Top Lady of Sword – Revenge By Proxy

Country: Taiwan
Genre: Action/ Martial Arts/ Fantasy
Director: Wong Hong
Year: 1993

Rating: ★★★½☆

TRASH CINEMA RECOMMENDED MOVIE

In order for a wuxia flick to succeed at all, it’s almost axiomatic that the martial arts have to be good. It’s almost impossible for one of these flicks to make the grade based solely on acting, production values, and story. That’s because these movies were created on the fly, at a pace unimaginable in the West.

Thankfully, the martial arts in Top Lady Of Sword is primo. The forms, speed, and grace of the principle performers are superb. And the fantasy elements, such as explosions, fanciful use of sheets of silk, and flying through the air, all function as extensions of the genuine martial arts on display instead of coming off like visual non sequiters. Credit that to martial arts coordinator Alan Chan and performers like Cynthia Khan, Wong Chau-Yin, Kenneth Tsang, Bonnie Fu, Chan Siu-Pang, and Deric Wan.

The story itself is serviceable enough.

Au Lung and his brother, Wong Hu (Deric Wan) have a bone to pick with Hsu Ming (Wong Chau-Yin). Many years before, she had killed their father during a battle between clans. Now they want their revenge. She invites them to settle the dispute at the annual Kwantung Society Martial Arts Contest, hosted by Chi (Kenneth Tsang), which they reluctantly accept.

Unfortunately, the proprietress of the local inn learns of Au Lung’s quest for revenge and decides to use it to her advantage. She schemes with Au Lung to steal the Xun Gong martial arts manual from Chi, which will make Au Lung invincible. Then she and Au Lung can rule the martial arts world together.

The screenwriter did a good enough job that the plot elements are easy to follow, and still has enough time to insert some broad comedy, although thankfully not the type of nonsense comedy so popular in Hong Kong at the time.

Director Wong Hong goes for a light tone, which is okay, but by keeping everything on a shallow, surface level, when tragedy rears it’s head in the third act, it’s hard to feel much of anything, other than amusement at the fact that Eastern cinema has no problem killing off any character, no matter how innocent or bumbling.

Moment by moment, Top Lady of Sword is very entertaining, but if the filmmakers intended to make the audience actually feel anything, they undermined their cause with their frequent forays into slapstick and mugging.

The end result is very odd tonally, but if you can deal with that, appreciate martial arts, and aren’t allergic to the fantasy elements in wushu, you should enjoy Top Lady of Sword.

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