It comes as no surprise that a movie which reunites the director/writer and the three stars of A Touch of Zen should offer so many hitherto untasted pleasures. The Valiant Ones delivers riches aplenty as an exemplary piece of Ming Dynasty Chinese historiography, and at the same time as a daringly innovative action adventure story, quite different in its tone and visual style from the pyrotechnics that characterised A Touch of Zen. An enfeebled emperor appoints a loyal official to tackle the problem of Sino-Japanese pirate bands who are pillaging the south coast of China; the official assembles a team of peasants and intellectuals, and plans a war of strategies, not confrontations. Plot developments, however, occur between scenes rather than in them. The film dreams a series of martial set pieces, with increasingly abstract action once again derived from the Peking Opera tradition. The glittering images include a chess game that suddenly becomes a battle plan, a silent woman with heightened sight and hearing, and a rumbustious zen archer.