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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

THE BLADE (No, not Wesley Snipes)


Vincent Zhao Wen-Zhou gets bloody in Tsui Hark’s The Blade

If you can get your hands on The Blade (1995), Tsui Hark’s bleak-as-hell re-imagining of the Shaw Brothers classic, The One Armed Swordsman, do yourself a favor and check it out. My pal Kozo at had this to say about the film, so be sure to check out his review. Watching The Blade all these years later, I have to say I tend to agree with his evaluation, although in retrospect, I really question Tsui Hark’s filmmaking choices at times. To put it simply, this film can be messy as hell at times, a quality that would unfortunately be present in his 2005 return to wuxia pian, Seven Swords.

And really, why do we need to cut away from our hero On (Vincent Zhao) to see what’s happening with the characters played by Moses Chan and Sang Ni? I didn’t care about them, and I think the original Shaw Bros film handled those characters (or at least their equivalents, anyway) in a much better fashion. Really, the point the film is trying to put forth about “Living La Vida Jiang Hu” amounting to nothing more than largely empty, meaningless, and totally non-heroic existence was already made quite well in the first act when the heroic monk got totally f-ed up and nobody cared. It ain’t all fun and games in The Blade. It’s a harsh world, baby. Harsh. For those looking for a story with happy-go-lucky swordsmen, do go elsewhere.

To be honest, I much preferred how the original Shaw Bros film centered directly on Jimmy Wang Yu’s character, and with good reason, as he was the most interesting character in the entire film. It also made for a leaner, tighter narrative, a trait to which the remake can only aspire. In any event, the final fight in The Blade is frenetic and dizzying (as is the film), but the mostly close-up framing of the action deprives us from really taking in the fight. Yes, Vincent Zhao and Xiong Xin-Xin are doing all sorts of crazy acrobatics, but do we actually see it? Not really. It’s an aesthetic choice, to be sure, but I’d love to have been given more sustained long-view shots of these two talented martial artists duking it out in the same frame.

But really, those are just quibbles. Whatever its problems, The Blade is definitely a must-see Hong Kong film. In fact, some folks think it’s one of the top 100 Hong Kong films of the 1990s. It’s definitely one of Tsui Hark’s most interesting fantasy swordplay films.


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