For those who just want to know, "Should I see this or not?" without all the fluff and intellectualism (or at least minimal amounts), I present to you these bite-sized movie reviews. If you're in an abnormally large hurry, skip to the last few words of each section, as each is noted with "See it" or "Pass." So without further ado, let's see what's on the slate in this edition.
If you want a more detailed analysis of this flick, by all means, check out Danny's review. If you're in a hurry, it's martial arts lite, featuring some rather low-key fight sequences (at least when compared to something like Crouching Tiger or Braveheart) with a lot of play-fighting and blood squirting, but without all the gore, slashes, gashes, and impalement. There's more implied than shown, which may help those with weaker stomachs. The early-on "final test" is still a little tough to digest, as lifelong friends are pitted against one another in a fight to the death to see who is truly "worthy" of assassin status.
From there, these kids who've lived their entire lives on a mountain venture out into the world and grapple with not only how the rest of the world works, but also issues like when it's appropriate to get involved in a fight that you're not strictly a part of. Which wrong is more right? Save innocent villagers or mind your business and minimize exposure and not attract attention? These moral dilemmas are the best moments of the story, as the rest is mostly a vehicle.
Special effects, scenery, and wardrobe are all worth a look, sporting a variety of color and lushness. It's not quite as ham-fisted and dull as House of Flying Daggers, either. Turning on the English dubbed track changes it immediately from a drama into a comedy, so beware of doing that. Best to stick to the subtitles.
It's neither great nor terrible, and though it won't dethrone solid contemporaries Hero or Crouching Tiger, you could certainly do worse. Fans of the genre, see it.