Saturday, 21 January 2012


Flying Swords of Dragon Gate

Opinion: B-

Besides the proven veteran cinematic techniques employed by Tsui Hark, the film doesn't really make an impression less its female characterisation in a genre typically dominated by male testosterone. Attempting to venture into new cinema technology, Tsui had a hand at widening possibilities with visual effects and 3D albeit a little too much for liking. Jet Li impressed relatively well in this film although Chinese actor Chen Kun and the female leads were a notch ahead.

Flying Swords of Dragon Gate picks up three years after the infamous Dragon Inn was burnt down in the desert when its innkeeper JADE vanished. A new gang of marauders had taken over: innkeepers by day, and treasure hunters by night. The inn is the rumored location of a lost city buried under the desert, and its hidden treasure would only be revealed by a gigantic storm every sixty years. The gang used the inn as a front to locate the lost treasure.

The storm is arriving. But the situation becomes more complicated when a pregnant concubine who escaped from the palace came to the inn. The concubine was saved by a mysterious woman WEN, and the two fled to the Dragon Inn in hiding.

Hot on their trail were the Imperial Assassins led by the powerful eunuch YU, followed by the righteous general ZHAO who was determined to take down Yu to restore order in the palace.

As the gigantic storm loomed in the horizon, ready to wipe out everything in sight, the cat-and-mouse game inside Dragon Inn grew fiercer. Everyone was trapped, and there's nowhere to go. Fortune, love and vengeance, could very well be gone with the wind.

While expected from a Tsui Hark film, the level of female characters empowerment pleasantly surprised in an arguably weary genre that typically dabbled in worldly affairs between men.

One such prominence was vividly felt by the charismatic (yes, her masterful mix of feminine and masculine charm was mesmerising!) Zhou Xun, who played a devoted lady searching for the one person whom she held a torch for. There's possibly nobody who could render what Zhou Xun's unique personality charm did naturally, making her one of the distinguished actors in contemporary Asian cinema.

Other female cast who also fared relatively well were Kwai Lunmei and singing personality Li Yuchun as supporting characters who nevertheless instilled impressions adequately.

As for the other gender, Chen Kun did a lot more by playing dual characters in the film to allow him a fabulous opportunity to display his flair in acting range. One was of a dubious casual personnel whose tiny pockets of wits pushed his nerves hard during hairy situations, while the other was of an imperialistic Eunich who practiced a drastic and eerie bipolar effect of both feminine and masculine traits.

Neither of those two personalities had anything in common between them less for their uncanny physical resemblance. That's remarkable acting.

In all honesty, the fimmaking here was fundamentally sound although nothing groundbreaking or memorable from an otherwise revered Tsui Hark. With a mix of Chinese and exotic location sets clearly divided between two halves in the film, there's new material on the plate although it's been achieved by a number of other Asian/Mandarin films previously.

Jet Li played a strong male lead, although it was seen as his average skill set display when you view his entire career filmography. Some of his best performances included "The Warlords" by Peter Chan and Yip Wai Man in recent years, which was a far distance from his performance here in "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate".

There didn't seem to be a clear intention in the film where the credits rolled without any proper lesson or message to take home. Feeling more like a playful reenactment of a random chapter in Chinese history, this would probably be more appropriate as a leisure cinema fare over the weekends.


  1. In other words, a NetFlix rental. Check!

  2. Visually, the film reminds me of Wong Kar Wai's Ashes of Timw, which I didn't like. :)
    Have this one on my computer, but still haven't seen it. Detective Dee was great and I hope this one won't leave me disappointed. Fantastic review!


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