The Legend of the Swordsman (1992) / Action-Fantasy
aka Swordman II
MPAA Rated: R for violence
Running Time: 99 min. (US), 107 min. (original)
Cast: Jet Li, Brigitte Lin, Michelle Reis, Waise Lee, Rosamund Kwan, Shi-Kwan Yen
Director: Stanley Tong, Siu-Tung Ching
Screenplay: Tsui Hark, Elsa Tang, Tin-suen Chan (based on the novel, "Proud Smiling Wanderer", by Louis Cha)
Review published December 20, 1998
When two warring factions in Ancient Japan, the mainlanders and the highlanders, go to war, Ling (Li, Once Upon a Time in China) and his school of martial artists head to the mountains. While there, he visits his beloved Ying (Kwan, Operation Condor 2) and her band of female snake-warriors who have just been attacked by ninjas and abducted. The ninjas are under the control of the evil Fong (Lin, Dream Lovers), head of the Highlanders, who has overthrown Wu (Yen, Royal Tramp II) , leader of the Sun Moon Sect. Fong is a man who castrated himself under the direction of the Sacred Scroll to gain fighting knowledge and is slowly becoming a woman. When Ling takes a fancy to Fong in his woman state, things get a bit dicey, as he is trying to save Wu from Fong's clutches.
An often exciting action/fantasy, with some of the best fight pieces seen in Hong Kong cinema. Sporting a likeable cast, with dashes of humor and action (and oddly touching), this is Hong Kong fantasy at its finest. Li and Lin thrill as always, and the action builds to feverish intensity in the impressive finale of Earth-shattering proportions. Taut direction and great color schemes and cinematography give the film a stylish look that complement the goings on nicely. Political intrigue, romance, humor, action, and emotion -- it's fun.
©1998 Vince Leo