Warriors of Heaven and Earth (2003) poster
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 62 users
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A Chinese emissary is sent to the Gobi desert to execute a renegade soldier. When a caravan transporting a Buddhist monk and a valuable treasure is threatened by thieves, however, the two warriors might unite to protect the travelers. Edit Translation

  • English
  • magyar / magyar nyelv
  • dansk
  • Norsk
  • Country: China
  • Type: Movie
  • Release Date: Oct 16, 2003
  • Duration: 1 hr. 54 min.
  • Score: 7.2 (scored by 62 users)
  • Ranked: #26343
  • Popularity: #99999
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated

Cast & Credits


Warriors of Heaven and Earth (2003) photo


The Butterfly
4 people found this review helpful
Sep 13, 2022
Completed 0
Overall 7.5
Story 7.5
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 5.0
This review may contain spoilers

Know the rules of The Road

Warriors of Heaven and Earth is an unconventional action and buddy film. Filmed in the Gobi desert with a haunting OST and good performances, this film had almost everything needed to be epic. Almost.

Unlike many films with numerous plots and turns, Warriors of Heaven and Earth was more like the Silk Road going through the desert. A rough path with even rougher people traversing it, but fairly straightforward. The film starts with Lai Xi, a Japanese man, who came to China 15 years before to study war craft. All he wants to do now is go home and see his mother. The emperor, whom he is loyal to, has resisted letting him leave. The Tang emperor tasks him with eliminating fugitives in the Western region. Once he fulfills this task, he can finally return home to Japan. Lai's final obstacle is hunting down "Butcher" Li, a general charged with mutiny because he refused to slaughter captive women and children.

Lieutenant Li has been wandering the desert making a living when he is caught up in a sandstorm and nearly dies. He is rescued by the sole military survivor of a caravan carrying Buddhist texts and a precious artifact. One young monk protecting the artifact survived the storm as well. Li takes control of the caravan and promises to lead it to the capital. Along the way he ends up picking up a fighter who had seen too many winters, Old Diehard, and a young man who had seen too few, Salamander, as well as some of his old cohorts. Lai Xi also finds him and after a fight that ends in a draw agrees to allow Li to finish the caravan mission before killing him. For some reason, Lai is escorting the daughter of a killed general to the capital and she becomes part of the caravan as well.

No movie focusing on the Silk Road would be complete without gangs of bandits. This film focuses on Master An, the leader of a gang determined to steal the artifact. Another group, followers of a Khan, also want the artifact. They are relentless and seemingly willing to sacrifice anything to get their hands on the item in the monk's care.

Li and Lai have an almost comfortable relationship as two men who see each other as equals, and honorable, though they know at least one of them will not reach the capital. The small band of men, almost akin to The Seven Samurai, must use every bit of their wits and experience to fight through the bandits in inhospitable territory. Outnumbered and bearing the heavy burden of traveling with numerous camels and cargo, the fugitives are determined to carry out their mission. Once the artifact is revealed, the film ventures into Indiana Jones territory (think Buddhist Ark of the Covenant) which in one scene is intriguing and in another eye-rolling.

The fights and battles are all quite brutal and well choreographed. There is some wire-fu and CGI enhancement, but most of it is bone crunching and bloody hacking between seasoned soldiers and fighters.

What I enjoyed the most about the film was the beautiful desert scenery, shot with a loving eye. Desert towns looked authentic and the overhead geometric shots were fascinating. One scene where large jars of oil were used to create an impressive ringed fire at night was a great shot. The OST was unobtrusive and seductively wove the scenes and emotions together.

The cast was older than many recent movies which gave gravitas to the battle hardened men facing each other over swords or bonding together as brothers. Nikai Kiichi and Jiang Wen both played quiet heroes, yet still found ways to make their characters interesting beyond their ability to swing a sword. This is the first Chinese film I've seen where a Japanese character was shown as honorable and a skilled warrior, all in a positive light. Li and Lai made for a decent adversarial bromance. Vicki Zhao, was stuck in a token female role with little to do. Wang Xue Qi as the vile but intelligent Master An was acceptable as the bandit leader only going over the top on occasion.

What didn't work as well, was the very slow build-up to the story and the magical ending. I honestly was going to score this an 8 before the final scenes.

Warriors of Heaven and Earth was a surprisingly enjoyable film. Though a familiar sword fighting action narrative, it trod slightly different ground. It was strongest when focusing on the two men who each just wanted to be able to go home, thwarted by the emperor. When it veered from a more realistic survival epic into supernatural territory, it lost its way. I could still recommend this film with caveats. 7.75 for me.


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  • Movie: Warriors of Heaven and Earth
  • Country: China
  • Release Date: Oct 16, 2003
  • Duration: 1 hr. 54 min.
  • Content Rating: Not Yet Rated


  • Score: 7.2 (scored by 62 users)
  • Ranked: #26343
  • Popularity: #99999
  • Watchers: 140

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