,
-
# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Page 01 | Page 02 | Page 03 | Page 04 | Page 05 | Page 06 | Page 07 | Page 08 | Page 09 | Page 10 | Page 11 | Page 12 | Page 13 | Page 14 | Page 15 | Page 16 | Page 17 | Page 18 | Page 19 | Page 20 | Page 21
The Sword Of Justice (1980) Directed by: Hui Sing-Yue

You make an agreement with yourself that terrific atmosphere and way above average swordplay is more than enough even if there's little coherency. Oh sure main character Lung San Lung on his revenge rampage in the martial world has his agenda but mostly the action team stages a parade of inventive and fast fights. Wisely restricting the scope and bringing in character drama concerning the futility of the violent world, there's even COHERENT, affecting train of thoughts put forth during and in between a furious 2 on 1 ending. All within a world where you become desensitized through killing and power.

The Sword Of Many Loves (1993) Directed by: Poon Man-Kit

-

Finally something by the Mak Brothers and director Poon Man-Kit that ISN'T a gangster epic taking us through the political changes of Hong Kong as a particular character rises through the ranks. No, The Sword Of Many Loves jumps on the 90s Wuxia wagon and although a bit too long, its above average production values, creativity and star chemistry gets the filmmakers a long way. Structured around the love triangle between swordsman Wu Fei (Leon Lai), kung fu fighter Purple Yuen (Sharla Cheung) and witch Ching (Michalle Reis), in between you also have some personal revenge, dynasty- and clan feuds... probably. The story outside of the trio isn't even half as interesting but the stars do interact rather well while Poon Man-Kit gives us some wicked, mad sights. Ranging from the scorpion eating dwarf to Ching's various, creative ways of poisoning people (faces get fatter, butts get fatter etc via her various tricks), the movie doesn't go particularly broad either (despite mentioned poison effects) when the love triangle goes into the feud territory we expect. The ladies look incredible, Leon Lai is suitably dopey as he tries to decide which one to truly pursue and the high flying action (by Yuen Cheung-Yan and Ma Yuk-Sing) is high on energy and excitement (in particular the sandstorm finale). It's not the second coming of the genre from the time but a lot more ambition translates into engagement by the cast and viewer. Elvis Tsui plays the main villain.

The Sword Of Swords (1968, Cheng Kang)

Fresh off his breakthrough performance in One-Armed Swordsman, Jimmy Wang Yu elevates in particular his physical performance skill for the accomplished The Sword Of Swords. Despite the familiar template of good versus evil and a coveted weapon in the middle, director Cheng Kang (also scriptwriter and later the director of The 14 Amazons) deals with a character contemplating loyalty towards his own path in life and it's largely an attempt at a peaceful one. Unwillingly trusted with carrying the titular sword and reluctant to spring into action for fear of losing a weapon that is said to conquer other countries on the battlefield, it's only when pushed REALLY far that Wang Yu's character re-trains and seeks revenge using newly found skills. Which is familiar genre territory but it's also earned since Cheng Kang crafts a fairly intelligent piece of Wuxia here. Making us properly hate the opposite sides of the Shang's that also Tien Feng's character fights and kills for, Cheng Kang depicts gleeful evil that breaks families and character in an unusually felt, almost sadistic fashion for these movies. Not necessarily due to on screen bloodshed but it walks the line of psychological breakdown and eventual body count. Working with Chang Cheh's action choreographer duo Lau Kar-Leung and Tong Kai, as a director Cheng Kang is really good at setting up cinematic tension and moments that then leads into creative and inspired intensity from the duo. Only sporadically depicting the magical powers of the sword, most of the work stays on the ground but contains a lot of sharp weapons piercing bodies. It's a massacre and a step up from their work with Chang Cheh at the time (the swordplay and emphasis on knives is incredibly fluid and detailed). Raising their game in Wang Yu's various mass brawls especially, seeing the star slice and dice through dozens of opponents like a lawnmower is truly incredible (the finale is one of the more genuinely violent pieces from Shaw Brothers).

Swordsman (1990, King Hu)

Watching the Wuxia movie go through its revolutionary, stylistically groundbreaking stages in the 60s via King Hu’s works such as Come Drink With Me and Dragon Inn, reportedly Tsui Hark saw Swordsman as a way of paying tribute to a personal hero by bringing him in to put his stamp on cinema of the 90s. But apparently the two didn’t see eye to eye with Tsui Hark favoring the frenzied, fast as he had used (working with Ching Siu-Tung) for the likes of A Chinese Ghost Story and King Hu saw his deliberately slow, held back and elegant style being a misfit for the production and walked away (health reasons played a part as well). Very few moments of his footage remains and the film is credited to Hu with Tsui Hark, Ching Siu-Tung and Raymond Lee listed as joint directors (Ann Hui and Andrew Kam were also said to be part of the group that got the film in the can). Nevertheless, Swordsman is ground zero for the style and feel of the Wuxia movie of the 1990s that would take off to even greater, more grand heights with Once Upon A Time In China and the Tsui Hark produced sequel to Swordsman (starring Jet Li). Not entirely illogical then that the movie feels like ideas in transition while some are already well developed.

Based on the novel 'The Smiling, Proud Wanderer' by Jin Yong (aka Louis Cha), the 2 hours here seem pretty busy but when Tsui Hark and company settle down it's an approachable tale of a coveted martial arts manual. With the Imperial Court targeting characters holed up in an inn (it is a King Hu movie after all), Sam Hui joined by Cecilia Yip represents a lighter tone in what could've been awfully stoic. Sam Hui's quick delivery and disarming act works particularly well as a hero from the Hua Mountain Sect who will need to re-evaluate allegiances throughout the film (and learn new styles). Despite having produced wild fantasy spectacle in A Chinese Ghost Story, Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-Tung seems to have gone back to the drawing board a little since Swordsman leans more toward traditional. The rapid cutting and active camera for pace within action is present but they rely more on display of powers rather than constant spinning around in the wires. The film picks its moments to enhance the characters this way and gets a few creative, lethal flying techniques into the two hours. That the trickery overall is a bit reserved makes sense since Swordsman represents a tweaked direction that would take off massively thanks to these and other makers but it does come at the price of the movie not always securing momentum. Tsui Hark and crew quickly got into the groove of making these elegant and outrageous Wuxia films in the 90s style but the prime examples would be represented by the likes of Once Upon A Time In China and Swordsman II. This 1990 outing is required viewing however in order to follow the thread of the martial arts wave of the 90s properly.

Swordsman II (1992, Ching Siu-Tung)

A few years into the Wuxia movie revival of the 90s whose ground zero arguably was the first Swordsman and the men behind it, Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-Tung, had found a groove. Still in Jin Yong territory and his novel 'The Smiling, Proud Wanderer', the popular sequel is completely re-cast as well. Not entirely to the film's advantage (Sam Hui's playfulness is something Jet Li struggles with but he in turn is a world class martial artist. Take your pick) but being more fluent technically in the kinetic style helps Swordsman II become a superior entry versus the first that was trying to break in its new boots. A recommended watch with a superior translation, Ching Siu-Tung breaks it down in an easy enough manner for us but there's no denying the fast paced action also applies to banter, exposition and plot. When all is said and done, it's sect versus sect and pursuit for power through supernatural means. Represented by Brigitte Lin's Dawn that absorbs the powers of a sacred scroll that sees the character change sex in the quest to rule the land. It's an iconic role thanks to the casting of one and with all of this surrounded by high flying, wired up creativity by Ching Siu-Tung and his team, it's no wonder Swordsman II has endured. You could tell on more hastily produced efforts in the same vein that he employed the older tricks in the book just to get the action done but he's seemingly getting time and a bigger sandbox to play in here as the film's action is largely inventive, fresh and big. The quickly edited choreography, stunt men being spun around on wires, characters beheaded, torn apart, the environments affected greatly by the powers of the martial world, these standard inclusions on the 90s Wuxia bingo card are all here. But Ching Siu-Tung goes beyond and choreography feels new and creative (despite the presence of Jet Li, don't expect a lot of grounded martial arts though) as we also get deeper into the connection between Jet Li's and Brigitte Lin's characters (not knowing they are on opposite sides or that she is going through changes in the name of power).

Being rapid doesn't obscure the ideas on display here and Swordsman II sets an example to follow. That many couldn't. Unless they were Ching Siu-Tung. Also with Michelle Reis, Rosamund Kwan, Yen Shi-Kwan, Waise Lee, Candice Yu, Lau Shun and Fennie Yuen. Brigitte Lin was the only carry over out of the main cast for the third outing The East Is Red.

The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen (1968) Directed by: Joseph Kuo

While not 100% certain on this, The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen is at least Joseph Kuo's big breakthrough in the Wuxia genre 10 years into his directorial career. As with subsequent efforts the next year such as King Of Kings, via this film Kuo joins the ranks of King Hu and Chang Cheh as thoughtful, stylish storytellers in combination with conveyers of exciting, creative action. Swordsman Tsai Ying-Chieh (Tin Yau) is on a killing spree in the name of revenge. Having witnessed his family being killed, no one and nothing will stand in his way. Meeting the mysterious Black Dragon, who wants a piece of the notorious swordsman, and swordswoman Swallow (Polly Kuan), it's the latter that tries to talk Tsai out of pursuing violent revenge. Even after being nursed to health by Swallow, Tsai is hellbent on getting the last one on his list...

Without breaking new ground, Joseph Kuo translates Tyrone Hsu's intelligent script well. It's straightforward revenge stuff that is intercepted by common but human questions about the notion of revenge. Is there something valid in bloodthirst and can you re-evalutate along the way in order to possibly achieve growth as a swordsman in a very violent world? With marvellous cinematography and a violent edge to the action, Kuo and crew essentially creates sword-brawls that brings the intensity up a considerable notch. The experimenting with undercranking isn't always successful though but The Swordsman Of All Swordsmen is still a classic piece of Wuxia CINEMA that manages to pack valid depth (minus points for a tad too much melodramatic acting though) in a short package.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Sworn Brothers (1987) Directed by: David Lai

A classic scenario of two childhood friends (Andy Lau & Cheung Kwok Keung) on opposite sides of the law but bound by loyalty to each other becomes a starting point for David Lai (Saviour Of The Soul, Runaway Blues) to excise some really, really dark inner demons that takes form in the shape of extreme brutal violence (supervised by Sammo Hung). Sworn Brothers is no film school example of storytelling but packs not only the punch on a violent level but fairly emotionally as well. Much due to Andy Lau's very competent and relaxed performance, a bit of a rarity at this point in his career. Melodrama goes way too high however and not all viewers may find the unsympathetic nature to characters worthy of their time but Sworn Brothers is exhilarating in its expert execution of violence. In a twisted way, that's enough. Siu Hung Mooi, Chin Ka-Lok, Eddy Ko and Bill Tung also appear.

An alternate ending was shot for the Mainland market and once available on the dvd release from WA.

Buy the DVD at:
Yesasia.com

Page 01 | Page 02 | Page 03 | Page 04 | Page 05 | Page 06 | Page 07 | Page 08 | Page 09 | Page 10 | Page 11 | Page 12 | Page 13 | Page 14 | Page 15 | Page 16 | Page 17 | Page 18 | Page 19 | Page 20 | Page 21
BACK TO TOP