Shadow (2018, Zhang Yimou)

A Three Kingdoms adaptation, but the third kingdom must’ve been cut for time. The Shadow is Deng Chao (star of The Mermaid), trained as a public replacement for the military commander (also Deng Chao) hidden in a Parasite basement. Their boss is Pei king Zheng Kai (The Ex-Files trilogy) and their wife is Sun Li (Chao’s real wife, the blind girl in Fearless) and it’s not always clear who’s fooling who. Anyway, the shadow starts a fight with the next city over, and before the neighbors can strike, Pei launches a sneak attack featuring their new umbrella-based weaponry.

Only a pretty good royal-intrigue movie, for the most part – too many stabbings with exaggerated SHINNNNG-SPLORT! sound effects – but with a couple of inimitable Zhang touches. The assault on the rival kingdom begins with Pei fighters skating down a hill inside twin bladed umbrellas, deflecting enemy fire and shooting crossbows from inside their spinning shields, and continues with their new dueling technique: dodging enemy blows with a feminine umbrella sway. Then there’s the visual design, with complex black and white patterns and explicit yin-yang effects.

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