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The one-armed boxer is stalked by a vengeful flying guillotine expert, after his disciples were killed in the first 'One-Armed Boxer' film. But as the flying guillotine master is blind, he starts his quest by becoming a serial killer of one-armed men. Meanwhile, the one-armed boxer is running a martial arts school, where he teaches his pupils to control their breath so they can run up walls and along ceilings. And there's an Indian fakir whose arms can extend until they're ten feet long. As you may have gathered, a rational plot summary is pretty pointless - but rest assured there are epic martial arts battles and ludicrously inspired moments galore. Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
This is a sequel to director Yu Wang's 1971 film One-Armed Boxer (Dop bey kuan wan). Fung Sheng Wu Chi (Kang Kam), as the master of the flying guillotine, is a blind Ching Dynasty assassin, with a directive to quell potential rebels. After his two disciples were killed by Tien Lung (Yu Wang), the one-armed boxer (in the prequel), Fung has sworn revenge.
Although many rightfully consider this film a masterpiece, if you're not much of a fan of martial arts fight sequences in films, you probably shouldn't bother with Master of the Flying Guillotine. That's because there isn't much screen time taken up by anything else. Beside the fights, there is very little action or dialogue. Every fight in Master of the Flying Guillotine is engaging, but the last two are probably the best. These are two of the best fight scenes I've seen in any film.
We know right out of the gate that Master of the Flying Guillotine is going to be something special. The opening cinematography is beautiful, the introduction to Fung captivating, and we're quickly introduced to an ingeniously odd and sinister "growling/grinding" musical leitmotif for Fung, which is achieved by slowing down a musical recording (it's actually a song by the German band Neu!) As a leitmotif, the music reappears whenever Fung reappears, with all the impact and then some of Darth Vader's leitmotif music in the Star Wars films.
There are two factors that make this film so remarkable overall. The first is the fantastic and brutal nature of the martial arts. In a lesser film, the fantasy aspects could easily be unintentionally funny. Here, they're just enthralling. Every fighter has some unique style and/or skill, and the extended "kung fu gladiator" tournament focuses on these, to our benefit. The second, less obvious factor, is the depth of characterization and implied, complex plot and backstory achieved by Yu Wang solely through the fight sequences. Even though 90-something percent of the film is just fight sequences, nothing is lacking.
A 10 out of 10 from me.
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