A Battle Of Wits – finally a worthy Chinese period epic

Based on a Japanese manga, A Battle Of Wits stars Andy Lau as a military strategist whose mission is to save a besieged city against a superior army. The film is probably the biggest production commenced by Hong Kong Cable TV’s subsidiary film arm and marks the return of critically acclaimed director Jacob Cheung.

I found the film entertaining and less reliant on overpowering visions that have become the defining trademark of recent Chinese period epics. A Battle Of Wits discards vibrant colour schemes, flamboyant art design and eye-popping martial arts scenes in favour for a more riveting narrative. Responsible for scripting and directing the film, Jacob Cheung opts to concentrate on the strategy of how an inferior army can stifle supposedly superior forces. Viewers become engaged because they identify with the underdog and are eagarly to see how he outwits the enemy – in other words, Cheung relies on clever plot twists rather sheer action and directorial bravura to entertain viewers.

Andy Lau headlines the movie and is featured in pretty much all of the scenes. The pan-Asian cast includes respected actors from Hong Kong (Chin Siu-ho, Wu Ma), Taiwan (Nicky Wu Chi-lung), China (Fan Bingbing) and Korea (Ahn Sung Kee, Si Won Choi). All deliver respectable performances.

Verdict : another successful film based on a Japanese manga. In many ways superior to recent Chinese period epics The Promise and The Banquet. Recommended.