七劍
Seven Swords (2005)


Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011


Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 11/01/2009
Summary: Missing too much

Those who first encountered “Seven Swords” in the cinema may have been very frustrated moviegoers. Those amazing images of horsemen galloping through a snow blasted mountain wasteland, of the bloody death inflicted on everyone in villages within the reach of the warriors of Fire-Wind, of the touching, tender moments snatched by men and women caught in the crucible of total war seen on a 24 x 70 foot while hearing the stirring, thrilling score of Kawai Kenji thundering out of huge speakers surrounding the auditorium would be a profound audience experience. It would have been maddening to realize that the film they were watching was chopped up into episodic hunks with little transition so that the story was barely recognizable with little structure and subplots ending before they were resolved, characters simply appearing and disappearing and the drama, pathos and excitement of the conflict sacrificed to—well, whatever it was sacrificed to.

The noblest (perhaps too noble) themes run through “Seven Swords”: stoic heroism, duty to one’s country and ancestors, the character and morality that separates men of honor from mercenaries, the necessity for self-sacrifice in the face of threats to the entire society—lots of self-sacrifice, enough for ten, maybe 100 movies--certainly too much even for an epic of this scope.

One hopes that the “original” four hour version of “Seven Swords” won’t take it place beside the original of Von Stroheim’s “Greed”, Kurosowa’s “The Idiot” or Welles’s “The Magnificent Ambersons”. Based on the 150 minutes or so of the released print it could be quite a film. As it is there are so many truncated scenes or plot lines with unexplained gaps that one can only wonder what came before or after the material that made it to the screen. Perhaps the worst example of this is Fu Qingzhu, a retired executioner and torturer of revolutionaries from the prior dynasty, but retired recently enough that he is still recognized by one of the men he tortured, a man whose back is still scarred by Fu’s whip strokes. How this very evil person became a respected holy swordsman of Heavenly Mountain, a person of such probity and quiet fortitude that his word is accepted as law by all of who encounter him isn’t explained. It just happens which for me at least was a total “what the hell” moment.

Fu could have been living through some type of Avici hell with this as the 100th or 1000th or one millionth time through, first as executioner, then as hero, then as who knows what, but condemned to kill and torture, to watch those he loves killed and then be killed himself (perhaps) for as many years as there are drops of water in the ocean. Or it could have been explained a bit less fancifully in the scenes cut between the time that Wu and Han are caught in an avalanche and when they are walking around in new animal skin outfits, deciding how to get back home having met some of the Seven Swords on not wanting anything to do with them. But it would have to be explained in some way.

A much smaller but still very annoying lacuna happens (or seems it must happen) before the scene with the horse Joy Luck. On one hand it makes all the sense in the world for a mounted soldier operating in hostile territory to fear the loss of his horse, his only way of either escaping the enemy or closing battle on terms that he chooses. And, of course, there is a long history of movie animals being personified as noble and virtuous, loyal to the death and never willing to leave their master. But to have “poor Joy Luck” suddenly as the focus of attention and his doomed attempt to rejoin the master who has just released him into the wilderness is very jarring, another “what was he (Tsui Hark) thinking?”. One hopes that whatever he was thinking it was left not on the cutting room floor but carefully filed away along with the other 90 minutes or so that were cut.

The question that all of this begs, of course, is why a four hour version of “Seven Swords” was shot in the first place. No one, Tsui Hark included, could have imagined it would be released at that length. The distributors and exhibitors must have blanched when confronted with a 150 minute monstrosity, cutting at least one and probably two showing out of each day and making it a sure thing that cinema operators would lose money on it.

There are some wonderful performances in “Seven Swords”. Liu Chia-Liang as Fu was perfect, although it would have been great to see him do the transition from evil executioner to defender of the downtrodden. Sun Hong-Lei as General Fire-Wind had a role that actors relish—always in the moment, always on edge ready to laugh, weep or stomp a subordinate to death. Sun left little scenery unchewed and looked as if he enjoyed every minute of it.

Charlie Yeung came through beautifully in one of the few roles that required the character to grow and develop. Wu began as the headstrong, reckless village girl, daughter of the headman and determined to get her way, then became the apprentice swordswoman, terribly unsure of her abilities and fearing she would never master the use of the sword with which she had been entrusted. Wu slowly developed into the confident warrior she is at the end of the film, willing to allow others to help her understand the mysteries of her new weapon. One of the few funny (or at least no terribly serious or bloody) scenes that survived the meat-axe editing was one in which she almost killed herself while trying out her sword, on that magically disappeared into its hilt and reappeared. While it was formidable weapon in the right hands she made it a danger to herself and every around her with her amateurish handling.

The set design and costuming were excellent, particularly the devilish armed band following Fire-Wind. Their armoured horses and fantastic weapons were like modern tanks and aircraft introduced to a nineteenth century battlefield—their opponents had never seen anything like theses and were not only defeated but completely demoralized and slaughtered quickly and efficiently with no casualties or even discomfort for Fire-Wind’s forces. They were designed look like an implacable, unstoppable and machine like force to the extent it was shocking when one of them, on reconnaissance was not only thwarted in his attempt to grab Wu but, with the help of Fu Quingzhu (still in his chrysalis period as the former executioner) was killed.

The structure the film hung on was a familiar one. The new emperor had outlawed martial arts throughout his kingdom and issued an edict that all martial arts practitioners were to be killed with proof of their death—apparently a head or body with a name tag or death tablet attached—rewarded with coin from his treasury. The Duke, an effete but still deadly type, was given responsibility for an area in the northwest and had subcontracted the actual killing to Fire-Wind. There was only one village left in his area—Martial Village, where Wu and the others lived by tilling the soil and defending themselves from roving bandits with martial arts. It is here the final battle (at least the final battle in this movie) between Good and Evil will be waged.

There are a few unintentionally hilarious scenes. The one that impressed me most was in the aftermath of the first battle when a raiding party from Fire-Wind stormed the walls of the village and was wreaking havoc inside. The Seven Swords arrived at the right time and made short but extremely bloody work of the enemy. Despite their efforts a number of defenders and their wives and children had already been put to the knife and much of the village was in flames. In the grim aftermath, as bodies were being piled up, village men were insanely hacking at the corpses of the attackers and fires were burning unchecked one of the Seven Swords approached a child and said to him, “Little brother you will see the ugly side of the world...” going on to say that good men could still triumph. Wait a minute—here is a six year old sitting on the ruins a building—possibly his former home—watching flames destroy the rest of the buildings and the adults he formerly honored and obeyed either dead or insane with blood lust. And he WILL see the ugly side of the world. It is so difficult to imagine a world uglier than that around him right then and there that the scene is ridiculous.

A very provisional rating of a 6 for “Seven Swords”.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Beat TG
Date: 06/21/2009
Summary: Flawed but quite decent

I recall the first time I saw it and thought it was just ok and nothing exceptional. I wasn't into any of the recent battle epics that was coming out back then and neither was I into Tsui Hark's style of filmmaking, though having seen few of his movies previously which were great (the first two ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA movies and IRON MONKEY). But having the chance to see some of his other movies, including DANGEROUS ENCOUNTER -- 1ST KIND and the recent TRIANGLE, I decided to rewatch SEVEN SWORDS to analyze the content and familiarize with Hark's style. On one hand, the movie's premise is quite good introducing the main characters very well and giving you hints of what they will go through further on but on the other one, the execution is very rushed as the story don't connect too well at times and many plot holes are too obvious and makes things uneven, leaving you wondering what happened earlier and after many moments. The movie is focused on a later section of the story anyway (seemed that way) so for the most part, it still stays intact and makes enough sense which saves this from going everywhere.

As far as Tsui Hark himself, I'm impressed of what he got out of making the movie. Action-wise, I keep hearing people bad-mouthing the camerawork (weird placements), editing (too choppy to catch up everything) as well as the action choreography (too much wirework and not enough grounded hand-to-hand combat) but those who're familiarized with Hark's work should know that's how he shoots and adapts his visions for action scenes into a story: half body shots of characters attacking with their weapons and showing emotions during this, and full body shots to show how well they adapt the environment with their whole bodies to have the upper advantages. All this accompanied with unique camerawork, that follows every movement they do and at times follow certain movements to show the causing impact of their attacks, is very interesting.

Acting performances were good too: Lau Kar Leung plays his wiseman character well enough and fits as someone who leads a crew into battle. Leon Lai plays once again a stock character but as his character seem not concerned about everything except believing in justice gives him a bit of acting to play with nonetheless and that's just fine with me. Same goes for Donnie Yen who, at the time, wasn't into acting but still went for the roles he was interested in. Despite the silent character he portrays, Hark injects some intensity as well as demands in complex scenes and his performance is actually good and refreshing (knowing how he used to be stereotyped for roles in the past). Besides acting, he of course takes part in the action scenes and while it's only weapons and wirework (not as much until the end fight) involved, he impresses and steals that spotlight from everyone else as always whenever he shows up for one. Sung Hong-Lei plays his villain part very good and, with the help of his acting and look, is able to make his overall performance convincing. I didn't care about the others even if they did well in their respective parts, but Tai Li Wu who plays Xin reminded me alot of Tsui Hark's famous character Clubfoot (portrayed by Hung Yan Yan): someone with the ability to crush and fight his way out from enemies like a raw, nasty animal that's unmatched to other fighters in the movie, even those who are still much better.

Overall, despite the big flaws, direction, music, editing, action choreography, art direction, cinematography, and acting makes SEVEN SWORDS Tsui Hark's best movie to date, and one that shows that he's still striving for original and fresh ways of making great movies.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 11/11/2006
Summary: Flawed But Still Decent

All the criticisms of SS in the reviews below are accurate (though some will be more put off by them than others): there's no character development, the storyline is very basic, the actors mostly don't do much (although I thought the guy who played the bad guy did a good job), things jump around a bit and don't always seem strictly logical. Basically, it simply must be true that there is a four hour version in Tsui Hark's back pocket because leaving almost half the movie on the cutting room floor explains just about every flaw everyone's mentioned.

But I'll add two more that weren't. First, I really didn't like the psycho-villains; painting up their faces in a disturbing way, giving them ugly haircuts and a sick appetite for blood, and having them perform ultra-violence really puts me off. Quentin Tarrantino is the only one I can think of who gets close to pulling it off (e.g. Go Go from Kill Bill). I think it's laziness of the screenwriter, because it's much more difficult to make a violent villain human (and much scarier because they can then be identified with and one can imagine meeting up with one).

Second, the sudden insertion of violent sex scenes that appear strictly gratuitous more than annoys me. I'm not a puritan, and SS doesn't "show" anything anyway, but when the movie's rolling along and then suddenly someone's trying to rape someone, and there's no point to it, is jarring an unnecessary.

Having affirmed everyone else's criticisms and added a couple new ones, I have to say that this movie is still watchable and far from a waste of time. Yes, it doesn't appear to be the movie Tsui Hark actually made, and yes it has a lot of flaws, but there's still a lot left. The fight scenes are really good, it's visually very appealing, and maybe most important, it kept my attention for the full two and half hours. So although I wished I could have seen the legendary four hour SS, the one I did see was worth my time. I give it a 7.5.


Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 02/16/2006

I've been anxious to see this film. After so many years of disappointing work from this master filmmaker, I was hoping that Tsui Hark could return to the high levels of achievement he'd reached with movies like 1991's Once Upon a Time in China and 1995's The Blade.

I'm happy to report that I'm not disappointed. This is a film of epic grandeur that swept me up in its exciting adventure. The action direction by the 4 masters, Liu Chia-Liang, Stephen Tung Wai, Hung Yan-Yan, and Lau Kar-Wing, is absolutely incredible with one amazing thing after another. The cinematography is so beautiful. Keung Kwok-Man, Herman Yau Lai-To, and Choi Shung-Fai have created some awesome images.

Two odd things struck me about this film. First, the film seems incomplete to me, like there was a four hour film squeezed into 2 hours. Second, the casting of Michael Wong Man Tak in the small role of Fire-Wind's boss puts a tongue-in-cheek, wink and a nod comedic aspect over what, to that point, has been quite dour and serious. Quite disconcerting, it took me out of suspension of disbelief for about a minute.


happyfortune.org

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: PAUL MARTINEZ
Date: 01/22/2006
Summary: Editing Killed the HK Film Star

When you take a 4 hour film and slice it down to 2 1/2 hours. It's going to seem like character development was not done well, the story didn't flow correctly, the plot gets sketchy, etc. All these things are how I felt while watching Seven Swords. I reserve myself from bashing Tsui Hark, who desperately needed a good body of work to offset his recent debacles(The Legend Of Poo...LOL, thats funny). Because this is not the film he made.
Visually, I very much liked this film. Sometimes the overly beautiful scenery and costumes seems phony to me. Mr. Hark showed some gritty realism here. I for one appreciated that.
Action scenes were done well in the directors usual fashion. I found myself remembering some fight scenes from The Blade while watching this. Donnie Yen is as awesome as ever although I hope were not going to see him constantly doing these stoic hero roles all the time that used to be Jet Li's usual forum.
The acting was okay, nothing spectacular. I particulary enjoyed watching scenes with Kim Soo-Yeon(Green Pearl). And of course Sun Hong Lei as Fire-Wind.
I would have like to see this film split into 2, like Tarantino did with Kill Bill. Then I think we would see if Tsui Hark has anything left in his tank. [I watched this film again and for some reason i enjoyed it more possibly because i wasn't looking to review it, just SEE it. I still think it fails in characterzation but other than that I found it entertaining for the most part so I raised my score.]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/27/2005

Tsui Hark has been regarded -- and rightly so -- as one of the true mavericks of Hong Kong's modern film industry. Along with some of his contemporaries such as John Woo and Ringo Lam, Tsui was a major spear-head of Hong Kong's "new wave" of the 1980's. Whether it was as a director with projects like the criminally under-rated Peking Opera Blues, or as a producer on movies such as the seminal A Better Tomorrow, it can be truly said that Tsui was one of the brightest lights of Hong Kong's "golden age" of film-making, and had a hand in many of the pictures that instilled a long-lasting love of Hong Kong movies in many western viewers (including this one) that lasts till this day.

However, to say that Tsui's stock has fallen over the past few years is a bit of an understatement. To compare 1983's Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (a true classic in the "wuxia" genre) with 2001's The Legend of Zu (which was called "The Legend of Poo" by many irritated internet fanboys) and try to realize that they both came from the same director (who is working with roughly the same base material) is an exercise in futility. Yes, you can point to mis-steps by other Hong Kong directors like Woo's Windtalkers or Lam's Maximum Risk, but Tsui's output lately has given him a reputation as the Hong Kong film-maker who has fallen the furthest from his former cinematic heights -- can anyone truly call Black Mask 2 a good film?

So, when the production of Seven Swords -- a big-budget swordsplay picture with an all-star cast -- was announced, to say that I, and most other Hong Kong film fans, were a little underwhelmed isn't an exaggeration in the least. After all, how can one get excited by a new movie from the director that has recently dropped bombs like Knock Off? And let's not forget Tsui's previous result with the aforementioned The Legend of Zu, which was supposedly Tsui's return to the helm of Hong Kong movie making, and ended up being a nauesating exercise in excess and wasted potential. But, as your interpid friendly neighborhood HK movie reviewer, I dove in and jammed in the the DVD into my beleagured player, which has been suffering from a case of severe indigestion resulting from Hong Kong's poor output this year.

Unlike many of my other reviews, I'm not going to get into much detail about the story here. The plot is pretty basic -- the emperor has outlawed kung fu, and one of the last bastions of martial arts is a place called (not so creatively) Martial Village, which is defended by seven top swordsmen (and women; Seven Swords is refreshing in the way the female characters are not regulated to traditional "jade vase" roles, which are all too common in these types of movies). There's some romance, there's some double-crosses, but mostly there's a whole lot of nice-looking vistas and talented people kicking ass across them.

This is not to say that Seven Swords is totally devoid of entertainment for the more cerebral viewers out there. Unlike a lot of swordsplay movies, which tend to try to compact too much in their running time, I found Seven Swords to be refreshingly compact in its' characterization without short-changing the viewer. Tsui seems to have realized his errors with his past few efforts, which seemed to forget that someone else but himself actually has to sit through his output.

Yes, there's a few problems with Seven Swords. The story -- as well-constructed as it is -- still feels a bit disjointed when viewed as a whole. There are several characters (including some of the titular swordsmen) who the audience doesn't get to know very well, and the plot seems to jump around a bit; Tsui orignally crafted Seven Swords as a four-hour picture, and this is quite evident in parts. Also, and this might just be the action fanatic in me talking who prefers his films colored with an extra splash of claret, but I would have preferred a bit more "oomph" in the fight sequences.

I enjoyed the fact that Seven Swords didn't feature pop stars prancing around whilst tossing fire balls, but, dammit, a severed limb deserves at least a token spurt of blood (this is probably due to the fact that this is a Hong Kong/Mainland co-production, and so Tsui wanted to avoid any Mainland censorship). At any rate, Seven Swords is an extremely solid kung fu picture that harkens back to the days of the classic Shaw Brothers productions. This is not really all that surprising, since it features a good deal of "old-school" stars like Lau Kar Leung, but the end result was definitely still welcomed.

Even though Seven Swords isn't a true classic, it does bring back memories of the days of "classic" Hong Kong cinema, where chutzpah and skill, rather than cute looks and computer effects, equaled a good movie. There's romance, intrigue, and, most importantly, well-constructed action set-pieces all rolled up up into one good-looking package. Seven Swords marks at least a baby-step (or toddle) to the return of the throne of greatness that Tsui Hark once possessed, and, for that relatively (at least in the larger scheme of things) small fact, that makes Seven Swords worthy viewing for any true fan of martial arts cinema.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]


Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 10/21/2005
Summary: 8/10 - Good, but I assume the 4hr cut would be better!

They say one good turn begets another, and so it is with films. So SEVEN SAMURAI begat MUSA, and MUSA begat SEVEN SWORDS (the actual genealogy is rather more complicated than that though!). SEVEN SWORDS is Tsui Hark's attempt to regain his crown, or at least some semblance of respect, after a disastrous string of flops that began about 10 years ago. Going back to his roots, he develops a wu xia tale for the 21st century - clearly influenced by the films that have been popular during his absence from the genre such as CROUCHING TIGER, HERO and most obviously Korean epic MUSA. SEVEN SWORDS is an expensive, grand epic - originally clocking in at 4 hours by all accounts, but edited down to just 2.5 for its actual release. Watching the film it's clear that the editing has hurt the film - you can see where several characters and themes should have been more developed near the start, and at about 1hr 50 there is a *big* jump in the story that is filled in with some brief flashbacks, and was presumably meant to develop in grand melodramatic glory. Also, Michael Wong appears for about 1 minute as a general with a large army... then is never heard of again. Some may say this can only be a good thing, but he was actually quite intriguing and non-annoying in the film - probably because he'd been dubbed by somebody who could actually act. Having seen how much difference 30 minutes of cuts made to MUSA (very negative!), one can only imagine how much SEVEN SWORDS must have suffered from losing 90 minutes! Actually I can't even imagine it - I can see where about 45 minutes would have gone easily, but I've no idea what would have filled 45 minutes more.

Martial arts films tend to go in cycles, where one minute real kung fu is popular, then it's wires, then it's comedy, then it's serious. Tsui Hark's boom period was mostly when wires and comedy were de rigeur - in fact to a large degree he was responsible for that trend. His 1995 film THE BLADE attempted to break the mould, presenting a much darker and grittier vision of the Jiang Hu than had been attempted for many years. Audiences shunned it, but fans of the genre hold it in very high esteem - it's probably my favourite Tsui Hark film, for instance. Perhaps it was just ahead of its time, as 4 years later everybody was making serious martial arts films again. SEVEN SWORDS does resemble THE BLADE in some ways - mostly visual. Perhaps its relative success will finally lead to the high quality DVD release of THE BLADE that fans have been crying out for years (the UK disc is lousy, and the Dutch disc even worse!).

Tsui Hark assembles an interesting cast for the film - Donnie Yen, Lau Kar Leung and Jason Pai Piao are the veteran fighters on the team, with Charlie Yeung perhaps being a familiar face for Tsui on set, and Leon Lai's presence largely inexplicable. Leon actually does a good job with his character - he's definitely become an at least acceptable actor in recent years, which I don't think anybody could have predicted! Donnie Yen also does one of his better acting jobs. Most of the remaining cast is composed of actors from the Mainland, who all do a good job too. To add a bit more pan-Asian appeal, Korean babe Kim Soo-yeon returns the favour of China lending Zhang Ziyi to Korea for MUSA (though her acting isn't as good, so I think Korea still owes China one). Generally the film is well acted though!

The film is visually luscious, making good use of the Chinese landscapes for a dusty, earthy and realistic feel to the film. It all seems expensive, with some great sets, costumes and props etc - certainly higher production values than any of Tsui's older Wu Xia Pian, even the first two ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINAs. The soundtrack has been criticised quite a lot, and it's certainly not one of Japanese composer Kenji Kawai's better works - but it's not the sort of film or style of music he'd usually compose, so I'm not sure why he was chosen except perhaps to get some free publicity in Japan. Or perhaps they just thought that bringing in some outside talent might produce interesting results - A.R.Rahman did a stellar job on WARRIORS OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, which was totally unlike the sort of soundtrack he's usually done. But A.R.Rahman is a God of Music, and Kenji Kawai is just pretty good ;)

Being a Wu Xia Pian, there are of course some fights. Lau Kar Leung heads the choreography team, sending out a message straight away that Tsui wanted more gritty, down to earth fighting than the wire-fu he has favoured in the past. Stephen Tung Wai and Hung Yan Yan (both part of Tsui's team for THE BLADE) also get choreographer credits, suggesting that Tsui didn't want to rule out having some fancy flying completely :) In fact the action is a mix of intricate weapons work and exaggerated physicality, but nothing of the sort of laws-of-physics-denying stuff that was going on in the early 90's. The result is sadly not terribly spectacular, but mostly because of the way it's filmed - too many close shots that disguise the intricacy of the choreography, and cuts that break the fluidity. Not awful by any means, and even quite good - but a little disappointing, given the high hopes. The action in THE BLADE was better, IMO (though it's been a while since I saw it, maybe it wouldn't hold up so well these days).

Overall, I found SEVEN SWORDS to be a satisfying enough package, but not one that left me grinning like a kid in a candy store the same way MUSA did. Perhaps that would change if I saw the full 4 hour cut, and I hope some day I'll get the chance.

For this version of the film though - 8/10

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 10/13/2005
Summary: WAtchable

With all the negativity i heard about this movie, i was pleasantly suprised that this movie was actually quite watchable!!

There are many flaws brought up by the previous reviewers but this is expected especially if you cut a 4 hour movie into 2.5 hours.

The action is slightly above average,many reviwers said that there was not enough fight scenes but i disagree. I think the main issue here is the bad guys dont put up much of a fight especially with there spectacular introduction

Apart from Charlie Yeung, everyone looked like a wooden cut out, espcially Leon Lai but his role was limited. With so many characters, its easy to leave out many of the "7" and that does occur. There are 2 characters of the 7 which are only seen fighting and little else.

Thats why the dvd has special features explaining the characters, because otherwise you wouldnt even know there names or even what they look like!!

There is little story here, it is character focussed but this is done poorly.

The chinese version of "seven samurai's" or "the magnificent seven", unfortunately these 2 movies are classics, this isnt!!

I do hope they release a 4 hour version, then judgement can be really made about this movie, and to see if Tsui Hark should give up the movie business or not.

Enjoyable for myself, a lot of critisms well deserved about this movie but having not seen a martial arts movie for sometime, i think my judgement maybe impaired, since i am giving this:

7/10


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 10/13/2005

The latest offering from Tsui Hark is basically what I expected -- more living proof that the master has lost it. Once a pioneer, Tsui raised the industry bar with Zu, Chinese Ghost Story, and Once Upon a Time in China. Anything he turns out these days is embarrassing compared to his previous works. I am a believer that Mr. Tsui would be better served if SEVEN SWORDS is his last project, as each time he comes out with something new, his reputation takes a blow, at least in my mind. At this rate, it will only be a matter of time before his good reputation perishes.

Now I'm not saying the movie is entirely meritless. I like to think of Tsui Hark more as an innovator than a conformist. But I feel like in the past 10 years Tsui hasn't figured out where to take his direction, and he tries to be creative here in a very strange, unsatisfying way. For example, he tries to inject realism by having the characters care about their grain which supports their living, but at the same time there's plenty of visual fantasy, and I don't think he did a good job mixing the 2 opposite extremes. The characterization is absolutely horrible in this movie, not much better than that of LEGEND OF ZU, where characters come and go without adequate introduction. As you may know, this is the story of seven heroic swordsmen. At the beginning we have 2 people in search of warriors to defend their village. Suddenly, they meet 4 other swordsmen and an old guy played by the great Liu Chia Liang, and ta-da, a group of 7 is formed. But how is this possible when the 2 people hardly know martial arts, how can they just suddenly be accepted into an elite kung fu club like that? I found that part rather confusing. Also I didn't quite get in the end why cannon balls started to roll around in thin air?

The action design is generally good, a bit traditional thanks to Liu Chia Liang's choreography. but in my opinion the latest period flicks from HK and Korea lack the ferociousness of the choreography that made the 90s new wave wuxia genre exciting.

[6/10]


Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 08/29/2005
Summary: Not up to TVB standards

Make no mistake, I suspect many people will go into this film wanting to like it...and indeed this reviewer went in with his most heavy-duty rose-colored glasses...and even then, the film disappoints.

However, when one gets well into the film and realizes that Donnie Yen and Lau Kar-Leung are playing very key dramatic roles, one is given to a rather long (comedic) pause...and indeed one wonders if this is a film that is to be taken seriously...but when one also begins to see sets and scenes of epic scope, including horses (always a sure sign of "epic-ness"), one realizes there was a lot of money spent here (...and parodies are rarely high-budget). Lau is acceptable in his role, playing his usual sifu/wiseman/warrior role (i.e., himself). But Donnie Yen? Donnie Yen is an actor approximately on par with Jet Li...but even Jet has more screen presence than Donnie--replete with his one emote: the scowl. Donnie and his ugly scowl are perfect for playing cardboard cutout bad guys on TVB series, but really has no business playing a dramatic role in a film meant to be taken seriously as a drama. And in fact he not only plays a dramatic role, but plays the primary love interest. OK, so by now you should be laughing out loud...but in fact the love portion between the rather ugly Donnie and the strikingly beautiful Kim Soo-yeon is actully the best part of the movie! Although very comic book in appearance and execution, it was quite beautiful and artistic. And Kim Soo-yeon's performance was, by far, the best in the film.

After seeing her wooden performance in New Police Story, I didn't expect much of Charlie Yeung. Fortunately I was wrong. She was surprisingly good. In fact, at a few points in the film she had the fire of Michelle Yeoh in her eyes. Is it possible that she may have more action films in her future? She appears to be a natural...

Leon Lai was supposedly given top billing, and indeed along with Charlie is the only well-known Chinese actor (whereas Donnie and Lau are actually stuntmen). I enjoyed Leon's moments on screen, but came away feeling he was really marginalized in the film--especially to Donnie Yen. It's rather symbolic that in the closing fight, Leon's character hands his sword over to Donnie to continue (and ultimately win) the fight. Indeed.

All this aside, the problem ultimately resides in the completely empty and incomplete screenplay. One has a situation that just appears out of thin air, very little or no character development, and an ending that either implies bad editing or maybe a sequel...one is left with a strong feeling of "whatever; I am glad that is over!"

Lastly, there is one pet peeve of mine that I cannot get over and that is the use of excessive violence and mayhem. If there is a good reason for it, then fine. But here with a story this empty, the mayhem serves purely as titillation/eye-candy, and I find that particularly tasteless.

Nonetheless, I recommend seeing it once just to see some nice Lau choreography moments (although far from his best work)...just expect the very worst, or make liberal use of the fast forward button--especially past Michael Wong's hilariously pointless cameo...

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: xiaoka
Date: 08/27/2005
Summary: err, don't get your hopes up...

There's a village about to be raized by some marauding army hired by the new imperial dynasty to rid the land of potential enemies. A band of 7 people with super swords join forces to save the people.

The movie was... not horrible, but pretty bad. The first 30 minutes are VERY confusing, the last 20 minute fight scene finale is not so great (embarrassingly bad in some places), and over all the film suffers from being horribly edited. There's just random jumping around and confusing scenes that leave you hanging until that thread is picked up 15 minutes later. (and not in the good way).


And then there is Joy Luck... Joy Luck and all the other random stuff that is inserted in there with no meaningful reason (stuff like Michael Wong's 3 seconds of screen time). This stuff just left you wondering "huh? why is this in here, what were they thinking? why is this important enough to waste 5 minutes of film on?!?" Its clear that they had to cut a lot out to fit it into a theater release, but the decisions on what to cut and what to keep seems so poorly made

(To anyone who says this movie is not seriously flawed, i point to 'Joy Luck the horse' - case closed, no justification for that AT ALL)

In order to not waste too much time on this, and avoid spoilers for those who still want to watch it, I won't go into any specific details... other than to say 'when the Joy Luck (Lai Fu) the Horse scenes come up, this is a good time to make your bathroom break.

Around the middle, after the initial confusion is over, the plot gets a little more interesting and there is actally SOME character development (i mean at least i could finally tell who was who). But in the end, the only thing i really found that made this movie worth it was the Korean girl played by Kim So Yun. although her character was also poorly written, it was at least unique enough to catch my interest and keep it (that and she is very beautiful!) Unfortunately she plays opposite of Donnie Yen in most of the film. I have trouble divorcing his characters in movies from the general cockeyness that comes across from him in interviews, etc. So I didn't particularly enjoy much of him i this movie. Leon Lai, although supremely bland, was at least less distasteful to me. :-P

Actionwise, for the most part not too bad. Some /really/ bad wire-fu in a few scenes... I got serious flashbacks to Wong Fei Hong... but its not 1993 anymore, we expect more!

I should also mention that in the theater in Kowloon I saw it in, people were laughing outloud in the last 5 minutes or so. so if you watch it on DVD and get the urge, go for it. ;-)

Cinematographywise, its pretty good, the sets looked good (apparently filmed mostly in Xinjiang).

But it seemed like it was trying hard to keep up with Hero and even possibly Lord of the Rings... but I guess unoriginality and Tsui Hark are not strangers...

this one will get a 4/10 i think....

if you go in with low expectations, and perhaps a little bit of research in advance on who is who, you will not be too disappointed. if you're expecting greatness... go see something else.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 08/26/2005

I watched this in Mandarin at a crowded theatre in Hangzhou, and the audience reaction was quite positive. There was the occasional chuckle about Charlie Young's accent, but that aside everyone was pretty into it.

I should note that there were no English subtitles, so some of the finer elements of the plot/dialogue went right past me, but still, I could follow close enough to have a good time. Also, plot and dialogue have never been Tsui Hark's strong points, so I may have not been missing too much, and it allowed me to focus more on the visuals (which is where the movie has its greatest strengths...)

I'll start with the verdict: the movie is NOT a disappointment. I had been a little apprehensive after reading some of the mixed reviews that appeared when the film came out, but overall, I was quite pleasantly surprised. Tsui Hark doesn't reinvent the genre here, nor does he reach the heights of his glory days in the late 80s/early 90s, but Seven Swords still matches up quite well with recent Swordplay efforts from He Ping (WOHAE), Ang Lee (CTHD) and Zhang Yimou (Hero, HOFD). The film is closest in tone to He Ping's WOHAE, w/ similar earth-bound fight choreography, courtesy of Liu Chia Liang, and epic landscapes. The plot is straight-forward, but suffers a bit from having to spend time on too many characters. There are about a dozen major speaking parts, which makes it difficult to add layers of depth to each character, and takes away from the audience's ability to identify with any single character. On the plus side, the villains are great.

Villains aside, Charlie Young makes the most of her character, aided by the fact that her sword is the most interesting of the seven featured weapons, allowing her to add some much needed elements of humour to the story. And may I just say she looks absolutely stunning!

Leon Lai is pretty lifeless, and looks like an absolute dork with his weird haircut. Donnie Yen is probably the most interesting character (along with Liu Chia Liang and Charlie Young), and he gets to do quite a bit of acting along with his action scenes.

Let's talk about the action: there's little wire-fu, as can be expected with Liu Chia Liang as the choreographer. Tsui Hark manages a few in interesting set-ups, such as Liu Chia Liangs initial fight set against stark brown desert tones accented by a blood-red paper lantern, and especially the final showdown, that features both Leon Lai and Donnie Yen against the main villain (a mainland actor, whose name escapes me). Donnie shines as expected, and Tsui films an interesting sword-fighting sequence set in a narrow corridor. However, the action - while competent - never quite reaches the intensity of earlier efforts such as Tsui Hark's One-Armed Swordsman remake The Blade or the visual power and innovativeness of some of the fight sequences in Dragon Inn or the Swordsman series.

The romantic angle is slighly disappointing. Donnie's scenes suffer from the wooden acting of the Korean starlet he's paired with (although she does look very beautiful). The Chinese actress (gosh, I should look up the names) playing the village elder's daughter is much more convincing. Is it just me, or does she look very much like Zhang Ziyi? Anyway, she is one of the more interesting characters, but it looks like much of her role was left on the editing floor.

At over two hours, the film still feels a bit rushed, and I'm hoping the rumored 4-hour version will be released on DVD.

The cinematography is stunning, with great mountain vistas, although the shots of the 7 main characters riding off into the sunset smacked a bit too much of cliched images taken from the Western movie genre.

The music is a little disappointing, but not quite as annoying as some reviewers have made it out to be.

Overall, the film is quite entertaining, and I can't wait to watch it again on DVD.


Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 08/02/2005

I always thought the Seven Swords teaser trailer was bad. No meaning to it. Just a teaser to show the face of the sword owners and the swords. The movie itself is a movie I would surely recommend to people who really wants to watch movie that has lots of action-pack in it, but is lack of storyline. I would not deny and 100% think that the action sequence was superb. Minus the fact that there were too many zoom in's which make me blur and not sure of what and who is fighting. The storyline and character development was simply bad.

The origins of the character was not elaborated, and seriously, I couldn't even see some of the characters clearly. As I remember, I hardly see the face of Xing LongZhi (owner of the star-chasers sword) and Mulang (owner of the celestial beam sword). It's a movie of the seven sword but about the seven people however not all get the equal attention. I wouldn't blame them... The book was too thick to be digested into a two and a half hour show.

I was also disappointed when the movie din really tell out how powerful is the sword that the duke has found on the burried ground. The fact of Michael Wong as the duke simply adds to the sad part. What happen, a duke is now a mix blood of chinese and eurasian? The confused and gaps in the movie sure give it a gap from being perfect.

Rating 7 out of 10

Reviewer Score: 7