Monday, September 07, 2009

Movie Monday - Swordsman II

This may seem shorter than usual, but it's not so much because I'm distracted by the novel. I'm a little put out, because this week's Movie Monday has been such a pain in the ass.

I figured, why not stick out the kung fu thing for one more week, because I've got one of the gonzo classics on DVD--"Swordsman II," starring Jet Li from 1991, before he was a household name in the U.S.

So I popped in the DVD to rewatch it, and it was even crazier than I remembered.


I don't know if there's something wrong with the DVD, or something finicky with the DVD player in the television I bought last year, but the movie won't play smoothly. It hangs up and jerks in spots. The climax was completely unwatchable. I had to play it out on my computer.

So I did. And then I spent a couple of hours doing screen caps. But I forgot that there are steps that must be taken, and when I went to scale down the screen caps today, they were all blank.

So I sighed at the prospect of a couple more hours of work, and tried to pop in the DVD, and both my DVD drives are down. One won't read the DVD at all, and the other one won't open. What's the opposite of LOL? WTF? HOK (Head on Keyboard)? I rather like that. HOKHOK!

SO I visited Youtube, and yes, someone has the entire movie posted there, but I was not mentally prepared to spend the time necessary to get new screencaps that will end up looking like shit. So, except for one pic I found on-line that matches one of the screencaps I lost, there are no images in this week's Movie Monday.

So anyway, "Swordsman II," or "Swordman II" as the DVD cover states (the title in the movie spells it right), is a crazy wu xia adventure that, like so many 90's kung fu movies, is put together from a hundred pieces of awesome that somehow don't quite manage to click together. But it's a hell of a show, if for no other reason than the sheer audacity of everything they tried to do in it.

Jet Li stars as Ling, a wandering hero who, with his sidekick Kiddo (played by Michelle Reis), wants to reunite with his fellow students from the Wah Mountain school (which apparently figured in the first film, which I 've never seen). They plan to retire to remote Ox Mountain, where they will stop fighting and heroing and instead relax and party. Ling wants to spend the rest of his days drinking and partying with women. He's like a kung fu Seth Rogen!

However, on his way to the rendezvous, he gets caught up in a power struggle between rival factions of the Sun Moon Sect. One faction is led by Ling's love, Ying (Rosamund Kwan), daughter of the sect's former leader, Master Wu. The other faction is led by a young man named Invincible Dawn (on the disc I have--I've seen other articles translate the name to Asia the Invincible), who has imprisoned Master Wu and stolen a sacred scroll which holds the secret to ultimate spiritual martial arts power.

Ling's problem: unbeknownst to him, he has also fallen in love with Invincible Dawn (played by Brigitte Lin), because the scroll's power is turning him into a woman.

But this bare summary of the scenario can't begin to describe the craziness that this film contains. "Swordsman II" was produced by Tsui Hark, so over-the-top is sort of an understatement. Here are some of the things you'll see in the course of this movie:

Snake-flute! Running on top of tall grass! Ninjas riding on giant flying shuriken! Tomboy tying buns in her hair to look feminine! Ninjas burroming underground and into tree trunks! Pressure-point paralyzation! Poison spitting! Deadly needles (yes, the inspiration for Professor Pierce, if you must know)! Giant hooks! Swords fighting by themselves! Two different characters cut off their own arms! Vacuum hands! And enough exploding bodies and buildings to fill three other movies! With musical interludes!

And all this happens in 108 minutes. With really crappy subtitles. Although this has apparently been released in the U.S. market as "Legend of the Swordsman" dubbed in English, so it'll probably be easier to find that way (although it also cuts 8 minutes off the running time, so most of the bloodier parts are probably gone).

Anyway, if you're curious about just how crazy HK cinema can get, "Swordsman II" is a pretty decent primer. It's fun.

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