Can a director best known for bloody bullet ballets pull off a historical action epic? We'll know later this week when John Woo's Red Cliff rolls out across Asia. The film's full-length running time of more than four hours has been split in two; the first part opens in China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Taiwan on Thursday, with a release in Malaysia next week and Japan in November, according to Variety. Part two is set to debut next January.

Red Cliff, based on the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (which has been adapted for television and film multiple times), is the fulfillment of a dream for Woo, who first tried to make it nearly 20 years ago. The title refers to a battle involving more than a million soldiers that brought an end to the Han Dynasty in 208 AD, resulting in the division of China into three kingdoms. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen and Lin Chiling star.

Woo has been staging elaborate action sequences for many years, but hasn't tackled a project of this scale and historical sweep before. An international version, expected to run about two and a half hours, will be completed by January. No US distributor has yet been set. To get fully caught up on this sometimes-troubled production, reportedly budgeted at $80 million, read our previous reports from February 2006, September 2006, April 2007 (1), April 2007 (2), August 2007, February 2008 (trailer), and June 2008.