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Two friends ex Shaolin monks part ways as they brush with the ongoing rebellion against the government. The ambitious one rise up to e a powerful military commander, while his betrayed friend resorts to learn the calm ways of Tai Chi.
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Daft and definitely flawed but still enjoyable wuxia craziness
I remember thinking this was pretty weak when I first saw it and its not a classic by any means but its definitely grown on me. The plot, though not actually that complicated, isn't especially well written or handled and the direction is great either. We have Tony Leung as a young swordsman, who hides his true nature from his beautiful young wife Joey Wong. At the same time Leungs sister, played by Michelle Yeoh is jealous of Wong and seems to harbour an undercurrent of incestuous desire for her brother. Don't blame me, I just call things how I see them and the film definitely hints at it. And finally we have poor Donnie Yen, in love with Michelle Yeohs character. On top of all this we have a standard wuxia warring clans of the martial arts world type set up. The most obvious problem with the film is the fighting, choreographed by Ching Siu Tung and not one of his best moments, not helped by the fairly unskilled direction of Michael Mak. The action loses visual coherency at times, has some bad undercranking (thats speeding up) and wastes the martial arts talents of its leads. On the plus side it is quite bloody at times and also bonkers, for example swords fly, people fly, a man is used as an arrow and trees are used for impalement purposes in one of the best parts. Its loopy and fun when it works and though underused and weak in places the better moments of the fighting really bring the film up. The acting of the leads helps a lot too. Tony Leung is full of charisma, Joey Wong all sweet and innocent, Michelle Yeoh amusingly mean and bitchy yet with a streak of pathos and Donnie Yen likable and a little melancholy. Their characters and interactions work, they have funny moments and all have a good deal of charm, giving the film a sweetly watchable vibe. Even when the script is weak or the fighting is irritating the leads pull it off just about. Altogether its not difficult to see why the film isn't that appreciated, it has blatant problems and the greatest value comes from its nuttiness and a love for the main actors. I immensely enjoy the work of the four of them and I also crave craziness in cinema so this film was generally a good time for me. But it might well not be for you, its definitely one to proceed with caution over. So be forewarned...
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