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Film / The Assassin

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The Assassin (刺客聶隱娘, Cì Kè Niè Yǐn Niáng, roughly "The Assassin Niè Yǐn Niáng") is a 2015 film directed by Hou Hsiao-hsien, loosely based on the ninth-century story "Nie Yin Niang" by Pei Xing. It stars Shu Qi and Chang Chen; this was their second time working together on a movie directed by Hou, after Three Times (and Shu Qi's third collaboration with Hou).

In the last years of the Tang Dynasty, Nie Yin Niang is an assassin sent to kill corrupt government officials. When she fails to kill one of her targets, she's sent to kill her cousin Tian Ji'an. Instead she decides to protect him.

Not to be confused with another wuxia, The Assassin (1967).


Contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Nie Yin Niang, though her job means she blurs the lines between this and Dark Action Girl.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Tian Xing and Nie Feng are goind to be killed by a group of assassins when Nie Yinniang shows up to save them.
  • Buried Alive: Tian Xing is going to be buried alive, when Nie Yinniang shows up to save him.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The prologue is in black and white.
  • Evil Mentor: The nun tries to teach Nie Yinniang to be a merciless assassin, but Nie Yinniang has standards. In the end, she breaks up with her mentor.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Kong Kong uses black magic against Huji, a pregnant concubine of Tian Ji'an.
  • The Film of the Book: The plot is loosely based on Nie Yinniang, a Tang-dynasty short story by Pei Xing.
  • Heroes Fight Barehanded: Nie Yin Niang doesn't use a weapon in her rooftop fight with Tian Ji'an; she deflects all his attacks by dodging or grabbing his arms. Justified, because she isn't trying to kill him.
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  • Historical Domain Character: Tian Ji'an and Tian Xing were real people.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Nie Yin Niang is a female example. She refuses to kill a man when his son is present, and later decides not to kill Tian Ji'an because his death would plunge Weibo into chaos.
  • In Love with the Mark: Nie Yinniang has feelings for Tian Ji'an. She was betrothed to him in the past.
  • Kissing Cousins: Nie Yin Niang and Tian Ji'an are cousins, and they were engaged when they were younger.
  • Professional Killer: Nie Yin Niang, the title character.
  • Protected by a Child:
    • A variant, since the child isn't aware there's any danger. Nie Yin Niang goes to kill a man and finds him with his son asleep in his arms. She decides not to kill him.
    • Tian Ji'an's son stands in front of his mother when Tian Ji'an threatens her with a sword.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Tian Ji'an fights Nie Yin Niang on the roof after she broke into his palace. She defeats him (unarmed!) and escapes.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: After years of training with the nun, Nie Yinniang comes back to the court of Weibo, where she was born. She is not really welcome (even her parents are afraid of her). In the end, she leaves the court for ever.
  • Wuxia: Fighting against evil? Check. Corrupt government? Check. Imperial Chinese setting? Check. Sword fights? Check.