Directed by He Ping, the multi-layered Warriors of Heaven and Earth combines traditional Chinese cinema with the hallmarks of spaghetti Westerns. Set in the eastern portion of the Silk Road, a popular eighth century Asian trade route, the film chronicles the stories of two heroes: Tang Dynasty imperial emissary Lai Xi (Kiichi Nakai) and soldier-turned-mercenary "Butcher" Li (Jiang Wen). After having served the Chinese emperor for some 20 years, Lai is eager to return home, though he must complete a final task before doing so; specifically, tracking down Li, as he once led a mutiny against the emperor's orders. Li, meanwhile, is busy recruiting a caravan to help him escort a Buddhist monk to the capital of China. While Lai is successful in finding Li, they agree to postpone their duel-to-the-death until the monk has been safely transported. Of course, after dealing with marauding Turks, the heat of the desert, and local bandits, it becomes unclear whether either man will survive to kill the other.
by Tracie Cooper synopsis