LOST BLADESMAN, THE
During the turbulent era of China's Three Kingdoms, Cao Cao (Wen Jiang) tries to force the greatest warrior in the land, Guan Yun Chang (Donnie Yen), to join his forces. If Guan Yun refuses, Cao Cao plans to destroy him so nothing stands in his way to power. Guan also has to contend with looking after the beautiful Qi Lan (Sun Li).
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
What the Western genre is to America, delving into its formative, often violent past, the historical epic is to China. Unlike the Western, though, these historical dramas are not about opening up new territory but about the wars that kept old realms apart. Yet there is at the centre of The Lost Bladesman a hero not unlike a Western hero, a gunslinger wooed by opposing sides in a long and bloody war.
He is the supreme fighter; not a gunslinger but a bladesman; the weapon is like a machete at the end of a strong rod and is highly effective in the right hands. The martial arts are the equivalent of the gunslinger's speedy draw.
Donnie Yen gives Guan a suitably heroic demeanour but it's Wen Jiang as Cao Cao who steals the acting honours with a wry and naturalistic performance. My favourite line of his, is spoken to Guan and beautifully delivered: "You take the hero's role and I'll play the lesser man." Sun Li is lovely and has just enough screen time to make her presence felt - but it's a martial arts film and there is plenty of that.
Several fight sequences stand out, notably one in a long, narrow, winding lane, another for its unexpectedness: as a courtyard fight begins, the camera pulls back and the large double wooden doors close. We hear the fight. Given that by then there have been a dozen or so, we're not missing anything and it works.
The quieter, introspective or conversation scenes work as effective contrast, showing the writers can write and the actors can act. One line especially resonates with me: "Heaven contains its own hell and hell contains its own heaven."
It has its flaws - I found the storytelling a little confusing, mostly due to the plethora of characters who are mentioned in the context of the wars that are taking place or about to. But aside from that, the film works as a well made genre piece.
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LOST BLADESMAN, THE (M)
Guan yun chang
CAST: Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Sun Li, Andy On, Siu-huo Chin, Alex Fong, Hong Chen, Yong Dong,
PRODUCER: Leung Ting
DIRECTOR: Felix Chong, Alan Mak
SCRIPT: Felix Chong, Alan Mak
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Chi Ying Chan
EDITOR: Chi-Leung Kwong
MUSIC: Henry Lai
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bill Lui
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 28, 2011