It is 1939, and the Red Army is deeply engaged in the war against the Japanese, which for the communist Chinese has been going on for many years. Though they are ostensibly allies, the Kuomintang armies under Chiang Kai-shek have done very little to oppose the invaders, so the battle is theirs. In this story, nine men are being held prisoner by the army along the front lines. Three of them are ordinary "honest" thieves, one was caught spying, another poisoning, the third was accused of collaborating with the enemy because he alone survived when his unit was wiped out and the remaining three deserted from their units. During a battle, when almost every one of the regular soldiers is killed, it is up to these prisoners to fight to help the army, or die. Led by the accused collaborator, they acquit themselves with great bravery. This was the first film production of the Guanxi Film Studio in Naning, China, pre-dating the (1983) production Yellow Earth by some time; however official objections to portions of the storyline and consequent re-shooting and re-editing resulted in it not being released until 1987.
by Clarke Fountain synopsis