The Assassin’s Blade (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 6, 2013 by Dennis Amith
“The Assassin’s Blade” is a film that may seem a bit disjointed at times, but manages to retain that Jingle Ma style of action and romantic comedy but also incorporating a tragic side as well. Featuring cool sword fight choreography, “The Assassin’s Blade” is a film worth recommending!
TITLE: The Assassin’s Blade (Mo hup leung juk)
FILM RELEASE: 2008
DURATION: 103 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 16:9 widescreen, Cantonese Chinese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Subtitles: English
COMPANY: Well Go USA Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Directed by Jingle Ma
Screenplay by Po Chun Chan, Jingle Ma, Ka-Keung Ng, Sin Ling Yeung
Produced by Catherine Hun
Music by Tsang-Hei Chiu
Cinematography by Chi Ying Chan, Jingle Ma
Edited by Chi-Leung Kwong
Art Direction by Tony Yu
Costume Design by Bruce Yu
Charlene Choi as Zhu Yanzhi
Chun Wu as Liang
Ge Hu as Ma
Li Qinqin as Zhu Yanzhi’s mother
Shao Bing as General Tie
Shaun Tam as Axe gang boss
Lung Ti as Zhu Gongyuan
Seli Xian as Yinxin
Xin Xin Xiong
Harlem Yu as Uncle Caotou
Zhu Yanzhi (Charlene Choi) is the daughter of a wealthy wine merchant (Ti Lung), sent into the mountains disguised as a man to learn martial arts with an elite clan.Once she begins her intense training, Zhu finds herself at odds with her trainer and superior, Liang (Chun Wu). But soon, a stronger connection is revealed between the two, and as their attraction grows, so does the danger of Liang discovering Zhu s real identity, Could it be that they’re destined to be together?As the two lovers dare voice their feelings, Zhu learns that her parents are in danger and she must return home immediately, in the company of a childhood friend who also happens to be an aspiring court politician. Could there be more to his intentions than she knows? From the action director of HERO and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, this comedy romance crackles with action, danger, hidden identities and unrequited love.
Filmmaker Jingle Ma is known for his many hit films in Hong Kong. From “Fly Me to Polaris”, “Tokyo Raiders”, “Summer Holiday”, “Seoul Raiders” to name a few, Ma is known for being able to direct films that utilize characters for action but also romantic comedies and tragic dramas.
In 2008, Jingle Ma directed “Mo hup leung juk” (“The Assassin’s Blade” and also known as “The Butterfly Lovers”) starring Charlene Choi (“Vampire Effect”, “Robin B-Hood”, “The Sorcerer and the White Snake”), Fahrenheit boy band artist now full-time actor, Wu Chun “14 Blades”, “Magic to Win”, “My Kingdom”) and Hu Ge (“1911”, “Diva”).
The film begins with an introduction of how two virgin’s (known as the Butterfly Lovers) from heaven, a man and a woman who had fallen in love, were banished to the mortal world with their punishment to last for 10 generations (each time they are reincarnated).
The film then begins with Zhu Yanzhi (portrayed by Charlene Choi) being dressed as a man and sent to the Soul Ease Clan, so she can learn how to fight and protect her family. While leaving, many clans try to attempt and attack her but she is saved by Liang Zhongshan (portrayed by Wu Chun) and later helped by her Brother Ma (portrayed by Hu Ge), a family friend who has been supportive of the family for years.
While at the Soul Ease Clan, it is evident that Zhu Yanzhi is not much of a fighter and appears to her other new brothers as quite feminine. But keeping her secret and supporting her behind the scenes is the health medic, Uncle Caoutou (portrayed by Harlem Yu).
Responsible for taking care of her is Brother Liang and because it is his responsibility to watch over her, he tries to have fun with Yanzhi by initiating her to the group (not knowing she is a female) by having the brothers throw her in the lake (because she was covered with dirt). But Yanzhi got sick and cold and Brother Liang knows he would get in deep trouble if he didn’t not take care of his new little brother.
And while he takes care of Yanzhi, she starts to become smitten with him to the point that she starts putting butterflies on his sword. Meanwhile, he tries to help Yanzhi with martial arts training.
One day, the medical healer comes up with a new experimental medicine that will make a person seem dead for three days but they will need to be fed a certain type of grass on the hills to revive them and the healer puts his trust into Yanzhi to revive him, as he will experiment on the new medicine he created on himself.
Frantic about not knowing what the healing grass is, she goes out to look for it immediately but gets hurt and sprains her ankle. Brother Liang eventually finds her and when he finds her, unresponsive, he goes to put pressure on her chest and finds out that she is actually a woman. While he manages to revive her, her secret is now known by Liang and both become attracted towards each other.
But while she hopes to spend more time with Liang, her Brother Ma comes with news that her parents were in trouble and now Yanzhi needs to come back home. But what Brother Ma sees is a Yanzhi attracted to Liang and he becomes jealous.
Liang requests for Yanzhi to accompany him real quick to a place that he had wanted to show her and what they find is a butterfly garden and both confess they have similar dreams of finding each other. Not knowing why they feel they are destined to be with each other.
While Yanzhi returns home, her mother tells her that she will be married. Thinking that she is to marry Liang, she finds out that her father has her arranged to marry Brother Ma, which she refuses. But her father is adamant that she must do what her parents say and has her locked up with a chain in her room.
So, with a marriage between Yanzhi and Brother Ma to take place, Brother Liang heads to her village, in order to meet with her. But what happens when he makes contact with Yanzhi?
“The Assassin’s Blade” is presented in 16:9 widescreen. While made in 2008, the film features wonderful detail and costume design. There are some stylistic and artistic directions that Jingle Ma utilizes in the film, for example, the butterfly garden which uses pastels and a colorful palette. One of the better scenes in the film features a sword fight between Liang and an army of men, but the red lanterns really look stylish and for the most part, the film looks visually stunning.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Assassin’s Blade” is presented in Cantonese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. I have to admit that I was expecting good use of the surround channels for the film. But the main moments I recognized the lossless track being more vibrant was during the opening music sequence and Charlene Choi’s main music segment in the film. For the most part, the audio is crystal clear but is driven by a center and front channel lossless track. Not too immersive as I would hope but the overall film sounds fantastic!
Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
“The Assassin’s Blade” comes with a trailer.
A Romeo and Juliet style of storyline that visually looks impressive but the film’s pacing from comedy to a serious drama seems out of place, especially from predictable plots and uneven acting at times.
I have had the opportunity to watch many of the films directed by Jingle Ma and also films starring Charlene Choi and he has directed some of Hong Kong’s biggest hits. From the ultimate sad storyline of “Fly Me to Polaris”, the enjoyable action film “Tokyo Raiders”, the fantastic romantic comedy “Summer Holiday” and the dance film “Para Para Sakura”, one can call Jingle Ma a filmmaker who is able to take on a variety of genres.
While Charlene Choi has been the idol pop star formerly of the Twins, who had taken on roles that were primarily romantic comedies or action films with a pop twist, may it be “The Twins Effect” films, “House of Fury” or other related films.
Fortunately, being a popular actress and still a bankable star in HK does allow for better roles and since 2009 with “Storm Warriors”, “Treasure Inn”, “The Jade and Pearl” and most notably, for the 2011 film “The Emperor and the White Snake”, Choi has established herself as one of the go to girls for martial arts films. Maybe not so much as a martial arts fighter but to utilize her comedy/drama skills and bring it to the big screen.
And this is the case with “The Assassin’s Blade”. While one who may have seen the trailer, may get a different idea that this film is about a hunter being the hunted or something deeper, “The Assassin’s Blade” is more of a romantic comedy for its first half and suddenly becomes a serious martial arts film by its second half and becomes a “Romeo and Juliet” type of storyline.
And unfortunately, just the mere mention of that will give people an idea of what to expect of this film.
While the film has wonderful visual scenes and fight choreography, one can wonder how a Charlene Choi is able to play a man, while still looking very beautiful as a young woman with makeup. Some may question, it’s quick transition from romantic comedy to a serious action film by its second half. But this is how Hong Kong cinema has always been, keeping audiences interested before delivering with action sequences for its second half.
The plot is also muddled with questionable plotlines, as the storyline involving Brother Ma as an antagonist doesn’t seem too plausible and the bad things that he does, is not strong enough for one to even dislike him.
If anything, the first half of the film is fun because we see Liang and Yanzhi getting closer, but both not knowing why they are attracted to each other and for Liang, having this unexpected feeling that he may be falling for his feminine younger brother. But by the second half, when we get to see the action take place and how Liang and Yanzhi will do whatever they can to be together, that’s when the film really begins to catch on and become more exciting.
But the film is fun for the most part, but it feels you are getting two different of stories. One created for the first half to establish the characters, while a second half becomes more serious and tragic.
As for the Blu-ray release of “The Assassin’s Blade”, the visual presentation for this 2008 film looks very good in HD but the lossless track could have been more immersive. And as for special features, I expected to see a featurette but all you get is a trailer that really tries to make the film seem like it’s something different.
While I feel this is not Jingle Ma’s best films that he has directed, I will say that this film is quite enjoyable for it’s storyline and fight scenes. Charlene Choi has always been an actress that I enjoyed for her comedy and emotion, while Wu Chun really gets the opportunity to shed his boy band image and for people to look at him as a young up-and-coming actor. Both do a very good job in this film!
Overall, “The Assassin’s Blade” is a film that may seem a bit disjointed at times, but manages to retain that Jingle Ma style of action and romantic comedy but also incorporating a tragic side as well. Featuring cool sword fight choreography, “The Assassin’s Blade” is a film worth recommending!
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