The movie begins with Andy Lau as the ruthless warlord Hou jie, who sends his army into Shaolin temple in search of his enemy, and disregarding the Shaolin monk’s plea to spare his life, kills his enemy on the spot. On the way back, Hou jie teaches his protege Cao Man to always finish off his enemy when you have the upper hand, otherwise they will come back and bite you. Little known that Cao Man probably understood his mentor’s teachings too well, and ultimately decides to betray his mentor and become the top general himself.
The betrayed Hou Jie flees to Shaolin temple and is left to see his daughter die in agony and his wife leaves him heartbroken. Hou Jie, with the help of the Shaolin cook (Jackie Chan), finally realises the folly of his past and stays with the Shaolin monks to redeem his evil deeds by following the Shaolin way of life, and eventually gains the respect of the Shaolin monks. His time at Shaolin is shortlived however, when he uncovers that Cao Man was collaborating with foreigners to exploit his own countrymen. Hou Jie, realising that he is the reason of all the suffering and Cao Man’s greed, decides to act and together with the Shaolin monks, puts on a fight that will truly become a classic in Chinese cinemas.