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Ashes of Time

1994 1h 40m Drama List
Reviews 88% Audience Score Fewer than 50 Ratings
Swordsman Ou-yang Feng (Leslie Cheung) was once a ruthless bounty hunter for whoever would pay. Now he mostly leaves the killing to others while working as the proprietor of a desert inn, where he spends his days pining after his brother's wife (Maggie Cheung), who left Ou-yang after he spent too much time away. Ou-yang has a number of contract killers as employees, including his old friend, Huang Yao-shi (Tony Leung Ka Fai), whose annual visits are one of his rare pleasures. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (2) Critics Reviews
Jonathan Rosenbaum Chicago Reader Indeed, it seems that the closer contemporary Chinese cinema comes to contemplating China’s future, the more filmmakers are preoccupied with rethinking and renegotiating troubled pockets in its past. Rated: 3/4 Jun 7, 2022 Full Review Howard Waldstein CBR For Wong Kar-wai, action is color, and this film sees the director pushing the boundaries of a template that can hardly contain his style. Jul 18, 2023 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (3) audience reviews
Fabrizio B Another masterpiece from Wong Kar-wai, probably one of the most difficult to understand. Trama is quite challenging but the poetry of this movie is something that you keep inside for a long time. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 09/13/23 Full Review Taylor L A totally unique take on the wuxia genre, this early Wong Kar-Wai film clearly takes influence from the work of King Boxer but deliberately makes the martial arts and swordplay into a secondary feature in favor of a distinctive narrative structure. Technically a prequel to a classic wuxia novel series (The Legend of the Condor Heroes), Ashes of Time doesn't require the audience to have familiarity with the source material to get something out of the viewing experience (but given that it plays off that series by giving more humanizing and subversive perspectives on a series of antagonists, it might have some more for series fans). The story could best be described as a figure eight - it loops back around to connect the end and the beginning, but also interweaves throughout the story; the plot seems poised to become an action-heavy anthology with a lone mercenary in a remote outpost waiting on work, but instead explores characters of dubious morality touching each others' stories in unexpected ways. The action seems like a major weakness, with a frequent use of slow-mo and close shooting angles that almost make it seem as if Ashes of Time had the same problem as an action film with an aging star - low budget and half-capable physical performances. For some, a wuxia film with unimpressive action setpieces is worthless regardless of what else it has to offer. But this is a bit of genre subversion, and Wong Kar-Wai compensates not only with some recognizable casting choices, but in particular with a great use of color and cinematography that features the talents of his longtime collaborator Christopher Doyle. Together with a story whose circuitous design parallels the main character's self-proclaimed anger and jealousy that give rise to a feedback loop which provides some tragic context to his villainy, Ashes of Time won't likely entice fans of suspension wire theatrics but it just might be a revelation when it comes to how it explores its characters even with a few breadcrumbs of context. Find the original subbed version if you can, not the redux. Somehow the original prints were lost and the updated recreation is kind of shoddy. (3.5/5) Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 02/28/23 Full Review raphael g Some beautiful shots but it gets tiring. The movie itself isn't good enough, sorry. Rated 1 out of 5 stars 03/31/23 Full Review Read all reviews
Ashes of Time

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Movie Info

Synopsis Swordsman Ou-yang Feng (Leslie Cheung) was once a ruthless bounty hunter for whoever would pay. Now he mostly leaves the killing to others while working as the proprietor of a desert inn, where he spends his days pining after his brother's wife (Maggie Cheung), who left Ou-yang after he spent too much time away. Ou-yang has a number of contract killers as employees, including his old friend, Huang Yao-shi (Tony Leung Ka Fai), whose annual visits are one of his rare pleasures.
Director
Kar-Wai Wong
Screenwriter
Kar-Wai Wong
Genre
Drama
Original Language
Chinese
Runtime
1h 40m