Language: Cantonese, Mandarin
Genre: Martial arts action, suspense, drama
Running Time: 1 Hour 56 Minutes
Director: Peter Chan Ho-Sun
Cast: Donnie Yen, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tang Wei, Jimmy Wang Yu
“A sinful martial arts expert (Donnie Yen) wants to start a new tranquil life with his wife (Tang Wei), only to be hunted by a determined detective (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and his former master (Jimmy Wang Yu)” (Golden Screen Cinemas).
Verdict: This is not the typical kind of martial arts film you usually see from Donnie Yen. The movie actually emphasises more on the suspense and the drama to deeply elaborate a simple philosophy. The director, Peter Chan, also incorporated cool cinematographic tricks from detective shows like Sherlock Holmes for some of the scenes and they served the purpose perfectly. The first half of the film intrigues with its compelling plot and the ending delivers meaningful message of the story but then fails to engage the viewers emotionally. I also feel that Takeshi Kaneshiro’s performance here is not commendable. He has proven that he has improved as an actor in his previous roles but this one just didn’t suit him.
The simple philosophy: (SPOILER BEGINS HERE) In the scene where Tang Long (Donnie Yen) was rescued after falling into the river, he mentions about how he believes everything that leads to the present was caused by the doings of every individual in one’s life. Baijiu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) completely disagrees with his philosophy of karma. At the end, Baijiu dies regretting on his own doings which ultimately caused his life, and the sufferings of his wife, Tang Long and the others. (SPOILER ENDS HERE)
Least favourite scene: (SPOILER BEGINS HERE) The final fight scene where Baijiu attacks Tang Long’s father before the lightning assists them in the killing. I am still clueless of how Baijiu’s needles were supposed to help, and whether or not the thunder was just a coincidence. They made it seem like they won by luck. This is perhaps the worst action scene of an ending that I’ve ever seen from Donnie Yen. (SPOILER ENDS HERE)
Possible flaws: (SPOILER BEGINS HERE) I just simply can’t understand why do some of them speak in Mandarin while the majority speak in Cantonese. Why does Tang Long speak in Cantonese but his whole “72 Demon” clan speak in Mandarin? They are all in China and at that period of time, shouldn’t they all be speaking in Mandarin? The scene where Tang Long fakes his death is also quite funny. Baiji says that the second stage of fake death must not last longer than 15 minutes but how in the world do they manage to confidently and correctly predict the exact time of the 72 Demon clan’s arrival? (SPOILER ENDS HERE)
The title: The film is also known as “Dragon” or “Swordsmen” in other countries. All of the names are actually misleading the people to think that this is a through and through kung fu movie.
Censorship: Malaysian cinemas have had around three scenes skipped due to the gore and violence but it doesn’t significantly affect the movie.
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Second opinion: “I actually prefer this over a genuine martial art movie.” (Iris Loong).
Much appreciation to Tanjong Golden Village Cinemas and Nuffnang for the TGV Complimentary Movie Passes.