A young swordsman named Fox is on a quest to recover
a sacred scroll stolen from the imperial library. The scroll
contains the secret to a powerful martial arts technique.
Whoever possesses it is assured of martial arts supremacy.
The eunuch guardians want it back at all costs. So do many
warring martial arts factions. They are all more than willing
to kill and get it. This leads to betrayal, double crosses
and broken allegiances, culminating in a spectacular showdown.
This movie will go down in history simply for 2 reasons. First,
for having the most director and co-directors for a feature
film and two, for reviving the martial arts aka ‘wu
xia’ genre in HK almost a decade of absence.
has it that acclaimed director, the late King Hu (“A
Touch of Zen”, “Dragon Inn”) abruptly left
the set because of some creative differences with Producer
Tsui Hark although he did received top billing in the end.
Tsui and his fellow directorial friends subsequently took
over the director’s chair.
on a Louis Cha’s novel, this movie adaptation is actually
a laughable affair. However, it’s a good mix of pugilistic,
heroism and political issues as compared to the sequels (will
get back to that in the future). For the record, Cha’s
original novel is anything but short. However, the screenwriters
managed to successfully mutilate the whole plotting and condensed
it into a 120 minutes movie. So at the end, the product smells
a little of Cha’s inputs and the rest belongs to the
first time I watched "Swordsman", I was totally
immersed in the fanciful swordsplay choreography to bother
much about the plotting and the various “blink-and-missed”
characters. Now when I revisit this movie on dvd, I realized
some of the scenes go on far too long and some characters
are placed there just for the sake of being there.
owner of this dvd (who is also a fellow reviewer of moviexclusive.com)
laments that he didn’t like it liked he used to. He
pointed out there were plenty of weaknesses, the ludicrous
quick-editing for example. But I have to refute that his so-called
quick-editing is the typical style which applies to many films
made in the era and before. Perhaps it’s to give it
a false sense of emergency or to hide some technical constraints.
really works in this film is the wonderful casting. Sam Hui’s
performance as the carefree pugilist Fox is spot on although
purists find that Sam is not the perfect person for the role.
Jacky Cheung for example won the Golden Horse Award for his
baddie role Au Yeung. And who can forget the wonderful Cecilia
Yip as Fox’s bumbling sidekick Kiddo, Sharla Cheung
and the bunch of recognizable supporting actors liked Lau
Shun, Yuen Wah, Wu Ma and the late Lam Ching Yin.
Siu-Tung or better known as Tony Ching in the Western markets
did a fantastic job choreographing the wildly imaginative
martial-arts sequences thus keeping action buffs liked myself
glued to the seats. Ching’s (in his pre “House
of Flying Dangers” and “Hero” days) unique
style of choreography has this elegancy and poetry which others
try hard to accomplish in the martial-arts genre. The trio-fight
sequence on an old junkship still remains as one of the most
memorable scenes in the movie.
were plenty of blood-spluttering scenes and also heads being
lopped off as well, enough to warrant a harsher rating in
today’s era. It’s fortunate that our generation
gets to enjoy all the craziness in full glory on the big screen
all thanks to the non-existence of film rating in the 90’s.
repeated viewings, “Swordsman” rules mainly because
of its great cast performance and action choreography minus
the cheesy CG effects commonly found in wuxia serials and
movies nowadays. The many sub-plots that were introduced got
nowhere and the back-stabbings got a bit tired after a while.
this title if you intend to introduce yourself to the good
old martial arts genre, see for yourself why “Swordsman”
revived the ‘wuxia’ genre and spinned two more
sequels that starred International Superstar Jet Li and retired
romance actress, Bridgette Lin Chin-Hsia. Just bear with the
plot, indulge in the catchy theme song and enjoy the wire-works!
It's a pity director Tsui Hark and retired pop icon Sam Hui
were not involved in the making of segments but we still have
to give Fortune Star some credits for including some basic
New and Original Movie Trailers - I didn’t
know the original movie trailer last almost 5 minutes; see
it purely for nostalgia factor. The new trailer is cut mainly
for the Western audiences with zilch dialogues and flashy
cheesy wordings added.
Movie Stills/Photo Slide Show- I'm not a
fan of photo slide show but this a nice feature if you love
seeing lovely well-taken photo stills.
James Wong Interview/Jacky Cheung Interview
- The interview with composer James Wong last 8 minutes but
will be more interesting if it’s 18 minutes or more
because he’s such an engaging talker. The man yanked
about how difficult it is to work with Tsui Hark over the
theme song and his dream was to write a Broadway musical after
he stopped writing scores for movies. Pity he died shortly
of lung cancer after this interview was recorded in 2004.
The Jacky Cheung interview is slightly longer and involved
a lot of typical PR stuff, the politically-correct star did
however throw in an interesting anecdote – an episode
involving Tsui Hark throwing his temper over the performance
of the extras in the background.
Deleted Scenes - There are 2 short deleted
scenes. Nothing crucial or anything spectacular. In fact it’s
only a minute long, keeping them will do no harm to the entire
running pace of the movie.
title is one of the many remastered HK classics released under
the Fortune Star label. Although defects can still be found,
the many night scenes in the movie projected itself pretty
brightly on screen sans for some grainy shots. For a movie,
which is 17 years old, the remastered version is still considerably
acceptable in terms of visual. Ironically, this restored version
shows very clearly the wire that is harness to the actors
during some of the ‘flying’ sequences.
The soundtrack is remastered in both DTS and
Dolby Digital 5.1. The various explosions heard in the movie
are clearly and more powerfully conveyed through the DTS than
DD5.1. But it’s a job well done by Fortune Star giving
the movie a more justifiable soundtrack than the original.
In addition, the disc comes with both the Cantonese and dubbed
Mandarin track. I suggest you go for the former and just switched
on the English sub if you are Cantonese-handicapped like me.
Be warned though, not all the subtitles are grammatically
by Linus Tee