This film is masterful in the way that it slowly builds layers of drama and tension around a fairly simple plot. Hu creates a beautifully textured rendering of a time set in the Mongol dynasty by using authentic sets and a wonderful assortment of character actors. Due to the inability to often read the sub-titles, I must admit to not being entirely clear as to some of the plot complications.
The basic story line though is that Lee Khan,
a Mongolian prince, is coming to stay at an inn somewhere in the middle
of nowhere to obtain a secret war map. The Chinese rebels learn of this
and conspire to kill him and steal the map. Much of the film takes place
inside the inn and the first forty-minutes of the film presents us with
a myriad of interesting characters coming and going and the many activities
such as gambling that take place inside. It is a fascinating glimpse, yet
beneath the surface the conspiracy is slowly coming together and many of
the characters are not who they seem to be. Hu's use of the tracking camera
to capture all the movements that are taking place throughout the inn is
The female innkeeper (Li Lihua - one of the top Chinese actresses of the 40s and 50s) is part of the conspiracy and has brought four waitresses to work at the inn. These are not four ordinary waitresses as witnessed by the fact that Angela Mao, Helen Ma (Deaf Mute Heroine) and Hu Chin are among them. They are all proficient killers. In some early sequences there are a few occasions in which they are able to showcase their skills as they twirl over table tops and balconies.
Of course the big test is Lee Khan. Finally Lee Khan(Tien Feng), shows up with his entourage of bodyguards and the deadly but beautiful Princess (Hsu Feng) at his side. Hu is in no hurry though and very slowly the tension is created – will the plot be discovered, when will they attack – to great effect. Finally the rebel's hands are forced and they must show their faces. There is no turning back.
Sammo Hung was the director of action according to Bey Logan's book HK Action Cinema.