The Promise (2005 film)

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The Promise
The Promise film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Traditional 無極
Simplified 无极
Mandarin Wú Jí
Directed by Chen Kaige
Produced by Chen Kaige
Jiang Tao
Chen Rao
Written by Chen Kaige
Charcoal Tan
Starring Jang Dong-gun
Hiroyuki Sanada
Cecilia Cheung
Nicholas Tse
Liu Ye
Chen Hong
Music by Klaus Badelt
Cinematography Peter Pau
Choi Shung-fai
Edited by Li Fang
Zhou Ying
China Film Group Corporation
Beijing Film
Beijing 21st Century Shengkai Ltd.
Capgen Investment Group
Moonstone Entertainment Inc.
Distributed by China Film Group Corporation
Release dates
  • 15 December 2005 (2005-12-15)
Running time 128 minutes
Country China
Language Mandarin

The Promise is a 2005 Chinese epic fantasy film directed by Chen Kaige and starring Jang Dong-gun, Hiroyuki Sanada, Cecilia Cheung and Nicholas Tse. The film is based on the wuxia romance The Kunlun Slave, written by Pei Xing at the time of the Tang Dynasty.[1]

First released in mainland China on December 15, 2005,[2] as well as Hong Kong and Singapore. The Weinstein Company adapted it for North American distributions and three-day preview screenings, but they sold the film to Warner Independent Pictures. While under the control of Miramax & TWC, 19 minutes of scenes was trimmed out and the film was renamed Master of the Crimson Armor. Eventually, it was released on May 5, 2006 as The Promise.

When it opened in Asian markets, the crowd reactions were mixed. In China, public response was largely negative, although it made US$9 million in mainland China in the first week and HK$8 million in Hong Kong.[3] The budget was rumored to be 282~340 million yuan (US$35~$42 million), surpassing the cost of Zhang Yimou's 2002 film Hero.[4]

Despite the negative buzz, it is one of two Chinese films in 2006 to be nominated for Golden Globes Best Foreign Language Film at the 63rd Golden Globe Awards.


A starving girl named Qingcheng, who recently stole food from a kid, meets an almighty and divine goddess called Manshen and accepts an offer to enjoy the most wealthiest and luxurious life, and become the prettiest and most beautifully attractive woman in the land in return for forgoing everlasting, genuine true love for eternity. When she grows up, she becomes the King's concubine.

General Guangming defeats a larger army of barbarians with only 3,000 men and rushes back to save the King, who is besieged in the palace by the traitorous Duke Wuhuan. He meets Manshen, who tells him that someone wearing his Crimson Armour will commit regicide and tarnish his reputation. Subsequently, Guangming is attacked by Wuhuan's assassin, Snow Wolf. Kunlun, the slave of Guangming, defends his master from Snow Wolf with his particular skill of speed; Snow Wolf realized he is from the Land of Snow and leaves before he can kill the general. Wounded, Guangming asks Kunlun to don his armour and save the King, telling Kunlun that the King is the one without a weapon. Kunlun arrives at the palace and mistakes Qingcheng for the King as she is unarmed, and he kills the King instead, who has just drawn his sword. Kunlun falls in love with Qingcheng and they flee, only to be cornered at a cliff by Wuhuan and his soldiers. Wuhuan promises to leave Qingcheng unharmed, should Kunlun kill himself by jumping off the cliff, which Kunlun does.

Kunlun leaps off the cliff and survives. Guangming is angry as his subordinates had turned on him after believing that he had murdered the King. Kunlun saves his master and returns the Crimson Armour. They go to rescue Qingcheng from Wuhuan's clutches later and Qingcheng falls in love with Guangming, whom she believes to be the one who leapt off the cliff for her earlier. Kunlun is captured by Wuhuan, who realises that it was he who murdered the King.

While Guangming and Qingcheng lead a happy life in the countryside, Kunlun use his formidable speed and Snow Wolf guide to see the Veil of the Time and learns that Wuhuan was actually the one responsible for the destruction of his family and homeland. Snow Wolf is actually also from the same hometown as Kunlun and he was forced to become Wuhuan's servant in fear of death; Snow Wolf also tell Kunlun no one is capable to cross over the Veil. Wuhuan lures Guangming back to the palace and has him imprisoned. He places Guangming, Kunlun and Qingcheng on trial for regicide and has the liberty to decide on their punishments; in the middle of the trial, Kunlun confess he kills the King and Qingcheng realized he was the man who save her. Guangming, Kunlun and Qingcheng are sentenced. The captives break free and engage Wuhuan in a final battle, when Wuhuan confess to Qingcheng he is the kid who Qingcheng stole the food; Wuhuan and Guangming are killed after the battle, but Kunlun dons Snow Wolf's immortality robe and he survives despite having been fatally wounded. The goddess Manshen appears when Kunlun and Qingcheng are traveling across the Veil of Time and tells Qingcheng that the promises between gods and humans are fragile like the normal ones; now then she has finally found her true love and the opportunity to choose again and Manshen tells her to choose wisely. The movie ends with Qingcheng as a girl walking like the beginning of the movie.


  • Jang Dong-gun as Kunlun, the slave
  • Hiroyuki Sanada as General Guangming
  • Cecilia Cheung as Qingcheng
    • Guan Xiaotong as young Qingcheng
  • Nicholas Tse as Duke Wuhuan
    • Shi Lei as young Wuhuan
  • Liu Ye as Snow Wolf, the assassin
  • Chen Hong as Manshen, the goddess
  • Qian Bo as One Eye
  • Yu Xiaowei as Commander Yeli
  • Cheng Qian as the King
  • Li Jing as Kunlun's mother


The film has been criticized for the environmental damage caused while filming in Yunnan. The film's production crew were accused of damaging the vegetation and natural scenery of the area and the surrounding Lake Bigu from filming and set construction, and left behind a large amount of undisposed household waste.[5]

Hu Ge's 2005 short film A Murder Case Caused by a Bun (一个饅头引起的血案) spoofed The Promise. After it was released on the Internet, Chen Kaige threatened legal action for copyright infringement,[citation needed] but the case fizzled out owing to widespread Internet support for the beleaguered Hu.[citation needed]

Box office[edit]

The Promise grossed an estimated US$18,000,000 in mainland China.[6] Business was much less spectacular in Hong Kong, where it grossed a mere US$654,435 (HK$5,073,311).[6]

The Promise was scheduled to be released in North America by the Weinstein Company in December 2005 under the title Master of the Crimson Armor. This version was shortened by approximately 25 minutes. However, the Weinsteins eventually canceled plans to distribute the film, and North American distribution rights were bought by Warner Independent. Warner reverted the title back to The Promise, but otherwise retained the Weinstein's cut.

Warner released The Promise in North America on May 5, 2006 in 213 theaters. The film grossed US$272,838 in its opening weekend, and collected US$669,625 by the end of its run. The Promise has grossed US$33,539,654 worldwide.[6]


  1. ^ Liu, James J.Y. (1967). The Chinese Knight Errant. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-226-48688-5. 
  2. ^ "Dates set for the battle between Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige". China View. Xinhua. June 3, 2005. 
  3. ^ Frater, Patrick (December 25, 2005). "Studios hope leaner means greener". Variety. Retrieved 2007. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Can pricy movie produce profit?". China View. Xinhua. February 9, 2006. Retrieved January 9, 2008. 
  5. ^ "China film director hailed for harming environment". Beijing. Reuters. November 1, 2006. Retrieved October 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c The Promise at Box Office Mojo

External links[edit]