Starring Charlene Choi, Chun Wu, Hu Ge, Louis Fan, Ti Lung, Xin Xin Xiong
Fight Choreography by: Haung Ming Jian
Directed By: Jingle Ma
Jingle Ma is a cinematographer who is know for films such as Rumble in The Bronx and Police Story 4: First Strike, and Full Throttle. Here he takes the director’s chair in a film that traditionally I should loathe, for the simple fact that it stars Charlene Choi, an actress I find to be so sugary cute she drives me insane. So does is this film able to rise above my somewhat dislike of Choi?
The film starts as Yangzhi (Choi) is preparing, at the behest of her family, to go to Soul Ease Clan, to learn their style of kung fu. The catch here is that they don’t accept women, and so her wealthy family disguise her as a man, and sends her to them. No sooner does she arrive in town before she finds trouble from rival clans within the town, but finds a savior in Liang (Wu), who is the Big Brother of the clan. What follows is a comedy of errors as Yangzhi tries to maintain her cover even as she falls in love with Liang, who is also confused in his feelings for the new student. Both of them fall into danger when the truth comes out regarding the true reason Yangzhi’s family sent her away, and Yangzhi finds that a childhood friend, Ma, loves her so much he’ll destroy everything she cares about in order to have her, and that includes killing Liang as well…
Assassin’s Blade is a mish-mash of other films and stories, and after the midway point you can see exactly where things are headed. Part Romeo and Juliet ( a large part, actually) part House of Flying Daggers and a smidgen of Mulan, this story isn’t anything original. Not to say it isn’t entertaining, because it is, but it’s swiped moments from better films and stories. Charlene Choi starts out as cute as you’d expect, but as the drama ramps up and the rom-com moments end, she shows that she can stop being cutesy and look radiant and raise her acting game up. Her character becomes a tragic one quickly, and her romance with Liang is well done, if a bit abrupt (how she fooled everyone into thinking she was a man is beyond my understanding, but I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief in this regard).
Chun Wu also does a good job as Liang, the young fighter who is at once strong, but cannot deny his feelings for Yangzhi, which takes him down a dark path. Xin Xin Xiong does a good job as the head teacher, but I was really let down by Louis Fan. He has one great fight in the film, but he only really amounts to a nice cameo. I think the film would have been better if Louis had a bigger role. Ti Lung, as Yangzhi’s father, also has too small a part in this. For someone of Ti Lung’s stature in HK cinema, couldn’t he have had more to do?
The fights are choreographed well, and nicely shot, and there is some wirework, but not as much as I thought there would be, which was a pleasant surprise. The fight between Louis Fan and the Assassin was really, at least to me, the best fight in the film, but it was over too quickly. The main fight between the soldiers and Liang is the highlight of the film, and the sword and spear fight after that is actually done really, really well. In many ways all of the fights evoke some similarities to the 80’s period films Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung made, and I just couldn’t stop thinking that if Jet Li, Donnie Yen, or Wu Jing could have played any of the other major characters in the fight scenes we would be looking at a new classic.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 7.5
Assassin’s Blade is a fun, if not aptly named film that features some good fights and a star turn by Charlene Choi that shows she can play things straight when she needs to. I hope to see more of that from her!
This film was released by Wellgousa and you can purchase the blu-ray here.
NEXT: Christopher Lambert and John Lone square off in the Ninja epic The Hunted!