The Assassin came out in the same year as Jimmy
Wang Yus classic The One Armed Swordsman and though The Assassin is not
as well known as the latter I found myself enjoying it more. And that was
even without sub-titles. So to some extent I didnt completely understand
what was going on in the film, but the excellent sword fights from beginning
to end still made it a good fun film to watch.
Chang Cheh was to become renown as a kung-fu
director for Shaw, but he also directed many of the Shaw sword fighting
classics such as this one, Girl with the Thunderbolt Kick (Cheng Pei Pei),
One Armed Swordsman and the New One Armed Swordsman (David Chiang).
The Wang Yu sword fighting films always feel
much more authentic than those in which he utilizes kung-fu. His swordsmanship
looks pretty good quick and concise while his kung-fu has always looked
very slow and pedestrian to me. He also has those baby face looks kind
of like Audey Murphy in those old westerns but its still easy to buy
into his character in this film. And it was kind of nice seeing him with
two arms for a change!
The film opens in Spaghetti western style with
a jangly almost surf music soundtrack as Wang Yu enters a house and interrupts
a couple making love to carry out his mission. He is a professional killer
and quickly dispatches his target. The wife pleads for her life and looks
up into his merciless eyes. All the while the camera has been freeze framing
certain moments and it does so on his eyes. Its a great shot, but surprisingly
he walks away allowing her to live this day but she then springs out
of her kneeling position to throw a knife at his back he swishes it around
straight back at her heart.
After each killing, Wang Yu ceremoniously washes
the blood off his hands, but it is clear that the killing has gotten to
him but there is no way out of his life. It follows him wherever he goes.
Literally. Throughout the film he is surrounded by scores of killers looking
for revenge. Some of the fights are well choreographed with a lot of bloodletting
and they appear to be very much influenced by the Japanese chambara films
of the time.
Like Clint Eastwood at the end of his Spaghetti
westerns, Jimmy Wang Yu walks off alone into the distance leaving behind
him a swathe of dead bodies. I enjoy a good sword fighting film and though
it would certainly have been interesting to know exactly why everyone was
trying to kill Wang Yu it was still a good old fashioned action film.
My Rating for this film: 7.0