Guan yun chang (2011) Poster

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Chong and Mak's re-imagining of an immensely popular historic romance
Harry T. Yung28 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Historic romances under the pen of a polished novelist have an almost irresistible appeal to a certain segment of readers. When the written material is in turn adapted to the screen, it again has the potential of immense popularity. "Ivanhoe" (1952) is a case in point.

GUAN Yun-chang is arguably the number one icon in China's historic heroic figures. One local columnist has pointed out that this hero is worshipped with equal fervour by both law enforcers and the criminal underworld today. With a chuckle, he further wonders aloud to himself that when there is direct confrontation between the two, whose prayers will be heard.

While the novelist's depiction of GUAN in "The three kingdoms" may not be authoritative material for the scholar, it is deeply ingrained in the mass as if it were divine truth. Chong and Mak's liberal re-imagining of this and other historic figures is therefore rather gutsy as it may have traditionalist grinding their teeth. Based loosely on the set of events (popularized by the novel) generally referred to as "Clearing the 5 passes; killing the 6 warriors", the movie plot is a liberal mix of historic facts, novel-popularised heroism and the directors' lively re-imagining. It should appeal to the mass audience in general.

While not particularly brilliant in any way, this movie scores above average in all the subjects on the report card. The action sequences are good and should satisfy those looking for them. The character depictions may upset hard-core fans of the novel but are generally sensible and at times even inspired. The dialogue is clever if not truly intelligent. JIANG Wen, one of the best actors in China today, adds depth to Cao Cao, whose name is almost synonymous with "vastly ambitious villain" in the Chinese language. He is a joy to watch. Donny Yen who never disappoints in the action department has recently demonstrated that he can also act. In this movie, we see him face a new challenge of carrying, as said, the number one icon in China's historical figures. He has done a decent job but what he portrays is not quite what a lot of people visualize GUAN Yun-chang to be, from the first time they hear about this hero, most assuredly when they were small kids, from their parents. But then a coin has two sides. This depiction makes the movie more interesting than following the novel's simple template.
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Lonely Bladesmann
kosmasp4 March 2012
Donnie Yen is really good at Martial Arts, but you already knew that. Some don't think he's a very good actor though. But the role he has on hand here, is really serving him good. He plays a loner and that suits him very well. The action scenes are phenomenal as expected and the story is good enough (while you could argue there is too much kitsch in it, I think it's the right amount).

It's not a masterpiece, but I think it's a good movie overall, with great story points and turns that while you might expect them, they still come down crashing on you. What's also true, the movie does not loose much on a second viewing. I even liked it better the second time around, because I knew where it was heading and could see small touches in between the settings.
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A Nutshell Review: The Lost Bladesman
DICK STEEL30 April 2011
TFor starters, Donnie Yen as Guan Yu certainly raised a few eyebrows, although you realize the filmmakers may have wanted to break conventions. I can live with that, having Guan Yu more of Donnie's physical stature, although traded off with being a little bit more nimble. While Yen's portrayal of Guan's fighting prowess is excellent par none, with the actor also taking up action choreography responsibilities, his dramatic range is undoubtedly hampered, nary breaking into a smile (which is a good thing after that very smiley performance in All's Wel, Ends Well 2011). Thankfully this got compensated by the presence of Jiang Wen as Cao Cao, adding much needed gravitas to a role that Jiang excelled in making Cao both a hero and a villain, who on the outside does and makes everything fine and dandy for Guan Yu, but harbouring deep evil beneath the facade that we see behind closed doors amongst his most loyal of generals.

And given that the set action sequences are spaced far apart, it is Jiang Wen who prevented the film from sagging in its middle act, as we see Cao Cao's dogged pursuit to build camaraderie with Guan Yu, and wonders just what it takes to have men of quality joining his ambition to rule all of China. Meanwhile we have a romantic interlude that deals with Guan Yu's infatuation with Qi Lan (Sun Li) the woman he loves but cannot woo because she is betrothed to Liu Bei. While this was inserted to show how Guan Yu is a man who sacrifices personal happiness for others, what with his saving of her skin a number of times and with his escorting her back to Liu Bei's camp, this was perhaps the weakest link in the story given Yen's unconvincing performance, and Sun Li's role being nothing more than decorative and a pretty face to build on the temptation factor.

But the second half picked up from where the first scene left off, with large action pieces to thrill audiences with Guan Yu in full battle, despite not having his famed Green Dragon Crescent Blade with him, nor the story of the Red Hare steed incorporated, which would be a nice touch to build on established mythos. Yen shows why he still has it in him as a top notch action star and choreographer with a variety of fighting styles and mano a mano battles against opponents hell bent on slaying his Guan Yu to gain instant recognizing and fame. The characters Guan Yu come up against are adapted from the infamous Five Passes Crossing, which happened because of Cao Cao's instruction to go against his own word, or that of his subordinates' defiance of orders (which is why Jiang Wen is best here as an astute politician presented with a dilemma with trying to please one man at the risk of losing loyalties of the others), and becomes almost like a computer game with the clearing of one boss level after another.

There's Kong Xiu (Andy On) refusal of safe passage resulting in a fight within a constricted passageway getting in the way of weapons in full swing (sort of reminiscing Yen's swordplay in Tsui Hark's Seven Swords), Han Fu's betrayal and his poisoned dart episode, Bian Xi's ambush with hundreds within a temple, and the governor Wang Zhi's fight with Guan Yu in a snow covered landscape, which is probably the best amongst them all despite losing plenty of backstory that builds up to the fight. Come to think of it, there was a conscious drop of background to how Guan Yu got to each stage which removes plenty of drama, and made it really look like Guan Yu going on a rampage to rid all who stood in his way.

The cinematography also was found to be left very much wanting with one extended fight sequence shot very much in the dark so much so that you can hardly see anything, except knowing that Guan Yu is dispatching a lot of goons repeatedly, and Bian Xi's episode was also quite the let down in a cheat sheet of shots, stylistically quite innovative, but with doors closed and plenty of noise coming from within before revealing the obvious winner, you would have hoped the camera was placed on the other side instead. Perhaps it will be there as a deleted scene in the DVD. And while I mentioned this isn't your usual gigantic Guan Yu, Donnie Yen's fight choreography may have confused him with Chen Zhen which Donnie also played in The Legend of the Fist (directed by Andrew Lau), having Guan execute dexterous moves as seen in that film running around in a circle and dodging arrows which seemed to have been fired from a machine gun. I'm all for reinterpretation, but adopting something so recent from one's own film (perhaps he really liked those moves to repeat them here again), is shortchanging fans and audiences, coming so recent.

Romance of the Three Kingdoms cannot possibly be made into a one off feature film, but it contains a lot of stories and characters that serve as a wealth of resource material to tap upon for translation to the big screen. This probably isn't the best and won't be the last of the lot, and despite its flaws, still managed to turn in some pure entertainment, although with the pedigree of talent involved, one can be forgiven to have expected a lot more.
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An ambitious production that will make the Chinese community proud
moviexclusive29 April 2011
It took these people quite a while, didn't it? Who else did they think could don that imposing armour, wield that threatening blade and still exhibit grace and agility? Who else did they think could command enough screen presence to sport a scholarly moustache and beard? And who else did they think could take on the role of real life Han dynasty general Guan Yu who personifies courage and righteousness? The perfect candidate is none other than Hong Kong action superstar Donnie Yen, of course. After a decent success that was Ip Man (2008), Yen has been wowing his fans with his slick moves (okay, the redundant All's Well Ends Well 2011 was a breather) in one action flick after another. Here, he takes on the titular role in a historical epic drama based on one of the characters in the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdom. A fictionalised tale set in AD 200, this high budget production has its attention on the relationship between General Guan and the infamous Cao Cao, who is out to conquer the whole of China. Despite Cao Cao's repeated attempts to recruit Guan Yu, his loyalties lie with Liu Bei, whose concubine Guan Yu has a soft spot for. The 107 minute movie follows Guan Yu as he faces treacherous ambushes while escorting the lady home to his sworn brother. Yen has proved his acting chops in works like Bodyguards and Assassins (2009) and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010), and he delivers a decent performance here as the recognised deity in Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. He personifies the gallantry, trustworthiness and uprightness that Guan Yu is known for. But all eyes are on Mainland actor Jiang Wen as the tyrannical Cao Cao. The acclaimed actor steals the show with his ability to instill an intelligently sly sense of intimidation in all the scenes he appears in. Supporting characters are played by Sun Li (Fearless), Andy On (True Legend) and many other Mainland artistes (Li Zonghan, Shao Bing and Hei Zi amongst them), ensuring ticket sales in the Mainland China market. Familiar faces like Alex Fong (as Liu Bei) and Chin Siu Hou (as a slain general) also appear as cameos. The spectacular actions scenes are no doubt the highlight of this highly recommended movie. Guan Yu's famous expedition of "crossing five passes and slaying six generals" plays out in an episodic manner, with each sequence showcasing a unique martial arts style. Choreographed by Yen himself, action fans will be pleased to see various blades, spears, crossbows and arrows on display, as they come into use during the countless fight scenes. Action scenes aside, the drama is often intense and serious, with elevated dialogues written by directors Alan Mak and Felix Chong. This may not be Infernal Affairs material, but expect to be engaged in a high octane drama that features some truly intelligently dramatic lines. Those unfamiliar with the original novel may be thrown off balance with the massive setup of this period piece. But given its very impressive production values, you will be taken along for the ride. With luscious cinematography by Chan Chi Ying (Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame), masterful production design by Bill Lui (Lust, Caution), and an emotional score by Henry Lai (Echoes of the Rainbow), this is one Chinese production truly worth watching on the big screen.
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American view, I deeply enjoyed this exceptionally well acted, engaging, thrilling, wonderful title
Smiling_slinky2 May 2012
I really cannot praise it enough. It is probably the best Chinese film I have seen in years, and easily one of the best period films I have seen. Of Donnie's recent films, I really cannot find a comparison, this is truly stellar. Wen Jiang is so amazingly charismatic as Cao Cao. I couldn't help but be engaged whenever he was on screen, he is probably my current favorite actor, including Hollywood. He may be the best actor in the World currently. Betty Sun is very enjoyable in her role, and added another level of depth to the story.

From the opening, I knew I was in for something special. The soundtrack, the cinematography, the acting, just excellent.

In short, if you enjoy Asian Cinema to any degree, this film will be nothing but a delight.
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Not a Good Rendition of Guan Yu
ebiros26 February 2013
A partial tale of perhaps the most famous warrior in Chinese history, Guan Yu.

To me, Donnie Yen was a miscast as Guan Yu. He just doesn't have the physical appearance that you'd expect Guan Yu to be (which he had in abundance when he played Yip Man). But there is no one, I mean no one in current Chinese movie actors inventory who can pull this role off. Other movies that portrays the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, cleverly avoids putting any of the monstrously powerful warriors from this story on screen (or relegates them to relatively insignificant role in the story that don't require them to showcase their terrific might). Maybe if they can find equivalent of Chris Hemsworth when they made the movie "Thor", movies portraying the heroes of this story will succeed.

The movie just didn't have it. It lacked the juice that story of Guan Yu has in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. His enemies were all pathetic shrimps too. There was no big battle scenes where Guan Yu would dispatch the most ferocious warriors the enemy can call to bear on him. Supporting characters, lacked the flare that the characters in the original story has. Also, why the movie chose this particular segment of Guan Yu's career to be put on screen is a mystery. It was one of the flattest part of his story.

Maybe it'll take a CG to produce a character that would even remotely resemble Guan Yu, and the other heroes of this story.

A dud, and just doesn't do any justice to the magnificent lore of Guan Yu.
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re-write the history and the bad directing
howareyouzhang2 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The movie has spent a lot of money like the Water World, which can be one of the worst movie even made. the story was not even true, which will mislead people who do not know Chinese history. there are some good actors who I like very much, but they did not perform in this movie.only one good thing about this movie that is not watching it.the characters in this movie have been twisted. The movie became the biggest laugh stock in China. And the movie makes (they have a lot of influence in China) try to bribe Chinese authority to arrest people who gave bad reviews. Only way I can do this is because I am in UK. To be fair, this is supposed to be one of the greatest movie, they just did not have the ability to make it right.
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A very underrated movie - only recommended for those who know Chinese culture
Warning: Spoilers
One of the many Chinese great films that is severely underrated.

The movie starts by a narrative by Cao Cao, stating that the Chinese character of "Righteousness", 義(yi), is composed of a (羊)"sheep" and the word "myself" (我). It implies that according to the ancient Chinese wisdom, there is only a thin line between being righteous and being sacrificed. But in one of the most chaotic era in China, such "righteous" man can not end well. The movie poetically pull off a metaphor that in a world ruled by wolves, sheeps (the righteous man) can only be sacrificed in the benefit of other wolves, which in the movie, are Lord Liu Bei, Lord Cao Cao and Lord Suan Quan.

Jiang Wen is really a great actor. His in-depth acting of Cao Cao puts this legendary warlord to live. It is only in the second time watching the film again that I understand Cao Cao's reasons of trying to save Guan YuChang.

"I want to see heavens everywhere", Cao Cao to the monk.

He understands that in chaotic times what people need most is a hero, a benevolent hero like Guan YuChang that places traditional Chinese values on top of everything. Values that are forgotten. Values that need to be re-established once China is to be unified again.

In the movie, these values that Guan YuChang holds sacred are in fact useless and sometimes expendable. Despite his great fighting skills, he is totally defendless against all the manipulative jugglery by all those manipulative people. Guan YuChang in many writings has been depicted as the most "loyal, righteous, brave and dangerous" (忠義勇武) person throughout the Chinese history. But what surprises me is that the movie creates a whole new perspective re-evaluating what a tragic wanderer he really is. He is too loyal to his Master Liu Bei that he loses the woman he loves; too righteous and altruist that he ends up very vulnerable and being hunted; too brave that he is taken advantage of; too dangerous that even the Lord Cao Cao's deputy disobeyed Cao's order and try to kill him.

Donnie Yen's acting of Guan YuChang really delivers a sense of helplessness. He is captured by his enemy Cao Cao, despised by the woman he loves and misunderstood by the foolish mass. But there is no even a slightest falter about abandoning the his moral values. He could have chosen a easy way-out by simply giving in. But compromising to the adversities he faces would equal to surrendering all the values he has been taught to believe. A true hero won't do that.

Ironically, despite all the Cao's endeavor to save Guan, Guan met his end in the most tragic way and Cao Cao couldn't even lived long enough to see a unified China, nor their sons, nor their grandsons. But heroes and their stories always pass on. So in some way I think Cao Cao did save Guan YuChang. He saved his reputation and reasons for people to worship him as a hero.
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The Lost Bladesman does not reach the dramatic heights of John Woo's Red Cliff (2008, 2009), but it offers a refreshing way to characterize (and not caricaturize) heroes.
Eternality5 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Lost Bladesman may be marketed as an epic Chinese martial arts blockbuster with Donnie Yen (Ip Man (2008); Ip Man 2 (2010)) heading the cast as well as taking on the role of action choreographer, but there is nothing epic about it, that is if one is talking about the narrative scope of the film. Directed and written by Felix Chong and Alan Mak, the duo that was responsible for the success of the Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002, 2003, 2003), The Lost Bladesman may attract action fans on the basis of their perceived prediction of enjoying a spectacle of dazzling swordfights and quick fistfights. Action fans will not leave disappointed because there are scenes that pit Yen against a horde of sword-wielding aggressors, just as there are scenes of him fighting a fast-and-furious one-on-one battle with a persistent enemy. In one action sequence, the directors are smart to conceal the action behind closed doors. We can't see what the hell is happening, but we know it's hell inside because the whishing sounds of blades slicing through the air are accompanied by loud cries and helpless yells. Someone's head then crashes through the door, leaving a hole in which the camera slowly moves towards. As the camera peeks into that hole, we see a last man standing. That man, of course, is Yen who plays Guan Yu, a famous character in the popular Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, who is a sworn brother of Liu Bei. Liu Bei has insignificant screen time here as the focus is on Guan Yu and his relationship with Qi Lan (Betty Sun), whom he likes and seeks to protect, and with Cao Cao (Jiang Wen), the evil tyrant who is the power behind China's emperor. The Lost Bladesman is not only a more intimate portrayal of Guan Yu, but it also takes a more revisionist approach to developing his character, with a number of scenes depicting his psychological state. Yen's acting fits Guan Yu's dogged determination and resoluteness in the face of life-and-death situations, though in comparison to Jiang Wen's excellent performance, it remains weak. The Lost Bladesman does not reach the dramatic heights of John Woo's Red Cliff (2008, 2009), but it offers a refreshing way to characterize (and not caricaturize) heroes. After all, no matter how fictionalized or mythical these characters now are, they were once flawed humans battling their inner demons and conflicting desires. The Lost Bladesman is not a must-watch, though it will certainly appease action fans, and give others some food for thought. GRADE: B- (7/10 or 3 stars)
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Pretty good main stream Hong Kong/PRC action movie
paizek5 January 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I agree with other reviewers that this film has been overlooked as a martial arts action flick. The movie offers two bona-fide stars, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen, one who can act and one who can fight. Production values are high with nicely detailed "historical" temples and towns and costly on-scene locations amidst China's "eternal" hills and forests. The directors, known for their earlier Infernal Affairs, do a good job in creating a seamless narrative that follows every Hollywood convention in terms of story and character development. At the same time, they include the occasional cinematic surprise, such as the extended scene which closes the doors on all the action, only allowing the viewer an acoustic glimpse of the butt-kicking taking place (note that the 15th century Ming-dynasty novel actually does something similar in the fourth chapter, when Guan Yu rides out after Cao Cao offers him a cup of warm wine and returns, after much noise drifting over from the battlefield, to toss the decapitated head of his enemy to the ground. When he finally accepts the cup of wine, it is still warm).

Personally, what I found most interesting is the way the movie reinterprets standard "history." Tales of The Three Kingdoms are a dime a dozen and usually it is Cao Cao who is depicted as a ruthless villain. This movie instead shows him as a thoughtful statesman who has no choice but make sometimes unpopular decisions (such as killing thousands, ten thousands of people). Unlike a previous reviewer, I have no problems with this deviation of the standard narrative because it is "ahistorical." Most standard histories, at least up until the 11th century, were more sympathetic to Cao Cao than Liu Bei and it is only in the more popular versions of the story, most notably the Ming novel, that Liu Bei becomes the ideal ruler and Cao Cao the heartless usurper.

What interested me though was the way this particular rewrite serves as an example of a whole host of recent Hong Kong-PRC co-productions which use historical analogy to suggest that an unpopular central ruler from the north may actually not be all that bad if you desire a unified, peaceful, and of course strong China. First there was Zhang Yimou with "Hero," who told us that the First Emperor of China may well have been a much misunderstood enlightened despot. Now we have Alan Mak and Felix Chong suggesting that the white-faced Cao Cao may actually have been a pretty good bloke. Of course, for China to be unified, sacrifices have to be made. That was, of course, the message of Zhang Yimou in "Hero," with its final scene of ritual mourning, and, yes, here a similar scene of thoughtful mourning is dutifully recreated. And so throughout the film Donnie Yen suffers nobly; he gives up the love of his life, gets pelted by outraged villagers, is willing to be poisoned by a dubious friend, but the sacrifice that got to me most was poor Donnie's voice; dubbing his idiosyncratic Cantonese into standard Mandarin is just plain villainy.
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The Lost Bladesman
dcarsonhagy22 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"The Lost Bladesman" is a step above most martial arts movies, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact this is more character driven than than others who are CGI and "sword-fu" driven. I liked the characterization of another reviewer who stated "I liked that people weren't constantly flying around."

The story is based on Guan Yu, a legendary Chinese warrior who fought for honor but finally realized he would always be fighting, whereas he wanted to retire and return to his farming. As fate would have it, he was secretly in love with a concubine of another leader but was afraid to ever tell her how he actually felt.

Donnie Yen played the role of Guan Yu, and he was simply amazing. He is a very accomplished actor and I have never seen anything he has been involved in that I did not like. That being said it was Wen Jiang who played General Cao Cao who really caught my attention. This man actually demonstrated some well-rounded acting chops, which is very unusual for this genre of film. Most characters are simply caricatures who either come across as buffoons or should be wearing "kill me next" signs. Jiang's portrayal I think is remarkable.

The movie is rated "R" and really should have been PG-13. There is a lot of bloodless violence, no nudity, and a little salty language. However, please heed my warning this is NOT your typical "kung fu" movie. So, if you're expecting tons of wire-fu, extremely bloody battles, and caricatures instead of actual characters, you need to look further.
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Very disappointing
skizzokaty29 October 2014
--This is the only thing I don't like about foreign films, is the cruelty to animals that some of them have, at At 44:49 they clearly bust the legs of a horse. This disappointed me as I was trying to get into it, finally found a martial arts movie with out people flying around. --I wish I could post something good, but the horse thing blinds me to any merits the movie may or may not have.

The subtitles are done well, costumes look good, the gals are youngish.

I just wish movies like these with killing animals in this fashion were censored or something, its not the first time i've seen modern foreign films with this kind of footage, my take is its a lot cheaper for movie makers in other countries to implement this kind of thing, instead of a lot of CGI.
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