Wednesday, 17 August 2011

DVD Review: The Lost Bladesman


The source material for several screen adaptations over the years (including John Woo’s “Red Cliff” and Daniel Lee’s “Three Kingdoms: Resurrection Of The Dragon”), Luo Guanzhong’s classic historical novel “Romance Of The Three Kingdoms” provides the inspiration for the sumptuous period martial arts epic and Chinese box office smash, The Lost Bladesman.
Co-written and co-directed by the duo responsible for the “Infernal Affairs” trilogy, Alan Mak and Felix Chong, and starring Donnie Yen (14 Blades; Bodyguards And Assassins; Ip Man), Jiang Wen (The Founding Of A Republic), Alex Fong (Triple Tap; Once A Gangster) and Sun Li (Fearless), with stunning action choreography by Yen, the film has been described as “an emotionally-charged, high-octane adventure [and] a couple of hours of rip-roaring entertainment in the company of one of history’s greatest badasses” (Twitch Film).
Yen stars as the legendary warrior Guan Yun Chang, sworn brother of the great warlord Liu Bei, who, on becoming separated from his friend during the tumultuous warring period of the Three Kingdoms, is taken prisoner by and agrees to fight temporarily alongside Liu Bei’s enemy and rival warlord, Cao Cao.
Guan’s heroism on the battlefield is rewarded with the title of Marquis of Hanshou and promotion to the rank of lieutenant general in Cao Cao’s army. The position allows him the freedom to escort Liu Bei’s concubine, Qi Lan, who is being held hostage by Cao Cao, back to her lord and master. But the journey is fraught with danger as Guan and Qi Lan must make their way through a number of mountain passes, all of which are occupied by enemy generals and their armies.
“Glorious martial arts mastery” (Variety) and “impressive vistas and gorgeous scenery” ( add a visual splendour to a film that is “brimming with action” (Twitch Film) and reaffirms Donnie Yen as one of Eastern cinema’s most appealing and enduring action stars.

My Review:

Stories within the context of the Three Kingdoms have proven quite popular and The Lost Bladesman is a worthy entry into the series of films based upon legends in and around this period in history. The film is based, loosely on the story Guan Yu Crossing Five Passes and Slaying Six Generals by Luo Guanzhong; the title of which sums up the movie and what the viewer should expect. In a twist, the character of Cao Cao, normally portrayed as a bad guy, is seen as a warrior for the people. Instead of being seen as a power hungry, blood thirsty character, Cao Cao is altogether a different person in The Lost Bladesman. He’s still badass but not the outright villain of the piece as seen in Red Cliff, for example.
With the success of Ip Man, it must have been a no-brainer to cast Donnie Yen in the role of Guan Yu. He’s perfect for the role and does a good job. As a counterpoint to Cao Cao, one perspective could have Guan Yu as the aggressor as the locals see him as a marauding monster rather than a man fighting with conviction for a cause he believes in. However, the main actor of interest in Lost Bladesman is Jiang Wen who plays Cao Cao. Wen plays the character with a sly edge and with a quiet intimidation towards other characters.
Most viewers will be watching for the action. There is plenty of it as set pieces mark each of the five passes and Donnie Yen uses a variety of weapons in the large scale action scenes that see him take on entire legions. The action set pieces are thrilling, including a spear fight on horseback. Yen’s technical abilities are used to their fullest extent as he choreographed the battles.

The locations where the action is set are diverse and interesting. Those who revel in the cinematography of movies such as these won’t be disappointed. Obviously, Blu-Ray is the ideal way to watch it but my upscaled DVD review disc was still stunning. Unlike some Chinese movies about large scale battles, this movie not only looks great but has interesting characterisation to back it up. Recommended.
Score 8/10

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