You are currently displaying English
東方不敗─風雲再起 (1993)
The East Is Red

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 07/19/2005
Summary: Cheap cash-in

**contains spoilers for SWORDSMAN 2**

It must be very frustrating to create a character so memorable that they instantly become a part of pop culture, then go to make a sequel only to remember that you killed the character in the original film. There are a limited number of options in these circumstances, and Tsui Hark has tried them all... a) twin brother nobody mentioned in the first film (A Better Tomorrow), b) somebody that looks exactly like but isn't them (Chinese Ghost Story 2 & 3), c) prequel (ABT3) and d) "oh, they're not dead really" (The East Is Red). Whilst nothing is quite as lazy as the twin brother device, the last option runs a close second. THE EAST IS RED takes things even further by promoting a minor character from SWORDSMAN 2 to a major role (Cici) and simply ignoring the fact that she died in the first film! Either they hoped we wouldn't notice or they actually forgot themselves. This kind of lazy plotting unfortunately represents THE EAST IS RED well. The basic idea behind the script seems to have been to have somebody say "Dung Fong Bat Baai" every 30 seconds and hope the audience keeps thinking of SWORDSMAN II so they won't notice what a lame cash-in this pseudo-sequel is.

Perhaps I'm unfair, and there is really a hidden depth and meaning to the film that's simply obscured by the lousy subtitles. I thought that I might have a revelatory moment when I watched the trilogy back to back, where it all clicked into place and made sense narratively and thematically. I didn't, and I don't think a better subtitle job would have helped.

Basically the film has Asia The Invincible not dead after all, but in hiding because (s)he has repented for her wicked ways, e.g. killing everybody. Yu Rong Guang seeks her out, because he thinks she's cool or something, and tells her that there are people out there using her name to gain power and do bad things. She doesn't like this, and returns to the martial arts world to ask them nicely to stop doing it. This plan lasts about 5 minutes before she decides the best plan is to make everyone hate the name Asia The Invincible - by killing everybody again.

Joey Wang reanimates Asia's lover Cici, who's been pretending to be Asia herself in order to draw the real Asia out of hiding (and death). And there's some ninjas, who are bad. That's about as much sense as it makes, I think.

It's possible I'd appreciate the film more if I understood more of Chinese history and politics. There's definitely something political in the film, with Asia The Invincible's name being significant in some way, I'm sure, and likewise the decision to name the third film after a Chinese Communist Party anthem (note: take care if you think you've seen the soundtrack cd in a shop, because chances are it's actually a collection of Communist Party theme tunes). Maybe one day I'll understand what all of this means, but it's not high on my list of priorities and I doubt that it will make THE EAST IS RED a significantly better film.

Really, everything about TEIR feels cheap - the lucious cinematography of SWORDSMAN 2 is almost entirely absent, despite employing many of the same tricks and techniques. Presumably less time and care was spent setting up lighting, cameras, lenses etc to create the visual quality. Or perhaps it was just filmed on cheap cameras & film stock, making it feel more like a TV movie at times. The film does make an effort to out-do its predecessor with the quantity & insanity of the wire-driven action scenes, but despite the truly insane things they attempt at times, none of it comes off as well as it did in Swordman 2. Too many visible wires, lazily placed cameras and sloppy editing make it all too apparent that you're watching a stunt crew on a set, not witnessing supernatural levels of martial arts prowess. The main weakness in Swordsman II's action was the cheap & fake looking miniatures used in a few places. Sadly, The East Is Red makes even more use of miniatures, which look no less cheap and fake than they did the year earlier.

So, is it all bad in the film? Well, mostly, but it's bad mainly in comparison with other films like SWORDSMAN II and A CHINESE GHOST STORY. Knowing that the same bunch of people are certainly capable of producing much better films, it's much harder to accept THE EAST IS RED for not being one of them. It's still a wire-fu wuxia fantasy with Brigitte Lin, Joey Wang and Yu Rong Guang though, looked at by itself, and there's some level of enjoyment to be had simply because of that.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/26/2003

A Chinese official (Yu Rong-Guang) named Koo is helping some Spaniards recover items stolen by the evil (and supposedly dead) Asia the Invincible (Brigitte Lin) when he discovers the Spainards are really after a mystical scroll held by Asia, which will grant the user unlimited power. While trying to stop the Spaniards, Koo discovers Asia is very much alive, and not very happy that people have been using her name to gain power. Koo tries to keep Asia in check and seems to be succeeding until Asia's former lover Snow (Joey Wong) enters the picture.

Watching this movie might be akin to getting hit on the head. At first. there is a great deal of pain, but once that subsides, there comes a feeling of almost contentment as things draw into focus. The East is Red throws so many things at the viewer, it's almost impossible to keep track of (much less catch) them all, but nevertheless this remains one of the most powerful films to come out of Hong Kong -- perhaps not concidentally at the apex of its' "golden age", where anything seemed possible and the only limits were the film-maker's imaginations.

Though technically a sequel to the ultra-popular Swordsman II, The East is Red is actually much more of a character study of sorts, rather than the straight out wire-fu extravanganza of the previous two movies. In true Hong Kong style, this is probably due more to the fact that only Brigitte Lin returns from part 2 (Jet Li was busy doing other films as his relationship with producer Tsui Hark was coming to a temporary end) than the film-makers' desire to explore Lin's character. This ostensibly would make for a much more linear movie than the star-choked previous installments, as besides Asia, there are really only three other main characters. However, Asia is given so many dimensions -- from savior to demon and everything in between -- that she become almost a cast unto herself. This leads things to get a bit confusing as Asia's motives (and their resulting actions) become a bit unclear, but the movie moves at a good clip, and Lin's mesmerizing minamalistic performance keeps things rolling well.

One must note the action sequences in this movie. They're almost impossible to describe in print -- one involves a midget Japanese warlord who hides behind an impressive set of armor complete with various gadgets, another has some sort of albino ninja who comes out of the skin of a beautiful woman -- but pure joy to watch in action. Even if you don't enjoy any of the other aspects of The East is Red, if you consider yourself an action or martial arts fan at all, you owe it to yourself to give this movie at least one viewing just on the strength of these sequences. Hollywood can try to copy and ripoff all the wire-fu they want, but this movie represents something truly unique to Hong Kong, and something that could never be replicated outside of it.

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 04/02/2002
Summary: Looks good

Although nowhere near as good as Swordsman 2, this is still 100 times better than the original Swordsman 1. Some people say this movie is severely flawed; I did not find that the case. The main weakness is that the story is down right boring. In Swordsman, right from the beginning we are introduced to the delima, and in Swordsman 2 we want to see how Ling can defeat Asia Invincible. But there's really nothing to look forward to once this movie starts. Although it did not disappoint me (I wasn't expecting much), it certainly did not impress me.

Invincible Asia started out rather friendly and laid-back, actually having a good time with the official. But boy did she change and turn into a complete monster when she encounters the first group who is faking her name. She then goes on a killing rampage. I did sense a bit of genre parody. The whole movie basically gives the feel that Asia Invincible is a mysterious, saintly character. The highlanders worship her name, while the Ming officials don't take her seriously at all. The funniest moment occurs when Asia Invincible changes her name to "Asia and Europe the Invincible." I couldn't help but think parody. By the way, it was great to see Spaniards in a wuxia movie, just for the glamour.

The theme kind of got to me. It seems to point fingers at those who don't value what they have, and only realize its preciousness when it's gone. Thus the ending has Brigitte Lin riding on a "magic carpet," the loyal /but dead/ Joey Wong beside her - just like in fairy tales.


Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 02/06/2002
Summary: It's a shame

It's a shame, I really wanted this to be good, for a start it's starring my 2 alltime favorite actresses, who are both retired now.

Movie-wise though it is complete garbage. A lot more could have been done to improove this.

It's a shame really, because I want to recommend this to others, but people would hate me once they saw it.

Rating: 2/5

Reviewed by: ksbutterbox
Date: 01/02/2002
Summary: But it's Brigitte!!

I'll agree it has flaws but it's Brigitte Lin(I sure miss her!) and Ching Siu Tung's visuals that make this a good movie. No, it's not as good as Swordsman 2 but there aren't many flicks that are! I think the ninjas are hilarious. And, I do agree w/ one of the reviewers that this is camp! The gambling scene where Asia (Brigitte) smiles and coerces the two fools to risk their limbs is great fun to watch..(her devious smile is so good!) First half (once it finally starts)is better than the last though. Steamy scenes w/ Joey Wang and Brigitte makes this quite an unforgettable watch!

Reviewed by: Trigger
Date: 05/13/2001
Summary: Skip it

This film is supposed to be Swordsman 3 (as you may already know), but if you're expecting a sequel to one of the greatest HK period sword films ever, then you'll be disappointed. This film does carry on with a character from Swordsman 2 (who died at the end - sorry for the spoiler - but someone always dies at the end of movies like this), but the character is changed to the point of being unrecognizable.

East is Red has a few moments, but not anything worth buying the DVD over... a rental if you truly must see it, but honestly - you should pass this one up.

Here's why this film is what it is... The film is soaked and dripping with political symbolism and is basically a thin kung-fu epic exterior over a heavy and charged political statement. This was very common around the early 90's for characters to represent something else... I mean - look at the title - you have to know it's politics. Perhaps it would be more enjoyable for someone who was in China during the 1990's. I see this film sort of like Terry Gilliam's Brazil but with Kung-Fu and not nearly as good. If you want to see a film like this done right - see Dragon Inn. Otherwise, see Swordsman 1 and 2 and forget that a third was ever made.

Seen on: DVD
Release: Mei Ah
Rating: Movie - 1.5/5

Reviewer Score: 3

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/08/2001
Summary: Ummm.............

This is a very flawed movie. Not only does it have bits from the 1st and 2nd Swordsmen movies, it lasts 10 minutes!! The whole movie is a little over an hour!!
It almost has nothing to do with the first 2 which is a disapppointment!!
The action is not bad but the shortness of the film got to me!!


Reviewed by: RLM
Date: 05/08/2001
Summary: Dismal Film

Utter crap. Skip it.
Absolutly no connection to Swordsman in any real sense. What were they thinking?!?

Reviewed by: MilesC
Date: 12/09/1999

This movie would've been okay as a stand-alone, but unfortunatley it's supposed to be Swordsman III. This movie is flawed from the start, ignoring the obvious problems Swordsman II left unresolved in favor of creating a ridiculous new one by resurrecting Asia the Invinceable. Plus not much happens for the first fifteen or twenty minutes, and in the end things are far from a satisfying close. The movie looks just as great as the first two, and there are some great flying action sequences, but too many over-the-top strange moments (vomiting midget samurai generals?) and a plot line that shouldn't even exist make this one skippable. It's a shame, because this movie has plenty of great moments.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Asia the Invincible, the demon who metamorphosized into awoman in Swordsman II, was thought dead at the end of the previous adventure. Navy Official Koo discovers her in her old hideout, and tells her that many have been assuming her name and forming cults. Knowing this division will destroy the country, she vows to destroy them all. She finds that her former lover, Snow, is also one of the imposters. What begins as a patriotic endeavor soon becomes a bloodbath as her destructive nature consumes her. Unable to control her fury, she unleashes her powers on Snow and Koo. In her final battle with Koo, she kills him as well as Snow. Once again, she retires from the world.

[Reviewed by Rim Films Catalog]

Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Kung fu master Ku misguidedly leads Spanish soldiers to the grave of Asia the Invincible (brilliantly overplayed by Brigitte Lin) to seize some Secret Scrolls -- a source of untold power. Well, apparently she's alive, and easily dispatches both the Spanish and a small army of ninjas (whose galleon converts into a submarine), before escaping on the back of a marlin. She now embarks upon a mission to destroy the numerous false pretenders to her title, ripping hearts and bodies asunder with her flying kung fu needles! With insane action sequences and hopelessly botched subtitles, it's hard to tell whether this was intended as a camp masterpiece, a genre parody, or what.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 8