Tsui’s dynamic and visually impressive epic, adapted (and streamlined) from Liang Yusheng’s ’70s novel, is a bold if overlong and occasionally flagging response to such recent reinvigorating ‘Westernising’ successes as ‘Crouching Tiger…’ and ‘House of Flying Daggers’. Tsui’s tack is to rein in those films’ tendency towards humanistic romanticism and ‘wire-worked’ balletic flourish in favour of more traditional swordplay, while set-dressing and costuming his ‘Seven Samurai’-style narrative to appeal to post-‘Lord of the Rings’ fantasy fans.
It’s a bravura, artful work – one spinning duel is a triumph of elegant editing – sympathetically acted and laced with a welcome modicum of humour and surprising, almost brutal sexuality. But the sheer level of breathless, plot-befuddling event may tire all but the diehard martial arts fan.
Cast and crew
Kim So Yeun