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Off With Their Heads
Seven Swords (DVD)
Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Seven Swords (DVD)
Advantages: Bit of action, bit of romance, bit of mystery
Disadvantages: Not as good as others ofits genre
This 2005 offering adapted from the book 'Seven Swordsmen from Mount Heaven' by Liang Yu-Sheng was recommended to me by my former Tai Chi instructor. Having enjoyed recent Chinese Martial Arts films that crossed over to the UK cinema such as 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' and 'House of Flying Daggers' I was keen to watch this, but had missed it at the cinema.
As the film starts we are informed that Martial Arts in fifteenth century China has been outlawed and the punishment for breaking this law is decapitation. A gang of bad guys in armour, face paint and with some interesting weaponry, are greedy for the rewards on offer and have been killing whole villages, including children and old folk, on instruction of their leader Fire-Wind. However, former executioner-turned-good-guy Fu has been stealing the name plaques from the dead and getting on their nerves. They give chase to him and he meets and is helped by (and in turn helps) pretty villager Yuanyin and returns with her to Martial Village, supposedly the next place on the bandits' list with many coveted heads. Because of his past Fu is imprisoned by the village but Yuanyin trusts him and enables the help of her friend Fang and Fang's boyfriend Han to free him. Whilst Fang stays to take the fall for the group (she is the chief's daughter, so they assume she won't get into too much trouble), Han and Yuanyin go with Fu to Mount Heaven and Master Shadow-Glow for his help.
Shadow-Glow has four disciples, although we only really meet Chu Zhaonan (Dragon Sword), no other swordsmen are explored; we just have a cursory introduction to them. I assume they each have their own stories and that the book has more detail, but as most of the characters are not given any depth anyway you don't miss much. Shadow-Glow then gives the Heaven's Fall sword to Yuanyin and the Deity sword to Han and thus they and Fu make up the seven swordsmen and they return to the village to help defend them from Fire-Wind's imminent attacks and to help the villagers flee.
There are three main big fight sequences in this film, and whilst all impressive not as jaw-dropping at 'Flying Daggers' or 'Crouching Tiger'. My favourite scene was towards the end when Chu and Fire-Wind are fighting in a narrow passage and climbing the walls. There is a bit of token romance as Chu frees Fire-Wind's beloved slave Green Pearl and some token suspense when it is revealed that the villagers have a spy in their midst.
No great acting skill is required of much of the cast with the emphasis on the fight scenes. I enjoyed the performance of Hong-Lei Sun who played Fire-wind. He did the evil general well, and I understood his captivation with Green Pearl rather than Chu's. He had one of the better fight scenes and the most interesting dialogue, such as it was. Dialogue was minimal, as was plot. The music by Kenji Kawaii is very appropriate and full of sweeping and dramatic strings. My one real issue was with the idea to not always feature on screen the person speaking but to show someone else. This is particularly annoying in the beginning when you haven't worked out who is who, and don't recognize voices. Also a lot of the scenes are shot at night and the lighting is inadequate to reveal which swordsman you have been given a fleeting glimpse of.
Overall I enjoyed this film, but it does not pass muster against the inevitable comparisons to 'Flying Daggers' or 'Crouching Tiger', and would recommend it more to existing fans of the genre rather than as an introduction.
Director - Hark Tsui
Yuanyin - Charlie Yeung
Chu Zhaonan - Donnie Yen
Han - Yi Lu
Fu - Chia-Liang Lu
Fang -Jinchu Zhang
Shadow-Glow - Jingwu Ma
Fire-wind - Honglei Sun
Green Pearl - So-Yeon Kim
Chinese Translation: Chat Gim
The film had a running time of just less than two and a half hours and has a 15 certificate due to the violence (which is not really offensive, if you are squeamish).
Summary: Passable Martial Arts film