Locked in a loveless marriage Empress Wan (international superstar Zhang Ziyi) is desperate to keep her forbidden love for Prince Wu Luan (Daniel Wu), from a family divided by cruelty and oppression. When the Emperor suddenly dies, his conniving younger brother Li takes up the throne forcing Wan to marry him. Convinced that this is the only way to protect all she loves from being destroyed by this new power hungry tyrant, Wan agrees. But Wu Luan refuses to see his love snatched away through such evil, greed and deception. After repeated attempts on his life amid furious confrontations with the new Emperor's imperial assassins, Wu Luan resolves to return to the palace and take revenge for himself, his beloved and a nation in the grip of a murderous madman.