He Ping's Warriors of Heaven and Earth starts off in traditional Eastern epic fashion and with a few similarities to Musa/The Warrior - one of its protagonists is a Japanese noble eager to earn the Emperor of China's permission to return home after 25 years in his service - but it soon develops into something much more satisfying: an all-out Western, and one that's played straight for once. It may be set along China's Silk Road, but the landscape is classic American Western, from pine valleys to buttes that could have come straight out of the smaller corners of Monument Valley. Even the Turks who attack the wagon train - sorry, camel caravan - at Red Rock Gorge do so with Apache war cries.
There are some imaginative action scenes, including a neat swordfight between the two protagonists on opposite sides of a log cabin's walls, and the classic Western friendly enemies archetypes transpose surprisingly well to an Eastern setting. It's a shame that the caravan's cargo has supernatural qualities, because the film really doesn't need the fantasy element, but they special effects are at a bare minimum, as is wirework for once. This made little impression at the box-office, but it's well worth tracking down. Great fun.
Unlike the UK DVD, which has 7 seconds of censor cuts, this Region 1 NTSC disc is uncut. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is superb, with both original Chinese and dubbed English soundtracks available. The extras aren't plentiful - 25-minute making of, music video and brief trailer - but are adequate enough.