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Character-based wuxia with choppy, violent fight scenes
A typically over the top, highly kinetic wuxia epic from Hong Kong. This one offers a middling budget and an all-star cast, although it's worth noting that story-wise it's much better when detailing larger-than-life characters than it is bringing to life the complexities of a muddled political script. In essence what you get are a number of main characters interacting and occasionally doing battle with some rival factions who have murder in mind.
Part of the film is an ultra-cheesy romance between Tony Leung and Joey Wang, which is quite fun with a lot of flying around in the woods and sweet moments. It's surprisingly old fashioned but genre fans will be more interested in the high energy action scenes, of which there are plenty. These possess extremely choppy choreography - so much so that it's hard to see what's going on at times - but make up for it by being inventively violent, with opponents literally exploding in two when struck by power sword strikes.
A lot of fun comes from seeing Michelle Yeoh as a striking femme fatale although she's slightly underutilised here which is no surprise given the amount of characters in the movie. Donnie Yen is also in the film but used even less although I was pleased to see that his character is a typical hard man even at this early stage of his career. Although the budget isn't high, the trappings of the wuxia genre - outlandish costumes, outdoor scenery, effective sets - are handled adroitly. Animal lovers should be aware of the real-life killing of a deer which may be unpalatable for some.
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