Seven Swords

Film, Action and adventure
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The latest from past master of the Hong Kong martial arts wuxia, Tsui Hark, is a stampeding warhorse of a movie, set in remote north-west China at the birth of the Qing Dynasty in the late seventeenth century. A new imperial edict has banned the practice of martial arts on pain of decapitation, and an army of bounty hunters led by balding psycho Fire-Wind (Sun Honglei) is set on subduing villages wholesale in pursuit of the 300 silver pieces per head reward. Their first target is Martial Village, where rebel lovers Wu (attractive female star Charlie Young) and Han (Lu Yi) have won the friendship of a retired executioner who tells them the master swordsmen from distant Mount Heaven might help them defend their village…

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.

Posted:

Release details

Rated:
15
Release date:
Friday February 24 2006
Duration:
140 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Tsui Hark
Screenwriter:
Tsui Hark, Chi-Sing Cheung, Cheun Tin-Nam
Cast:
Donnie Yen
Charlie Young
Lu Yi
Lau Kar-Leung
Leon Lai
Sun Hong-ei
Kim So Yeun
Duncan Chow
Tai Li-Wu
Zhang Jingchu