The Assassin

The Assassin came out in the same year as Jimmy Wang Yu’s 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 didn’t 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. It’s 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.
My mom always taught me to wash after killing !
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