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The Swordsman (1990)
"Xiao ao jiang hu" (original title)

 -  Action | History | Romance  -  22 May 1990 (USA)
7.1
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 1,285 users  
Reviews: 14 user | 17 critic

When a scroll containing valuable martial arts secrets is stolen from the Emperor, an army detachment is sent to recover it. Blademaster, a young martial arts expert, accidentally ends up ... See full summary »

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(novel), , 5 more credits »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Samuel Hui ...
Cecilia Yip ...
Jacky Cheung ...
Sharla Cheung ...
Fennie Yuen ...
Blue Phoenix (as Fanny Yuen)
...
Ngok (as Siu Ming Lau)
Ma Wu ...
Lau (as Ma Wo)
Ching-Ying Lam ...
Kuk (as Ching Ying Lam)
...
Zhor
Shun Lau ...
The Eunuch
Ming Man Cheung ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Yiu-Sing Cheung
Sing Kwong Lai
Chi Ming Liu
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Storyline

When a scroll containing valuable martial arts secrets is stolen from the Emperor, an army detachment is sent to recover it. Blademaster, a young martial arts expert, accidentally ends up in possession, but the plot grows complex as Japanese samurai, an illegal Chinese sect, a tribe of snake-wielding women warriors, a rival martial arts school and the leader of his own martial arts school vie for the scroll. Romantic complications also ensue, involving him with his longtime chum, daughter of the leader of his school, a Japanese woman, and two of the snake- wielding tribeswomen (Blue Phoenix and their leader, Princess Yin-Yin). Written by Reid Gagle

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TV-14 | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

22 May 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Swordsman  »

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User Reviews

 
This is not a kungfu film
20 January 2006 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

THE SWORDSMAN is a movie very much in the style of the classically-influenced Wuxia movies of the 1960s, like DRAGON GATE INN (1966) and A TOUCH OF ZEN (1969), which was based in turn on a Qing Dynasty (17th Century) story by Songling Pu. These sword movies were at their most popular in the years running up to the earliest kungfu movies like Chinese BOXER (1970) and THE BIG BOSS (1971), but are not to be confused with the more familiar martial arts movies, as they have conventions and rules all their own.

Wuxia movies are typified by the spectacular sword battles where antagonists fly through the air in prodigious leaps as they cross swords. This kind of spectacle may have reached its pinnacle in the stunning sword battles seen IN CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON or HERO, but it can trace its roots back to the earliest swordplay movies of King Hu and the first New Wave movies like Tsui Hark's ZU: WARRIORS OF THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN. But Wuxia films are also about honour and the code of the warrior, and in this respect resemble Samurai movies more than kungfu films.

In THE SWORDSMAN, the students of the Hua Mountain style of sword fencing have developed their Chi (internal power) to such a high degree that they are able to quite literally float through the air during their sword battles. Most powerful of all the Hua Mountain practitioners is Sifu Ngok, teacher to the young hero of the story Ling Wu Chung. Or so it seems. Early in the film, Wu Chung meeting an elder of the Hua Mountain Clan, Fung Ching Yeung, who'd gone into hiding so his enemies wouldn't try to control him by harming his family. Fung recognises Wu Chung as one of his own clan and teaches him the deadly "Nine Solitary Swordplays" and it is these techniques he uses against his own traitorous sifu.

As other reviewers have noted, "The Song" does get a bit of a caning in this movie, and I defy anyone who's heard it once to get it out of their heads in less than five days.

And it should be pointed out that Celia Yip is fooling no one with that boy disguise. Though in all fairness, this "girl disguised (badly) as boy" routine crops up a lot in Chinese stories. Anyone remember the equally gorgeous Kara Hui (Hui Ying-Hung) in EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER searching for brother Gordon Liu disguised as a man?

Wuxia have to be accepted on their own terms. There is a prevailing belief in China that the Chi abilities of martial artists in historical times were far superior to what contemporary kungfu experts are capable of. This is no different to the belief in the West that ancient seers were able to predict the future. Neither set of beliefs have any real credibility, but it makes for fun storytelling.

THE SWORDSMAN is a pretty good example of the genre, but to be honest, the sequel, SWORDSMAN II, is the better movie.


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