The Warlords (2007) is one of those Asian action movies we've been seeing more of lately, where the action is military and political rather than hand-to-hand. The budget is big and the production values show it. Having Jet Li, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro as stars doesn't hurt.
It is set at the end of Qing dynasty (late 1800s), when the Chinese empire was falling apart, besieged by rebels and warlords. They fought back by hiring warlords and mercenary armies, a dangerous strategy. Jet Li plays a general whose army is wiped out when the government reinforcements hold back. He meets up with Andy Lau, a warlord who only fights to keep his village fed. Kaneshiro rounds out the trio as an idealistic fighter with Lau's band.
Li convinces them that the best way forward is to fight the rebels for the government, quell the rebels, bring back stability and gain power to protect the people. As you can imagine, that involves compromises that tear the group apart. A pretty girl, played by Xu Jinglei, doesn't help matters either.
I've enjoyed lots of these epics, from Red Cliff on, and I'll continue to queue them up. Still, I think I'll always prefer Jet Li in a straight-up chop-sockey role. He's a great actor, it turns out, but still a better fighter.