The latest blockbuster from Chinese director Zhang Yimou, "The Curse of the Golden Flower", starring Gong Li and Chow Yun-Fat, opens nationwide in China on Thursday following mixed reviews.
The historical martial arts epic, with a reported budget of 45 million dollars, is the latest in a series of similar movies by Zhang following "Hero" and "House of the Flying Daggers".
Both were box office successes in China and around the world.
The new film tells the story of an imperial family which is slowly falling into decline, with battle scenes largely fought out between the sons of the emperor and empress played by Chow and Gong respectively.
"Curse does dazzle the eye, but its story plays like a bad soap opera," said Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter.
"This emperor’s family is so treacherous as to make Hamlet seem like a fairly well-adjusted member of an easy-going household."
Other reviewers praised the new film as the best of Zhang’s three martial arts epics, citing the director’s lavish use of colors and his cynical theme of rot in high places of power.
"Sumptuous as embroidered brocade, Curse of the Golden Flower outdoes the last two entries in spectacle," film critic Michael Guill