Battle of Wits


AKA: A Battle of Wits, Battle of the Warriors

Year of release: 2006

Genre: drama/action

Director: Jacob Cheung

Action director: Stephen Tung

Producer: Jacob Cheung

Writer: Jacob Cheung

Cinematography: Sakamoto Yoshinao, Kobayashi Gen, Ardy Lam

Editor: Kwong Chi-Leung

Music: Kawai Kenji

Stars: Andy Lau, Wang Zhiwen, Fan Bing-Bing, Nicky Wu, Ahn Sung-Ki, Chin Siu-Ho, Wu Ma

Rated IIA for mild violence

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Battle of Wits  Battle of Wits

Battle of Wits  Battle of Wits

Battle of Wits is a film adaptation of the popular Japanase manga "Bokkou". The story centers around Ge Li (played by Andy Lau), who is a member of the Mozi tribe, a people well-known for their military skills, even though they seek to have peace across the world. Ge Li travels to the kingdom of Liang to assist the king (Wang Zhiwen), who is facing an attack from the feared General Xiang (Ahn Sung-Ki). Managing to draw back Xiang's forces, Ge Li still finds himself in trouble when deception and jealousy in the king's court grows.

In contrast to the other big-budget historical epics that have come out recently like Curse of the Golden Flower, Battle of Wits takes a downplayed approach. Sure, there are still huge battle scenes with thousands of warriors going at it full-bore, but in contrast to the opulence of those other films, Battle of Wits features a much-appreciated grittiness.

In fact, I wish director Jacob Cheung (whose other films are mainly initmate dramas) had gone all the way with a more visceral and real feeling. Though there isn't much in the way of CGI presented here, what is feels terribly out of place -- and Cheung can go a bit overboard at times with "arty" shots and editing. It's not as bad as a lot of the MTV-style hyper-stylized stuff coming out nowadays, but the story could have been portrayed just as well (and perhaps even better) without any camera trickery.

That being said, Battle of Wits still accomplishes what it sets out to do. Anchored by a solid performance by Andy Lau (who has now become one of Hong Kong's most reliable actors after years of leaden takes) and featuring a thoughtful story, it's one of the better swordplay epics to come out of Asia over the past year. Though it does plod in places and feels a bit long, most fans of Andy Lau and the genre in general should enjoy this entry.