Bryant’s review published on Letterboxd:
Hey, kids, were you looking for an epic action movie about a bunch of Turkic bros smashing the hell out of a rebel Tang salt smuggler slash emperor? Cool, this is your movie. It's awesome.
The pace is a bit slow for this to be as good as it could be. Chang Cheh maybe gets a little bit lost in his own plots and scope, which I think is something his movies with the Five Venoms also suffered from. It's OK; everything that happens on screen is pretty riveting. There's a nice tonal shift from the extremely frat boy opening act -- "hey, let's drink beer and show off our martial arts!" -- to the tragedy of act 3. You get this sense of inevitability which I really enjoyed.
And man, the fights in the third act are good! After the big bridge battle I was thinking it'd be a fine time to end of the movie but then we wouldn't have gotten the real climax. It's not as large scale as the bridge fight, but it's tremendously cool. This is a movie with a lot of well-earned bloodshed.
While you could wish for more focus on David Chiang and Ti Lung, that'd sacrifice the grand sweep of the movie. Chang stretches all the way out here into huge battle sequences. I am, as is often the case, in awe at the scope of the Shaw Brothers sets.