Reviewed by: danton
I don't really recommend this movie to novices who haven't seen many HK wuxia films, but people more familiar with the genre will find some unexpected delights here. SOML can best be described as a mix between the grim gore of Blade of Fury and the demented bizarreness of The Eagle Shooting Heroes. And there are some truly bizarre moments here - where else could you see the gorgeous Michelle Reis enticing a pig to urinate (and being splashed in the face in the process), Cheung Man as a lewd bald nun, a dwarf turning himself into a spiked ball, Michelle in drag with buckteeth, a mother slashing her son's belly to find out what he ate for dinner, Leon Lai turning into a pig, a villain playing golf with the heads of his beheaded victims, Leon speedskating on melons, and weapons ranging from giant swords to malted sugar (not to mention a talking horse). But unlike some of the other wuxia films, this is not presented as parody, but played straight!
When I saw this utterly mad movie for the first time a few years ago, I was slightly bewildered, to say the least, but rewatching it now I thought this film (shot towards the end of the wuxia craze in the early nineties) offered some rather novel ideas that made it worthwhile for me. It's as if the filmmakers decided to add a never before seen angle to every genre convention used, and they did so with bold inventiveness.
The plot (for anyone interested) is based very loosely on a Jin Yong novel, with Leon Lai playing swordsman Wu Fei who is simultaneously wooing (and wooed by) the poison expert Ching (Michelle Reis) and the mischievous kung fu fighter Purple Yuen (Cheung Man). Soon a very enterteining love triangle develops, with Michelle in particular relishing the oportunity to play against type and ham up the scenery as a smitten yet bullying shrew who would rather poison her lover than let him have his own way. Of course there's also a bad guy (Elvis Tsui doing his bearded villain routine) and a revenge plot involving various slaughterings, as well as the obligatory assembly of martial arts schools.
All this is presented in muted sepia tones (unless I was watching a poor transfer) rather than the customary strong colours, and the various setpieces are staged in ways that offered some new or surprising element every single time, albeit getting more bizarre and outlandish every step of the way. The fights are competently staged but unspectacular (given the actors involved), with the exception of the final showdown, which offers several shots and camera tracks that clearly "pay homage" (i.e. rip off) the final fight in Tsui Hark's Dragon Inn.
Anyone who liked movies like Flying Dagger or Holy Weapon, as well as the more serious genre offerings like Moon Warriors, Dragon Inn, Swordsman Trology, KFCM and Magic Crane, will find this title well worth checking out.
Reviewed by: spinali
Leon Lai is torn between a cute, nagging apothecary (Michelle Lee) and a stunning girl monk (Cheung Man): one constantly poisons him while the other rejects his advances, sort of. Nice touches include a talking kung fu horse, a poison that makes you taller and taller until your bones break apart and explode, and a golf game with a human head. The ending leaves it open for Sword of Many Loves 2.
Reviewer Score: 6
[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]