This misfire wallows in the chance to recreate the turbulent China of the 1930s, but Lou is so wary of generic clichés that he over-compensates with a flurry of 'new wave' ideas - such as repeated jump cuts, juddery camerawork and interminable close-ups of his protagonists, often gripped by intense emotions. It's set in Shanghai in the early '30s, with a 1928 prologue in Manchuria and newsreel of the Nanjing massacre in 1937 forming a coda. Ding Hui (Zhang) is a member of Purple Butterfly, an anti-Japanese resistance group, preparing to assassinate a Japanese spymaster. Itami (Nakamura), her former lover, works for the intended victim. Szeto (Liu) is an innocent bystander mistaken for a hitman, drawn into the plot when his fiancée is killed in crossfire. There's hardly any dialogue and motivations are often as opaque as the storytelling, but some of the mystification is clearly intended: the climactic three-way shoot-out is capped by an out of the blue revelation about Ding Hui's love life and a fantastically elaborate sequence shot. The actors do their best, but...
Cast and crew