Martial Arts / Hong Kong Cinema
The Blade
.
Dir: Tsui Hark
Star: Chiu Cheuk, Xiong Xin-Xin, Song Nei, Moses Chan, Michael Tse
Cert / Year: 18 / 1995
Format: DVD R0
'

The Blade is a modern remake of the Shaw Brothers classic The One Armed Swordsman expertly put together by legendary Hong Kong cinema director Tsui Hark. Possibly best known for Once Upon a Time in China, Hark manages to fuse his frenetic blend of sumptuous swordplay, full tilt action and technically superior martial arts choreography to breathe new life into this Asian classic producing yet another of his grand and lavish epics.

The story is related through the oration of Ling, a young woman who places herself at the centre of a love triangle (of her own making) involving On Man (Chiu Cheuk) and Iron Head (Moses Chan). The two men whom she knows has feelings for her and work for her father in the sword foundry and who she imagines will fight each other for her "affections". On was adopted by her father after his father, a famous swordsman was murdered by a mysterious tattooed killer when he was a child. As a young man, On learns of his fathers death and taking his fathers broken sword which was kept safe by his adopted father he sets out for revenge. Unhappy at the prospect of losing one of her lovers, Ling rides after On but is caught in an ambush by some local bandits. Hearing her cries for help, On goes to attempt a rescue but gets his arm caught in one of the many animal traps dotted around and it is severed. Chasing after his missing limb, On is seen falling off a cliff and is believed dead. On is actually rescued at the bottom by a young hermit girl who cares for his wounds and eventually nurses him back to health. After his new home is attacked by bandits who beat and burn him, On finds an old kung fu manual, which he uses to practice with the broken blade to perfect the art of one armed swordfighting...... Vengeance will be his.

Directorially the film is both visually striking and quite impressive, even as a remake, and loses none of the charm of the original or more importantly the point to the story. In typical Tsui Hark fashion, the film appears quite stark and violent but fantastically atmospheric whilst being truly savage in places. A warning to any animal lovers out there, the film has many scenes which feature animals being injured and / or caught in animal traps which do look rather realistic. The action is wonderfully choreographed and beautifully shot with Hark's in your face style. The atmosphere is carried by some superb photography and heightened by the typical Tsui Hark requisites of burning embers from a fire being carried off in the breeze and the obligatory martial arts battle during a torrential downpour. Just what you have come to expect from the director of so many Hong Kong cinema classics. The film does refuse to pull one or two punches and has a couple of decidedly gory moments and the scene featuring the loss of On's arm is a little unintentionally comedic.

Some good performances all round to be honest and the action talents of Chiu Cheuk are quite apparent and shine throughout the film. The ending however I have to admit is very morose and cynical which leaves the film without a happy ending as such. Overrall the film is dark and fuelled by some haunting visuals. The scenes with On struggling to learn from the manual and training himself in the smouldering, misty and menacing remains of the house whilst in agony from his recent treatment you can't help but empathize with the guy. He has been forced to endure some horrific treatment and has discovered that his father was murdered whilst protecting him, not to mention losing his life and love at the foundry and yet despite being knocked down he finds his goal and is intent upon revenge.

The Blade is one of those Hong Kong movies that provides a good story which admittedly does revolve around vengeance but results in a triumphal under dog after the obligatory transition and trial by ordeal. The story, is of course rather dark and broody but as you would expect the arrival of the hero for the finale (which is manic and explosive in a full on, need the slow motion button kind of way) is one of those uplifting moments. This is certainly a powerful film in it's own way and it is a pity that very little attention was paid to it originally because although it lacks the grace and beauty of Once Upon a Time in China this is a gritty and entertaining flick. On the downside, the film occasionally feels as though it is too long due primarily to some of the pacing faltering and one or two scenes could have been editted together better.

Rating: 3 out of 5

DVD
Picture 16.9 Widescreen Sometimes grainy image
Audio Dolby 2.0 (Cantonese) Not bad but needs 5.1
Features Bland static menu
Theatrical trailer
Verdict Nothing particuarly impressive with this disc I'm afraid. The English subtitles are adequate but occasionally move too fast. Good film that deserves a better release.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home