A kung-fu manual known as the sacred scroll is stolen from the Emperor's library. An army detachment is sent to recover it. Meanwhile, a young swordsman and his fellow disciple are accidenta... Read allA kung-fu manual known as the sacred scroll is stolen from the Emperor's library. An army detachment is sent to recover it. Meanwhile, a young swordsman and his fellow disciple are accidentally drawn into the chaos.A kung-fu manual known as the sacred scroll is stolen from the Emperor's library. An army detachment is sent to recover it. Meanwhile, a young swordsman and his fellow disciple are accidentally drawn into the chaos.
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.
- Jan 20, 2006