The Banquet (15)

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The Independent Culture

Hamelt meets Crouching Tiger in this long, lavish story of royal power-struggles in 10th-century China.

Ziyi Zhang plays the empress who has married the murderous usurper (Ge You) yet harbours a forbidden love for her stepson Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu). The latter barely escapes with his life after masked assassins, sent by the uncle who killed his father, ambush his theatrical troupe.

Director Feng Xiaogang interweaves pageantry with gravity-defying fight sequences, and sprays around a good deal of plum-coloured blood in the process. It's a handsome spectacle, but it misses all the wit and dash of Shakespeare, not to mention the poetry. Anyone can steal a plot – it's the imagination applied that matters.