6.2/10
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The Assassin (1993)

Sha ren zhe Tang Zhan (original title)
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A poor farmer who loves a woman he is forbidden to associate with becomes a hardened mercenary, and is hired by a local warlord as a professional assassin. Years later, he runs into his old... See full summary »

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Cast

Credited cast:
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Tong Po Ka 'Tong Jan'
...
Yiu
...
Wong Kau
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Xiaoxiao Diao
Ge Song
Guangbei Zhang
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A poor farmer who loves a woman he is forbidden to associate with becomes a hardened mercenary, and is hired by a local warlord as a professional assassin. Years later, he runs into his old love and begins to question his violent past. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

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23 September 1993 (Hong Kong)  »

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More flying swordsmen and thoughts about wickedness and love in the tradition of Bride With White Hair
6 August 2002 | by See all my reviews

The Assassin (1993) is directed by Hong Kong film maker Siu Hung Cheung (Love To Kill), and it stars Max Mok and Rosamund Kwan as lovers who are separated during the Ming Dynasty era by some villagers who don't accept their marriage. He is captured and sent to horrible torture prison in which his eyes are sewn shut in graphic detail. Soon he gets an opportunity to fight 7 other convicts and if he wins, he gets a chance to become the evil emperor's super effective hitman and that he does. He works as a ruthless killer/assassin, until he meets Rosamund again accidentally and starts to have memories about his lost love and past life. He decides to quit as an assassin, but it is clear his master won't accept that and then the quest for life and love begins. This is in many ways similar with Ronny Yu's masterpiece Bride With White Hair.

The main theme in The Assassin is love, piece and morality of killing in general. Kwan's character is so warm and beautiful (both mentally and physically), it is clear that the main character understands the value of this and cannot continue his way of living in the dark side by killing people. The main themes in Bride were desperate love and trust more importantly, as all the hell broke loose when Brigitte Lin noticed she had been betrayed by the one he loves in Bride. The theme in The Assassin, however, is more about piece and safety and the depiction of killing's immorality. The main character learns that life is much more rewarding when he does good things instead of bad like killing and avenging. This is not as deep and philosophic film as it could be, but still these symbols and themes are present and make this film more powerful experience for me.

The sword fights and wire fu is breath takingly brilliant and shot with equally striking power as in Bride With White Hair. The magic created in The Assassin is wonderful as the whole film is so dark and bathes in blue and menacing smoke and mist. The exteriors are as fantastic as the interiors so the cinematography in The Assassin is very convincing and memorable. The fight scenes themselves are professionally staged and as fierce as they come. They are over-the-top violent and gory in the tradition of Japanese samurai films like Baby Cart films. The fierceness in the fight scenes is taken even further by using angry blood and gore in the scenes and those scenes are as symbolic here as they would be in a book so I definitely don't think this is gratuitously violent and exploiting. Still, this film got CAT III rating originally due to the excessive violence which includes many torso splittings, poison deaths and other acts of savage violence. The one fight scene near the end is in slow motion and is perhaps the greatest fight in the whole movie as it really depicts the decay and wickedness which lives in the world and inside its characters. I think the sword fights are as great here as in Bride With White Hair.

The Assassin is extremely highly recommended for lovers of Hong Kong "fly fu" and wuxia films, and I was pleasantly surprised by the high merits of this pretty unknown film. The Assassin can and is recommended to be seen many times since it unfolds and gives more by each viewing, which is usually the case with Hong Kong and Asian films. 9/10


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