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The Blade

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 10/30/2005
Summary: 9.5 - Tsui Hark reinvents himself again

THE BLADE is an important film for many reasons, and a full appreciation requires an understanding of the context and history that led to its creation. Firstly, we note that it is the work of Tsui Hark, a director who made a career from revisiting old stories and genres and reinventing them in a new style - as he does with the wu xia genre here, but not for the first time.

In 1990, period martial arts films had long been out of favour, and it must have occurred to Tsui that it was time for a revival, and he had a clear idea how this should happen. Way back in 1966 King Hu had created a new style of wu xia film-making, and his visionary approach to the genre had been a major influence on Tsui. Hoping to repay the favour to a personal hero whose career had long since floundered, Tsui persuaded him to direct a Jin Yong adapatation - the film that would be known as SWORDSMAN. The success of the film, and its novel ways of presenting the martial arts world, led to a boom in HK cinema that lasted for 3-4 years, in which dozens of similar films were made - possibly too many in fact, as the audience were growing a little weary of flying swordsmen by 1994. Which leads to...

ASHES OF TIME came out in 1994, the 2-year labour of love or madness from auteur Wong Kar-Wai. Although the box-office performance of the film was disappointing, the waves it made were undeniable. Having long been used to being the Most Important Person in the Hong Kong film industry, Tsui Hark must have felt a little put out by the acclaim and attention paid to this young whippersnapper with only 3 films to his name and the last one an expensive flop anyway... I think he must have been jealous in fact, but also acknowledged that there was something in Wong Kar-Wai's film-making that had never been found in his own work. Which leads us to...

THE BLADE (1995) has often been described as Tsui Hark's answer to Wong Kar-Wai. I am sure Tsui would deny it, but there are too many reasons to believe it's true when you see the film to believe it's not. Tsui again looked back to the 1960's for inspiration - having taken the King Hu style of wu xia about as far as it could go, he looked at the other major influence of the era - Chang Cheh's ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN. That film was noted for presenting more violent and cynical view of the martial arts world, an idea which Tsui takes on in THE BLADE (along with the broad story of Chang Cheh's film). The result combines aspects of Chang Cheh's style with elements of Wong Kar-Wai's style and some wholly new ideas to create another new style of wu xia pian.

Some features worth noting about THE BLADE, which mark it out as a unique and important development:

1. The visual style is the most obvious factor. THE BLADE features a much grittier, dirtier martial arts world than the almost abstract Shaw Brothers sets or the bright silks and fantastical structures of the early 90's boom. ASHES OF TIME had already created a dustier, shabbier world for its characters, but THE BLADE takes it to a much greater extreme - the mud and dirt, the wooden buildings, grimey inhabitants and the livestock living amongst them all evoke a much more realistic vision of the ancient China where the swordsmen of legend would actually have been living than had been attempted before. Most wu xia films have a rather timeless quality, clearly set in a fantasy land rather than any real historical or geographical place, but THE BLADE tries very hard to conjure up an idea of actual history.

2. The characters in THE BLADE are a very different sort of folk from the wandering swordsmen or martial arts clans who exist in their own world of Jiang Hu, where things like making a living and surviving the winter are rarely mentioned. THE BLADE takes the swordsmen out of their fantasy world and gives them jobs and other more earthly concerns. The heroes of the film work in a sword-smiths, earning their bread & butter with hard toil. The villains are bandits, stealing and pillaging, but doing so in a commercial environment where their skills can be traded too (another element Wong Kar-Wai had touched upon, but Tsui takes much further)

3. The wu xia genre, perhaps more than any other, had a tendency for incredibly heroic heroes and incredibly villainous villains. ASHES OF TIME had made some of its heroes a little bit less clean-cut, and THE BLADE takes it even further... there are very few characters that can be called "heroic", and most are towards the darker end of "shades of grey".

These three observations illustrate well the fact the influence of ASHES OF TIME on THE BLADE, and the unique vision Tsui Hark brought to his film to create a work that is genuinely original.

An early scene cleverly expresses Tsui's vision: the archetypal hero, a Shaolin monk, rescues a girl from bandits and defeats them with his superlative kung fu. The job done, he goes on his way without asking for reward or even sustenance. The main characters (representing the audience of a more traditional wu xia film) are impressed, but in the next scene the monk is ambushed by the bandits who use some dirty, brutal tricks to defeat his "traditional" martial arts techniques, and he suffers a particularly unpleasant death. The message is clear - the romantic ideal of the Jiang Hu is under attack, and a new vision of the martial world as a violent, unjust place where survival is the only real reward is about to be presented. The audience must be prepared to revise their attitudes and beliefs!

This conceptual vision of the martial arts world is complemented by a cinematic style that is quite unlike any martial arts film that came before THE BLADE. Tsui's debut film, THE BUTTERFLY MURDERS, was notable for introducing more "modern" elements of cinematic language to Hong Kong - particularly the use of light and shadow to express information about the characters and the story. THE BLADE employs light and shadow in some quite radical ways, along with some novel camera work that produces some beautiful and stylistically unique images. The more chaotic scenes are shot with a lot of contrasting lighting (there seems to be an almost permanent thunderstorm going on, helpfully!), and with a rough & "edgy" camera style - lots of hand held work with kinetic movement and a sometimes loose framing, producing an aesthetic of gritty realism rather than abstract beauty. Sometimes the stylisation is taken right in the opposite direction though, with shots that seem to have come from the pages of a comic book or graphic novel. The combination of these techniques results in some exceptionally intense visuals.

Another Wong Kar-Wai influence in the film is the intermittent narration - a voice over from the lead female character expressing at first a curiosity as to where this "Jiang Hu" place she has heard about might be, and her gradual discovery that it refers to a society where men are fighting to survive... a lawless place where a hero is not a perfect vision of what mankind should be, but somebody who might rise to the occasion and do something exceptional when circumstances call for it. Although Tsui has protested that his very first film began with a voice-over, so he can't be accused of copying Wong Kar-Wai when he uses one 16 or 20 years later, an impartial observer must surely agree that the content of the voice-over in THE BLADE recalls the quasi-philosophical musings with which Wong Kar-Wai has filled most of his films more than anything in Tsui Hark's previous products.

A new vision of martial arts cinema would be incomplete without a new vision of fight choreography, and THE BLADE does not disappoint - indeed it is here that the film particularly excels. Principal actor Zhao Wen Zhao came from the same martial arts school as Jet Li, and had a similar level of physical skill (if not charisma). As with Jimmy Wang Yu before him, when he loses an arm it seems like his fighting days are over... but through determination and training he develops a style of fighting that compensates for the loss of a limb by honing the power and especially speed of the remaining limbs. The result is a particularly visceral style, far removed from the precise forms of old-school kung fu, the playful use of props and environment found in the 80's action films or the exaggerated ariel acrobatics of the 90's wu xia pian. Few wires are used and the action is mostly believable, but still astonishes with the skill displayed. The choreography is complemented by the cinematography, which utilises fast camera movements and editing to create an almost impressionistic sense of movement and violence - a style often employed to disguise lack of talent in the actors and crew, but in THE BLADE it enhances Tsui Hark's vision Tsui and leaves the skill of the cast & crew in no doubt at all. It would be unfair not to mention that some of the techniques in the final fight scene were stolen from King Hu's work in THE VALIANT ONES though :p

Although there are several points of influence that can be easily picked out, the result is an undeniably unique film that successfully presented a quite radically new vision of martial arts films - an impressive feat from a director who'd already reinvented the genre more than once. Sadly, the local audiences were not terribly impressed or interested - the fatigue from the early 90's boom probably made *any* martial arts film a hard sell to Hong Kong audiences at the time - even one that was so different to those that had flooded cinemas in previous years. THE BLADE performed poorly at the box office and has been treated shamefully on home video for 10 years now... it has still never been released on DVD in Hong Kong!

The lacklustre reception must have been a blow to Tsui Hark, already bruised from the attention stolen by Wong Kar-Wai. Soon afterwards he moved to Hollywood to try his luck in new lands - a disaster for all concerned it would appear - and since returning to Hong Kong he has struggled to win over investors or audiences again, his name becoming mud after the massive flop of LEGEND OF ZU. 2005 has seen a concerted effort to reclaim his crown with SEVEN SWORDS, which he has described as "a new vision of martial arts cinema", but which is in fact strikingly similar to the vision he presented in THE BLADE - cast in less radical visual stylisation and offering a slightly more traditional picture of a "hero". The film has been a modest success, if not the box-office smash he must have hoped for - hopefully it has restored enough credit to his name for him to be given chance to explore his vision further, and produce more works for fans like myself to enjoy as much as we have enjoyed THE BLADE :)

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/18/2005
Summary: Tsui Hark makes a violent remake of the 'One Armed Swordsman', with unimaginable consequences.......

Tsui Harks very own version of the ‘One-Armed Swordsman’, with unique style camera angles and a Wong Kar-Wai brand of reminiscence.

Zhao Wen-Zhou stars as ‘On’, an orphan working as a blade manufacturer since his father died years ago, adopted by the owner of the manufacturing plant. The owner actually used to be a dear friend of On’s late father, whom died violently at the hands of a mercenary named ‘Fei Lung’ (played by Xiong Xin-Xin from other previous roles in ‘Once Upon a Time in China 3, 4 and 5’). On soon discovers the truth from the owner’s daughter ‘Ling’ (played by ‘Sang Ni’) and leaves everything to exact his revenge on the Notorious ‘Fei Lung’, whom is legendarily known for his sword-flying techniques. Ling also has a strange affliction and imagines herself in a world full of men who fight over her. On is among her targets and he bears a scar, which was given to him by Ling when they were young. When On leaves she follows him, hoping to change his mind and abandon this ridiculous escapade of revenge, only to get herself into trouble when her horse is caught in a trap and she is captured by some bandits plaguing the countryside. On hears her cries for help and manages to save her, but evidently during his fight with the bandits, loses with hand becoming useless and therefore the revenge is all but lost. He falls into a deep chasm and loses his former life, where Ling, his friends and even the owner assume he died from the fall.

While ‘On’ recuperates on what has transpired, his best friend ‘Iron Head’ (played by Moses Chan Ho (from other memorable roles in ‘Tri-Star’ and ‘Black Mask’) and Ling set out in search of ‘On’, disbelieving that he died. Eventually, during a bandit raid on a village, they stumble upon a one-armed swordsman, whom has the same appearance as ‘On’. ‘On’ man-handles the whole bandit gang and then disappears into thin air, when he catches an eye full of ‘Iron Head’ and ‘Ling’ so that he is not discovered. Iron Head and Ling go back to the village, hopelessly given up on the idea of On’s unmistaken death, although they find that their own village is under attack from another group of thugs, whom have hired ‘Fei Lung’ and his team of assorted sword-wielding assassins, as assistance. The final fight takes place in the blade manufacturing plant, between Fei Lung and On, in one of the most imaginatively filmed action-choreography set pieces to grace HK Cinema.

Tsui Hark certainly does an excellent job of portraying On as a noble warrior, whose best intentions are to seek justice for his fathers death, rather than the obvious revenge. He seeks to bring order to the country, by eradicating all the bandits and thugs that have been molesting the nearby towns, no for glory, fame or hatred but for honour and family. Also Ling is set out to be a self-obsessed daughter whom thinks the world revolves around her presence and everything On is doing is for her sake only, yet this is far from the truth where On only seeks retribution for his fathers murder as well as bring all this turmoil to an end. The charismatic storyline is fitted with impeccable decisiveness and little room is left for a romantic outlook. The atmosphere of each set piece is given an arty reminiscence with some scenes which look more like a pigment of Ling’s Dream, rather than real time visuals.

Overall, artistically successful or not, the film is undeniably visceral and engaging. Zhao Wen-Zhou deserves most of the credit, since his description of On’s demise and unfortunate circumstances, is so well done in such little screen time. This would class as one of the better Tsui Hark movies portraying a deeper message, unfortunately it is never made clear, and the experience would certainly be a memorable one, when watching this movie.

Overall Rating: 8.4/10

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 09/18/2003

An apprentice blade maker, On (Zhao), finds the truth about his past after bandits raid the local village. He decides to strike out after the tattooed villain (Hung) who killed his father, but loses his arm after being attacked by the bandits. After being nursed back to health, On finds a half-burned kung fu instruction book and, along with his father's broken sword, creates an unstoppable fighting style which he uses to continue his quest.

On the surface, The Blade is yet another version of the popular "one-armed" kung fu subgenre. But, really, it is closer in tone to the films of Wong Kar-Wai or Akira Kurosawa, where the story is more of a backdrop for a character study. This is hard territory to create a film around, as it can quickly delve into uninteresting, talky drivel.

Though many have tried, very few directors can pull this type of film off successfully. Tsui Hark does. He creates a world in The Blade that is so fascinating to watch that I didn't mind that there was more talking than fighting. The film just looks fabulous, with lovely, fluid camera work and interesting lighting. The set design is also great, particularly the bamboo bandits' camp, which is put to great use in one of the film's key action sequences. The Blade proves that you don't need tens of millions of dollars of digital effects to make a great-looking movie. Even though the actors tend to be uneven at times, going from almost woodeness to overacting, all of the performances are solid overall and add to the strength of the movie. One thing that really helps is that each character is allowed their own space within the story. This "breathing room" allows the characters to be able both as individuals and as a group, unlike many ensemble movies where characters are sometimes literally yelling over each other at times.

Tsui did not skimp on the action either. Even though some people may be disappointed (this is no Iron Monkey with crazy wire fu all over the place), The Blade sports some fine fight sequences. The final one is particularly breathtaking, with On using his unique fighting style coupled with a really cool sword/chain weapon taking on the villain who sports a three-bladed sword.

If you have a good attention span and want something to think about, check out The Blade. It's a thinking person's martial arts movie.

Reviewed by: Wilpuri
Date: 07/30/2003
Summary: Best "swordplay" movie ever.

This was the first "real" Hong Kong movie I saw and it just blew me away! After seeing this masterpiece from Tsui Hark I wanted to see more asian movies (and now I've seen a LOT more).

This furious "swordplay" movie is very different from any other swordfighting movies I've seen. It's more realistic, but at the same time it's more hectic and brutal. It has the greatest action scenes I've EVER seen! I held my breath during the final fight because it was so... well fast & furious...

This is actually alsoT sui Hark's most beautiful movie. The camerawork is fantastic, and the visual style of the flashback, where the main villain is fighting in the rain with the father of the hero, is just something I've never seen before...

Highly recommended for those who want to see emotinal, melodramatic, beautiful and hectic action movie.

7/5 points.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: balstino
Date: 07/04/2003
Summary: Not Good...

Maybe it is because I saw this dubbed in English (crime against humanity!) but I thought it was cheesy, boring, and had rubbish fights (until the end one). Vincent Zhao is the man but this film is cack.

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/25/2003
Summary: Pretty good if you watch it more than once

OK my review from this has disappeared!!
So here it is again, as i remember........

Well i do know why this was not a success. When i watched this i thought the production was made in China, and my hk friend thought it was about the worst movie he ever saw.

This is definately a movie where the more you watch, the more you like. My initial reaction was the same as my friend actually, but i did see it again and it grew on me.

The fight scenes.........well the last fight scene was good but the rest was quite plain. The ending has a unromantic appearance but you feel it doesn't have much to do with the movie.

I find it hard to rate this because if you seen this for the first time and not like it's arty type feel, you'll think it's pretty bad,

but if you watch it more and more you'll probably like it


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 01/25/2003

The most nihilistic, cynical, and humorless take on the popular one-armed swordsman plot. It's also the definitive version. The alter ego of Tsui Hark's own "Once Upon a Time in China" (1991) and one of the director's last great achievements in filmmaking.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 12/05/2002


Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Tatus
Date: 06/12/2002
Summary: hmmmmmmm interesting.....

the films script and story are a bit bland and muddled and some of the female preformances (not a woman hater here, just thought i would point that out as i may get bashed) where just auwful - screaming hyperactive bints overacting for all there lives are worth. but all in all a fairly enjoyable swordplay romp - i know this may sound a bit duh, but where's all the blood? there are swords flying everywhere and not much claret. i'm sorry but the way these guys handle thier blades there should be hunks and chunks of gore spraying and flying everywhere - but no. Also probably not a popular ideal amongst the more pretencious and arty amongst you but i like a bit of gore every now and again, I mean whats the point of slicing somene brutally if they ain't gonna show the damage inflicted?
just opinions....but hey 6.5/10

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 02/25/2002
Summary: What is this, an anti-tribute to Ashes of Time?

I guess "different" is the best word to describe this movie, but it's different in sort of a bad way. This is perhaps the SECOND most disturbing, dark, heart-blowing depressing, and hyper-super-duper-ultra-melo-melo-melo-super-ultra-melodramatic movie (all after Ashes of Time, of course) ever. Its message: Everyone is worthless and a victim, and heroes are no exceptions.

So let's begin the analyzation of this "work of art" with a fact: 90% of the movie has people screaming and yelling and over-reacting. Indeed, nobody ever opens his mouth peacefully, so don't even think about calmness. All The characters are totally out of control; everyone is on the verge of becoming permanently insanne. You, too, may need to be institutionized after watching this movie.

Instead of the usual polished fight scenes (found in other works of Tsui Hark), the action here is smudged, unclear, sloppy, violent, furious--with purpose of course. If you're a real kung fu fan, you will not find adequate action here. But it truly saves the best for last, for the finale contains some of the most fierce, brutal, and barbaric action ever captured on film. It will blow anyone's mind. And keep in mind that most fight scenes are wire-free.

The behavior of the characters are so dramatic, they're not funny (really, they're not). They reveal the worst side of humanity. But the ultimate horror is, all this uncivilized behavior and eccentric fighting is probably the most accurate portray of life in China 500 years ago. It raises the most thought-provoking question that even Ashes of Time fails to bring up: Was this the REAL Jiang Hu, the actual Martial World? I think so. And So You won't find the humor from Fong Sai Yuk, the classy production values of Once Upon a Time in China, or the majestic swordplay in Butterfly Sword. But these elements are not likely accurate at all, for how could the martial world have been so civilized, where two fighters can not know eachother's style and still fight with all the right moves (that's just one example)? So No, The Blade doesn't have any of that. What it does have is never-before-seen footage of realism; and as we all know, reality can be disturbing and disgusting--and it is. You enter a different world when you begin this film. Don't expect it like your NORMAL onscreen martial arts journey.

Not sure if I should recommend this. I almost regret having seen it. The narrative comes from an outisde, a totally uninvolved character, and the ending is very peaceful. In many ways, this is the one film that should never have been made, Tsui Hark's most ambitious attempt, and Tsui Hark's worst movie ever. YOU WILL FEEL LIKE DOGSHIT WHEN YOU WATCH THIS, and you will question your worth. I guess it's always nice to see a film intended to be messed up from the beginning, but maybe that's sarcasm.


Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: nomoretitanic
Date: 01/05/2002
Summary: Go Tsui

Goddard once said that the best way to criticize a film was to make another film about it. This was what Tsui did with “The Blade.” “The Blade” itself was a remake of the One-armed Swordsman franchise that populated the cinema in the late 60s. This type of stories is always the same—a hero must avenged the death of his loved ones, but his kung fu was not good enough, as a result he lost the match and arm, he decided to develop a new martial arts for himself and did. The Blade took only the backbone of the story; it went on to make statements about filmmaking in general.
The first filmmaker it criticizes is of course, Wong Kar-Wai. Tsui’s created a character that sounds like someone out of a Wong Kar-Wai film, Ling (Song Nei) and puts her in Tsui’s own gritty universe of fighters. Ling appears to be self-centered and naïve, if not pseudo-intellectual.

Then he goes on to lament the death of “old school” kung fu movies. A kung fu monk is murdered in the first fight scene when he tries to rescue the girls from the bandits, he is dressed less like a real monk than one from other kung fu movies. His style of fighting resembles that of a Shaolin monk, but he is killed, and for the rest of the movie, the choreography is brutal and dirty. The camera bounces like a pinball, it shakes, but with precision and purpose; every movement and every cut is used to maybe close-up on a move or an object in the scenes or maybe to represent a character’s point of view. The movie’s villain, Fei Long (“Flying Dragon”) is feared by all because of his ability to fly, which seems to be a dig on the abuses on wires in the Hong Kong action film industry.

There is a lot of nostalgia in this movie; everyone misses the world as the way it used to be. The title character, “An” (Zhao Wen-Zhou), begins his quest (that costs him his arm) by wanting to find out about his past, his father. There is no new hope in the end, but rather, it shows the characters living the lives they used to live. Or dreaming about it anyways.

This was Zhao WenZhuo's best movie, the fight scenes were exhilirating, if you could take the blood I guess. No real problems with it except for the messed up timeline (how long, exactly, did all this take place?) It was real cool otherwise, both artistically and martial artistically.

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 01/03/2002

For years, I'd only seen this movie on a less than perfect vcd with horrible subtitles, so finally getting to see it on the UK R2 dvd was a revelation (even though the DVD itself is not that great). The visuals in this movie are most impressive, and while I think the narrative has its weaknesses (the at times convoluted and unfocused plot is driven by narrative crutches such as voiceovers), the cinematography and especially the inventive and quite unrelenting action choreography more than make up for it.

For anyone who doesn't know the story: it's a retelling of the One-Armed Swordsman saga, focusing on a swordsmith apprentice called On (played by Zhao Wen Zhou) who learns about his father's death at the hands of a mysterious tatooed bad guy years earlier and swears to find him and take revenge. While rescueing his master's daughter from some bandits, he loses his arm in battle, and seemingly disappers. Nursed back to health by a feral female peasant, he trains himself to fight effectively with his remaining arm, and becomes a skilled swordsman who then reappears for the final showdown to rescue his friends and take revenge for the death of his father.

It's safe to say there is no other film in the HK swordplay genre that has quite this level of ferociousness and brutal intensity in the fight scenes. Tsui Hark takes what by then had become rather stale cinematic conventions and interjects a level of danger and thrill into the fights hitherto unseen. Much like he recently reinvented gunplay conventions in Time and Tide, this movie pumps new life into the genre by foregoing most of the traditional wirework type filming and introducing a frantic, menacing, desparate cinematography where bodies are just barely in the frame, and the camera itself seems endangered by the fighters.

As usual in Tsui's films, there are added layers of meaning in the film involving politics and gender relations, and while I found these to be not very focused, and while they do slow the movie down quite a bit, they are at least not as cryptic as in WKW's Ashes of Time.

For any fan of the swordplay genre, this movie is a must, and I just hope that one day we'll have a decent anamorphic release of this film available.

Reviewed by: tomliffe
Date: 06/23/2001
Summary: Probably Tsui's best

The Blade: People say this was Tsui Hark's answer to WKW's Ashes Of Time. I can see what they mean in some respects but I think both films are very different. This is completely devoid of humour (so is Ashes) and very dark. The characters in this film feel very distant, they are quite cold and I didn't feel for them very much while in Ashes Of Time it's all about relationships and love. In The Blade you feel as if the 3 main characters can't communicate their emotions to each other. It seemed like that was the point of it though so it didn't matter. Both films are VERY beautiful, you can almost smell tha air and taste the dust in this one. The fight scenes are breathtaking. Lots of rapid editing and very fast. The final conflict is on of the best fight scenes I've ever seen, incredibly well done. This is perhaps Tsui Hark's best film, I'll definetly need to watch it again to fully understand everything and catch every little detail. VERY highly recommended.

Reviewed by: Trigger
Date: 05/13/2001
Summary: Absolute Masterpiece

This is my favorite HK film. The cinematography is spectacular and innovative. The acting is outstanding. The story is amazing. I can't say enough good things about this film. If you only see one HK film ever - make it this one. This film shows us what kung-fu films could be. Raises the bar for all HK films - and US films as well.

Rating: Movie - 9.5/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Dai Lo
Date: 07/04/2000
Summary: Brutal and Cool

Tsui Harks loose remake of the shaw movie 'the one armed swordsman' stars chui man cheuk as ting on as a bladesmith who loses his arm trying to rescue his master's daughter from some bandits at the same time discovering his father was brutally murdered when he was a child. Ting on later goes into seclusion and is nursed back to health by a boy named 'blackhead' and learns a sword technique buried in the shack he's staying at, which of coarse means he's after revenge directed towards a man called Fei Lung (played by the same man who played Club Foot in the OUATIC series). Some similarities to a wong Kai wai film, even called 'homoerotic' by some. The film itself is very hard to watch the whole men like dogs feel is somewhat uncomfortable to watch, but the final fight is simply breath-taking as well as a sad ending sniff.
(by man-kin chan)

Reviewed by: SUPERCOP
Date: 12/25/1999
Summary: Another Tsui Hark masterwork.....

Tsui Hark, after filming the box office hit The Chinese Feast, set his sights on a period martial arts epic, and what resulted is this masterpiece which perfectly blends lightning fast swordplay, along with strong themes and ambitious cinematography. Mainland Chinese martial artist Zhou Wen-zhou headlines this story which is another take on Jimmy Wang Yu's sword classic One Armed Swordsman. Some have criticised this production for being too close to Wong Kar-wai (cinematography, voice over narratives) for it's own good, but Tsui Hark clearly has invented a style of his own. Highly recommended for fans in need of another great, thought provoking sword film.

Rating: 9/10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

An erratic plotline filled with too much symbolism and trying tosay too much really hampers what could have been an amazing movie. A swordmaker loses his arm while trying to save his master's daughter from a brutal gang. While a war escalates between the swordmaking factory and the gang, the one-armed swordsmaker hides in seclusion teaching himself to become a master swordsman from a half-burnt martial arts book, driven by revenge. The story completely loses its focus at times and doesn't fully develop the most important plot points. That said, the movie is almost entirely redeemed by the thrilling final 1/3 of the film, including a breathtaking finale unlike anything you've seen before. Once again, even when Tsui Hark isn't at his best, he is still one of the most revolutionary filmmakers of his time.

Reviewed by: hktopten
Date: 12/21/1999

Tsui Hark's attempt at being Wong Kar Wai beats Wong Kar Wai at his own game. The story isn't as smooth and flowing as it can be, but comparing to Ashes of Time, this film is less confusing though more abstract at times. The pair of Blackie and Ting On reminds me of Batman and Robin, and Moses Chan tries his best to overcome his city kid look. Xiong Xin Xin is brillant again as the bad guy. The action is fast and furious and made me dizzy watching it on a small screen. Another OK film hithered by the writing.

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

This movie was a relentless and brutal story of revenge with no redeeming characters, no interesting choreography, no coherent story telling, and painfully slow to sit through.

[Reviewed by Anonymous]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Velly goood. It is really brutally violent, hypnotically so. Reminds me of seeing my "first" Tsui Hark film, Wong Fei Hung (OUATIC) for the first time. I think any action fan will enjoy it. BTW, it reminded my of Temptation of a Monk (by Clara Law) in some ways - the colors and the emotions.

[Reviewed by Brian Lam]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

Bandits kill an innocent monk, and two swordsmiths set out to take revenge. In the ensuing battle, one loses an arm and flees to an isolated hovel; the other escapes and eventually resolves to find him. "The Blade" is a vital, often original treatment of a currently stale genre, with a super-fast, slickly edited finale - compensation enough for the lack of solid martial arts choreography. After being ruthlessly copied for years, Tsui Hark seems to be well aware of new trends (although he could have avoided Wong Kar-Wai's contrivances), and here shows off his ability to stay ahead of the pack.

[Reviewed by Iain Sinclair]

Reviewed by: hkcinema
Date: 12/08/1999

What a delight. Tsui Hark had the guts to do an "arty" martial-arts flick in a time when Hong Kong's cinemas were filled with boring street dramas and uninspired movies made by temporary Wong Kar-wai wannabes. THE BLADE is simply the best Hong Kong film of 1995. The directing is mind blowing and the mood is very dark, very "violent". Obviously inspired by the critical success of "CHUNGKING EXPRESS", Tsui Hark (like many other directors of that time) tried to do a film for a thinking audience. Unfortunately for him (and for us), "THE BLADE" was a big flop in Hong Kong. the critics kind of liked it but HK audience were not in the mood for such a film. Too bad...

[Reviewed by Martin Sauvageau]

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

In feudal China, brigands have imposed a reign of terror over peasants and merchants alike; when Ding On (Zhao Wen Zhao) gets promoted to the leadership of a prestigious swordmaking business, his workers feel they've been passed over, and On is left on his own to save pretty Sui-Ling (Taiwanese Ding Ni, who narrates the story) from the villains. In the course of battle, his arm and foot are dismembered, though a poor family nurses him back to health. Soon, the robbers destroys the family's shack and kill nearly everyone inside, leaving only On and a little boy with any hope of somehow exacting revenge. In the meantime, Iron Hand (Chan Ho), his rival for On's hand, has promised the grief-stricken they'd find some trace of her former love, a task he performs at considerable risk to himself. Aside from the brigands, their eventual goal is to kill a tattooed, invincible swordsman named Lung (Xiong Xinxin), who's widely rumored to be able to fly while cutting his victims into scraps. The film is based on the Shaw Brothers classic The One Armed Swordsman, but this version applies the neo-swordplay style of Wong "Ashes of Time" Kar Wai, albeit with less visual genius and more plot-driven power. Whether the jagged camera movements and edits work is a matter of debate; personally, I've always preferred a well-choreographed martial arts sequence to one in which the action is obfuscated by stylistic tricks. It ends up being terribly inconsistent, with the camera too frequently in the wrong place at the wrong time, and even then, you may end up with motion sickness trying to figure out what's going on. But some of the scenes -- especially the final fights -- are incredibly exciting, and Tsui Hark fans will certainly find interest in other areas.


[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6