This is what makes HK movies such an absolute
kick to watch; incredibly imaginative, full of energy and colors and startling
images and swirling action. It will make your head spin from the beginning
to the very end.
Brigitte Lin as the sexually transmuting Asia
the Invincible - and Jet Li give masterful and charismatic performances.
Its amazing that anyone can project so much with a baleful glare or an
enigmatic smile as Brigitte does in this movie .
There is just so much going on in this kung fu
period flying fantasy film that I can't describe it - sword fighting, magic,
sexual ambiguities. It is difficult to describe what the movie is about
as it is quite complex and takes many twists, but it is fascinating and
visually spectacular. Produced by Tsui Hark. Michelle Reis and Rosamund
Kwan are also on hand to fight evil. This film is a sensory feast for the
eyes and one of the truly great films to come out of HK or anywhere else.
My rating for this film: 9.5
Reviewed by YTSL
Once in a blue moon, if you're lucky (and
not too jaded), you catch a movie that unleashes so many amazing things,
ideas, sights and scenes -- and bombards them in such rapid succession
-- at you that you just can't believe you're actually beholding it even
as they appear and unfold on the screen in front of you. Part of
you gasps at one surprising piece of action even as another part of you
is trying to process some other occurrence. You find yourself laughing
with glee over some delightful touch even as your eyes still glisten and
heart aches because of a moving previous episode. SWORDSMAN II provides
me with precisely this kind of experience.
On the action front: It's not just that
people fly, grass-glide and twirl in the air in this seminal new-wave fantasy-drama
but that they do so oh so gracefully, spectacularly and beautifully.
And while the delirious swordplay alone makes for this Ching Siu Tung-helmed
effort having higher quality fight scenes than many other movies that fall
into the same genre, it is with such as the battle which involves live
scorpions and snakes as well as ninjas who fly into the fray on rotating
blades, and the climactic confrontation whose verbal thrusts are as wonderfully
cutting and winning as the actual physical action, that SWORDSMAN II sets
With regards to the characters: One sentence
descriptions of the two protagonists hardly do them justice yet should
be sufficient to emphasize how extraordinary they are (and this Tsui Hark
production is). We are, after all, talking here about such unforgettable
individuals as: A "villain" named Asia the Invincible (portrayed
throughout by the remarkable Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia) who castrates himself
-- to acquire supernatural power so that his Sun and Moon sect will get
the respect he considers it to deserve from the Chinese Emperor and others
-- and (consequently) physically transforms from a man into a woman over
the course of the movie; and a wine-loving --so much that he spins hysterically
in the air after he tastes that which he considers exquisite -- reluctant
hero (essayed with no little charm and humor as well as athleticism by
Jet Li) who plans to retire from the martial world.
Only in SWORDSMAN II would the following be mere
subsidiary characters: A young woman (who comes in the form of the
hardly plain-looking Michelle Reis) referred to as Kiddo who yearns to
be the hero's main love rather than (just) the sidekick or comrade he considers
her to be; a melancholy-tinged, whip-wielding female alternative -- to
her Uncle Asia! -- acting -- in the mysterious absence of her father --
chief of the Highlanders (solidly played by Rosamund Kwan) who is apt to
sit and drink on rooftops; and a loyal but outspoken deputy by the name
of Blue Phoenix (portrayed by the under-rated Fennie Yuen) who practices
what can only be described as toxic "snake-fu".
Lest there be some doubt or worry, I can assure
the reader that there remains so much to and in SWORDSMAN II that will
undoubtedly surprise and astound him or her if (when) he or she sits down
to watch this wondrous movie. Confession: A major reason why
this review does not describe the film's plot is not because it is uninteresting
but because it is as thick, dense, complex and convoluted as it is breakneck.
I think that it says so much about the story in particular as well as the
movie as a whole that IMHO, this enthralling masterwork is more satisfyingly
viewed as an engaging dramatic production than as an action spectacle...
About the only experience this art lover as
well as Hong Kong movie fan can think of as having been comparable to my
first encounter with SWORDSMAN II was my going into one of the rooms of
the Louvre and finding myself in the presence of not just one but multiple
major visual treasures. While I am aware that it may sound ridiculous
to some people, the fact of the matter is that I do consider this 1992
Film Workshop offering to be as great a testament to the possibilities
and breadth of human creativity and imagination as many museum-quality
My rating for this film: 10.