his men head for Xianyang. Yu Ji asks him why have they changed directions? Liu Bang says this new route is safer.
At night Liu Bang is about to tell Yu Ji that he has come to love her, but he discovers that bandits have invaded his tent and they have Yu Ji. Liu Bang tells the men not to hurt the woman and he will give them horses. One guy starts hitting Liu Bang with his pole and the other guy lets go of Yu Ji to also attack Liu Bang. Yu Ji picks up a knife and stabs her kidnapper in the back. The kidnapper drops his knife and Liu Bang picks it up. Now the three bandits rush out of the tent.
Liu Bang and his forces reach Xianyang. A messenger rides to Xiang Yu to tell him that instead of delivering Yu Ji home, Liiu Bang has taken Xianyang city. Xiang Yu is bewildered. How could Liu Bang and his thousand men or so take the huge city of Xianyang?
Liu Bang did it this way. He talks to the Qin Emperor telling him that his day has gone. Xiang Yu is headed to Xianyang with an immense army. Together they have conquered the Qin Empire. Xianyang is the only city left in the Qin Empire. Does the Emperor want to further deepen the First Qin Emperor's sins? Qin General Ying says their reinforcements will be arriving shortly. Liu Bang says they have already been annihilated by Xian Yu! And now the Emperor decides to negotiate with Liu Bang.
Xiang Yu will now be going to Xianyang. His plan is to take Xianyan back from Liu Bang.
One man, named Zhang Liang, plays ten men at a time in a board game. He defeats all ten men easily. A man named Xiao He comes to meet Zhang Liang.
Zhang Liang is now sitting with Liu Bang and his commanders. He laughs at his host's idealistic goal and tells him doesn't he realize that King Haui of Chu has a plan to take advantage of the disputes between Liu Bang and Xiang Yu? And doesn't his host know that he has put the people of Xianyang in danger of being massacred? Why King Haui of Chu is only a puppet king of Xiang's family. And Xiang has some 400,000 soldiers. Zhang Liang, however, does have a solution.
Zhang says that Liu Bang must leave this city. He must give it up to Xiang. That will make Xiang happy and he will spare the people's lives. Liu Bang accepts the solution. He will have the imperial seal sent to Xiang Yu tomorrow. He starts to leave. Zhang Liang tells him to come back. He says that was a test of Liu Ban's virtue and veracity. So now Zhang gives his real advice. Tell everyone that Liu Bang is only holding Xian Yang temporarily. Then tell everyone that Xiang Yu is coming to massacre the people of Xianyang. That will scare the city residents and they will want to fight. The common people plus the military people will come together to protect the city. Xiang Yu's genius military counselor Fan Zeng will see the common people guarding the city and he will stop the attack.
Xiang Yu brings his men to fight for Xianyang. He stops when he sees his wise counselor, Yafu (aka Fan Zeng), who tells him that Liu Bang has got the people of Xianyang behind him. He says this is the strategy of Zhang Liang. The genius says he wants Xiang Yu to write a declaration that all Qin's treasure will be given to the people. And now the old man has his own strategy. They can invite Liu Bang to a banquet in Xianyang. There he will ask Liu Bang to hand over the Qin seal. Then assassinate the man on the spot! Xiang Yu asks won't King Huai of Chu be mad at them for this act of treachery? The genius says then they will kill the King first and then claim that Liu is the one who killed the King. Then this will be a good justification for their attack.
An excellent swordsman comes to impress Liu Bang. He fights off two of Liu's best swordsmen. He then says that Fan Zeng has deployed Xiang Yu's army. No one can escape from Xianyang. Xiang Yu will set up a meeting with General Liu. Xiang Yu will send someone to assassinate King Huai of Chu. Zhang Liang tells General Han who used to work for Xiang Yu that he will be in charge of kidnapping King Huai of Chu, so Xiang Yu can't kill him.
Lui Bang presents Yu Ji with her old lute. This makes her very happy as she twirls around holding it tightly in her arms.
Xiang Yu learns that the meeting place with Liu Bang will be the Hongmen Palace.
A flag falls down at Xiang Yu's encampment. Yafu says it's a bad omen. Someone will assassinate them tonight. Then he says: "The assassin is coming after me!" Xiang Yu says he will stay up tonight and meet the assassin
An assassin sneaks into one of the main tents.
News comes to Liu Bang that Lord Xiang's envoy asks Lord Liu to attend the banquet now. Meanwhile, Han Xin is rescuing King Huai of Chu from an attempt by Xiang Yu's men to assassinate the King. He has to do a lot of sword fighting to save the King.
At the banquet the guards of Xiang Yu take away all the weapons of Liu Bang and his men. Liu Bang now goes inside the hall where all the men are Xiang Yu's men and they are all armed. Xiang asks Liu: "Why do you betray me?" Liu plays his role as very submissive to Xiang Yu. He says he dare not betray, Xiang Yu. Xiang's counselor now talks with Zhang Liang. He says it's been 26 years since the Qin beat the Chu. But now Qin is beaten by Chu again. Zhang Liang changes the subject by asking the counselor to play a game of Weigi with him. The counselor says he's blind so Zhang would have to play the game blindfolded. Zhang agrees. The Weigi boards are brought out.
Xian Yu now brings an old man out, the one who tried to assassinate Counselor Fan. He tells Liu Bang that he will bet the five punishments of Qin with him. The five punishments are the cutting off of the face, ears, fingers, head and cutting people into mince meat. For every round that Zhang Liang loses, Xiang Yu will execute a punishment.
Fan Zeng beats Zhang Liang is the first round, so they cut the face of the old man. He then also wins the next round, so they cut the ears off the man. The third round also goes to Fan Zeng and the fingers are cut off the old man. Somebody shouts: "Let's fight!" Liu Bang's group retrieve some hidden weapons and the fighting starts. They are doing alright, until Xiang Yu joins the fight. He kills one after the other of Liu Ban's men and women. Now it's Xiang versus Liu and Liu is taking a beating. Xiang is about to kill Liu when a messenger arrives. It's Han Xin. He brings a decree from King Huai of Chu. His Majesty spares the life of Liu Bang. He is to leave Xianyang immediately and go back to Hanzhong. Xiang will now become the owner of Xianyang.
Xiang now tells Liu that Zhang Liang tried to have Fan Zeng killed. Therefore, he demands that Liu Bang kill Zhang Liang. Liu says he can't do that. Xiang demands it saying that today he wins and Liu loses. So Liu strikes at Zhang Liang, but his thrust is stoped by the sword of Xiang, who heartily laughs at Liu.
Back home Liu Bang is a devastated man.
Liu asks what's left of his inner circle and what should they do now that they have lost their counselor. Well, Zhang Liang said that they have to lure Xiang Yu in to committing a big mistake that leads to his defeat. One of the inner circle says he thought that Liu and his men had already lost. Lis says: "The game is not over yet. The real Hongmen Banquet has finally begun."
Yu Ji is now returned to Xiang. She seems contented to be back with Xiang.
Zhang Liang is now working for Xiang Yu. He tells Xiang that the war is over and now Xiang is the owner of Qin Palace. And now Xiang must take supremacy. Fan Zeng says things have still yet to settle and they have no good reason to claim the throne yet. His advice is to lay low and wait for the right time to strike. Zhang Liang says that Xiang has so many troops that he can even divide his forces, one to guard the home base and the other to strike at any opponents Xiang might face, including Liu Bang. In fact, Xiang could order Liu Bang to strike at the eight vassals who are not loyal to Xiang. Then, in a turn around, Xiang can use the vassals to help kill Liu Bang. This way Xiang Yu will become the Emperor.
A messenger from Chu comes to speak with Liu Bang. At the end of the talk, Liu Bang says to the messenger: "Since Lord Xiang asks us to send the army, how can we disobey him?" Liu extends his hospitality to the messenger and he stays awhile longer. Then he plans to have the messenger overhear some talk between two of his men. The talk is about Fan Zeng being the real power behind Xiang Yu. It is not Xiang who makes the decisions, but Fan Zeng. The messenger was not sent by Fan Zeng, but only by Lord Xiang, therefore, they do not need to waste their best feast on a man only sent by Lord Xiang.
The messenger tells this to Xiang Yu and this hurts Xiang. He starts to distrust Fan Zeng and Zhang Liang encourages Xiang's insecurity about the possibility that he is seen by others as a puppet moved around by the puppet master.
Xiang Yu learns that Liu Bang is preparing his army. So he tells Fan Zeng that they should launch a preemptive attack. Fan Zeng says they need an excuse to kill Liu Bang. Xiang says maybe they should kill King Huai of Chu, as they had tried to do earlier at the Hongmen Banquet. In short, Xiang no longer trusts Fan Zeng and sends him away.
Zhang Liang goes to see Fan Zeng. The old man is feeling poorly and depressed. Zhang says perhaps he himself went too far with this move, but Fan Zeng says it was a great move he made in the game of life. The old man dies in the arms of Zhang Liang.
Zhang Liang writes a letter to Xiang Yu saying how disappointing was the terrible fate of the great counselor Fan Zeng, who died alone and abandoned. So that will not be his fate, Zhang writes that he is going back to Liu Bang. The letter infuriates Xiang Yu and, without the benefit of counsel, he decides to destroy Liu Bang once and for all. The men around him tell him not to do it because Lui Bang is not a real threat to them and King Huai could come out and support Liu Bang again. Xiang says the others don't understand. He and Lui cannot exist peacefully. It is either him or Lui and that's final.
General Han comes to speak with Liu Bang. He tells Lui that Xiang Yu has killed King Huai of Chu. And now General Han wants to be rewarded. He wants to be put in charge of all of Liu's troops, the troops of the eight vassals and whatever other troops they can gather in for the final showdown with Xiang Yu.
Now the armies meet face to face. They both attack each other. In the battle General Han kills one of Xiang Yu's most loyal and faithful men. Xiang Yu gets some revenge by killing one of Liu's closest friends.
Now the armies of the eight vassals descend on Xiang Yu's army. Now Xiang has the lesser numbers and he has to retreat. He and his men reach the Wu River. When they finally get back to Xianyang, the place has been burned and is in ruins.
Yu Ji is shocked at the destruction she sees. A man hands a secret message over to the pretty woman. He says these are secret plans from Liu Bang. He has ordered the allies to attack tomorrow. The man, Xiang Bo, says it's now up to Yu Ji because only she can persuade Xiang Yu to leave.
Yu Ji goes to talk with Xiang Yu. He says they have reached the end. Liu Bang will be coming tomorrow with a vast army. He has asked Xiang Bo to take her to a safe place. She says she wants to stay with him.
The allied troops arrive. Zhang has the band play a low, soft melody to encourage Xiang's men to throw down their swords and come over to the other side. They start coming, but one of the commanders, Xiang Zhuang, says he will kill any soldier who tries to surrender. Xiang Yu comes out and yells at the commander to stop. He says some nice things about his troops and then says goodbye to them.
Yu Ji comes to see the abandoned and alone Xiang Yu.
Liu Bang comes to say that if Xiang Yu gives up fighting, he will let him go back to Jiagdong. Xiang Zhuang leads a charge against Liu Bang and his men. The commander is finally hacked down to the ground. Xiang Yu goes over to him to says goodbye. Now he is the only one left. He goes on a rampage of killing enemy soldiers, but eventually he is hit with a sword thrust, that forces him on his knees and he stops fighting. Yu Ji asks for Liu Bang's sword saying: "I am the only one who can kill him and let him rest in peace." She takes his long knife and goes over to Xiang Yu. While she is walking toward Xiang Yu, she thrusts the blade into her mid-section. This upsets Xiang Yu, of course, but she says this way they will always be together. She takes the knife out and now stabs Xiang Yu. She lays her head on his left shoulder and they fall over onto the snow-covered ground.
Liu Bang now has the key people who helped Xiang Yu hunted down and killed. He says that his enemies are trying to kill him so he has to kill them first. One of his commanders, Fan Kuai, comes to see him and says: "I know something is wrong and I'm worried about you." He cries about not being useful to the Emperor any more. He then cuts his own throat and falls to the floor.
Back to the present. The great tutor asks their host who is he? The host goes on with his story. Zhang Liang, who was presumed dead after being hit with a couple of arrows to his back, goes to see the Emperor. On his deathbed, Zhang Liang shows up and asks the Emperor: "I want to ask you. Is that the result you were expecting?" The Emperor says he is scared each and every day. He is a bit paranoid about plots against him and the food they give him is poisoned. Yu Ji asked him once what is the cost of going to the banquet. He now knows the cost. "The cost is that you'll lose the capacity to trust anyone. In Hongmen Palace I have already built monuments without characters to memorialize those who have died because of me."
The host is the ghost of Fan Zeng.
Good movie. It's about the Chu–Han Contention (206–202 BC), an interregnum between the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty. According to Wikipedia, following the collapse of the Qin Dynasty, Xiang Yu splits the former Qin Empire into the Eighteen Kingdoms. Western Chu and Han emerge dominate from these principalities and engage and fighh for supremacy over China. Western Chu js led by Xiang Yu, while the Han leader is Liu Bang. During this period of time, several minor kings from the Eighteen Kingdoms also fight against each other. These battles were independent of the main conflict between Chu and Han. The war ended with total victory for Han, after which Liu Bang proclaimed himself "Emperor of China" and established the Han Dynasty.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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