SYNOPSIS: In this fast-paced, "cutting-edge" action comedy, a mystical blade transforms the lives of three ambitious men. This trilogy of interwined stories based on desire, vengeance and greed proves that the power of the blade is matched only by the trouble it brings to its owners.
A hapless butcher (Liu Xiaoye) is in infatuated with a courtesan named Mei (Kitty Zhang Yuqi). Her charms are unworldly. In his way is the infamous fighter Big Beard. The butcher doesn't stand a chance. When he happens upon a stranger with a magical cleaver, he suddenly has the means to win. Before he uses it, he's told the magical blade isn't for killing and the blade's origin is explained. As the title suggests, the rest of the story involves a chef and a swordsman (Ashton Xu).
Set in ancient china, this is a highly stylized version of the past. Director Wuershan hails from the commercial ad world and it's obvious. You can tell he makes ads featuring lots of slow motion, fast edits, bellowing fabric and soaring arias. The film is full of gimmicks. This includes, black and white sections with red highlights à la SinCity, animations, video game sequences, Taiwanese 3D news renderings and cartoons. Audio wise there are funky hip hop beats, techno tracks and a horrific Mandarin rap performed by the Bordello staff. Gimmicks or not, he knows how to compose a gorgeous visual. The images are great, the problem is the rapid fire delivery approach of it.
The story unfolds like a Russian doll; stories are nestled within each other. It's not a bad concept except only one of the three stories is watchable. The other two stories suffer from too much whiz-bang effects that leaves no room for digestion.
They're simply over wrought, over edited and over produced. When the story settles down, it's in the middle part featuring Ando Masanobu as the chef. It is by far the best story of the three and if the movie is judged on this part, it would be a very good one. Unfortunately it's surrounded by the frantic blur of the rest of the film.
Director Wuershan, who used to shoot adverts, fails miserably at trying his hand on a feature film. He throws in all sorts of crazy, pop culture stuff and even repeating an aria from Puccini's Tosca, in a bid to lend style (or a sense of art) to the scenes. But it turns out to be more of an unintentional comedy - or a tragicomedy. The few sequences that look interesting enough are those dealing with food. Makes me wonder what sort of hallucinatory drug Wuershan was on when he made this film.
Only the film’s Theatrical Trailer is included in the DVD.
The visual transfer of the movie is fine, and is presented in Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital.
DVD RATING :
Review by John Li