So once again we have survived.

The Lost Bladesman

tn_lostbladesmanDonnie Yen is THE LOST BLADESMAN. Not THE LAST BLADESMAN, that would be different. That would be a white guy. No, he’s the Lost Bladesman, and not lost in the sense of “oh shit, where the fuck am I? I could’ve sworn this trail went back to the river. Am I going in circles now?” but more, I think, in the sense of “I have lost track of my purpose in this world.”

See, he’s General Guan of the Three Kingdoms Era. I had to go back and check my handy RED CLIFF chart to remember, but Guan was one of the two generals working under Lui Bei to stand on the cliff and face the much larger army and navy of Cao Cao. He’s not the human battering ram with the eyebrows, he’s the other one.

This story takes place before RED CLIFF in my opinion. Guan has been captured by Cao Cao. Cao Cao tries to get him to join his side, but says if he decides he wants to leave then nobody will stop him. So he leaves, and everywhere he goes people try to stop him. Of course he’s Donnie Yen, so he takes on alot of people at once, and handles them. From his and our perspective he’s just defending himself from the people who attack him, but to other people it looks like he’s on a killing spree.

mp_lostbladesmanThe reason he’s lost, though, is because he doesn’t want to fight anymore. He just wants to be a humble farmer. He makes deals to kill guys for Cao Cao, but only when he believes it will cause peace or prevent a much larger number of deaths. He hates violence, and that’s something that’s hard to deal with when you’re really, really good at violence. It’s one of my favorite types of asskickers: the aspiring pacifist.

The reason he’s a bladesman is because he’s really good with one of those spears that have a big fat sword on the end. He also uses regular swords, but it’s cool that the spear thing is his main weapon.

There are several good action scenes. The opening has epic warfare with armies, arrows, battering rams and all that. It has a nice look to it, solid primary colors on some of the banners and stuff jump out in the middle of otherwise washed out colors. But pretty real looking, not slick and digital.

The rest of the action is more personal, the bladesman in very intimate conflicts with a mere 10-50 warriors at a time. I like when he’s running through the woods and there’s a bow and arrow sniper in the trees above. Or the horse chase through a walkway where he scrapes his blade along the top of the wall to knock tiles all over the guy that’s chasing him. Then they stop and duel, but the place is so narrow that their blades keep hitting the walls. Kinda like that fight in the mobile home in RAISING ARIZONA when he scrapes his knuckles on the textured ceiling.

But the most memorable fight in the movie is definitely the one you don’t see. He’s surrounded by a bunch of guys, and some doors swing closed in front of the camera. We hear a brawl and glimpse movement in the crack between the doors, and when they open again Guan is standing there surrounded by dead bodies. I bet some people will be mad they don’t get to see it, but I think the cleverness of the leave-it-to-your-imagination staging beats whatever they could’ve shown.

But this isn’t wall-to-wall action, it’s alot of talking and melodrama, philosophical disagreements and lamenting about forbidden love. I like it, but I don’t think it translates as well as the best of this type. It would probly be better if I had an understanding of these historical events and figures, ’cause I think it might be trying to show a different angle on Guan and Cao Cao, and that’s hard to follow if you don’t know the previous angle. But it’s an interesting polite enemy type of relationship between the two.

The movie is written and directed by Felix Chong and Alan Mak, (DEPARTED ORIGINS: INFERNAL AFFAIRS). I liked it better than their last Donnie Yen joint, LEGEND OF THE FIST. That one had some good action but lost me with its tired masked vigilante angle, and if this one is as blatant about being Chinese government propaganda then I was too ignorant of history to decode it.

This is definitely no RED CLIFF, but it’s fun, and will probly help to re-popularize that spear/sword weapon thing. I’m not somebody who picks up alot of these gadgets like smart phones, book replacers, etc. but that seems like a useful one to have around.

p.s. Bladesmen would also be a good nickname for fans of the movie BLADE, just like fans of Twilight call themselves “Twi-hards,” fans of The Big Bang Theory call themselves “Bigots,” etc.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, August 26th, 2011 at 7:19 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

24 Responses to “The Lost Bladesman”

  1. this all reminds me of the Dynasty Warriors video game series

  2. I was about to say the same thing. I’ve been playing that series for years, which is funny because it’s basically an interactive textbook of Chinese history. Watching this (and Red Cliff, etc.) a lot of familiar people make appearances. Granted, when Donnie’s involved it’s always a good watch.

  3. I actually got to see this movie on the big screen in Hong Kong when I went on vacation earlier this year. Fulfilled a lifelong dream (well of the last 15 years, almost half of my life.) To see a Chinese movie in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, neither Jackie Chan, Jet Li, nor John Woo were playing at that time of year, but luckily I’d become so fond of Donnie Yen I’d rather see a new Donnie Yen movie.

    I’ve since seen some other generic Donnie Yen bladesmen movies like Emperess and the Warrior and 14 Blades. They’re all good fun, simple, formula action movies.

    Another movie I saw in Hong Kong was Sex and Zen 3D. That was the crazy Hong Kong movie I’d dreamed of seeing in a theater. I don’t even see the 3D effect but I could tell boobs were comin’ at me.

  4. Oh, and “bigots?” Brilliant, hilarious…

    A friend of mine came up with a name for attractive Twi-hards. He calls them TWILFS.

  5. Fans of COMMUNITY are called COMMUNISTS.

  6. Dynasty Warriors is great, but I was always a Romance of the Three Kingdoms fan when it comes to gaming versions of the story. Nothing like getting Guan Yu and Lu Bu on one team to kick the shit out of everybody.

  7. “But the most memorable fight in the movie is definitely the one you don’t see. He’s surrounded by a bunch of guys, and some doors swing closed in front of the camera. We hear a brawl and glimpse movement in the crack between the doors, and when they open again Guan is standing there surrounded by dead bodies. I bet some people will be mad they don’t get to see it, but I think the cleverness of the leave-it-to-your-imagination staging beats whatever they could’ve shown.”

    Actually I LOVE this technique, especially when it comes as a genuine surprise (Hi-hat in the elevator in “Attack the Block”, for example). I couldn’t remember what film that had been done in. It’s a technique I wish they’d used in “Kiss of the Dragon” when Li gets overwhelmed by the Black Belts.

  8. Like Barney the Dinosaur always said: Imagination is the shit.

    It’s like the box in Seven (or Se4en, as some like to spell it). Fincher was smart enough to know that the image we came up with in our minds was way more gruesome and disturbing than anything they could have shown us on screen.

    It’s also why John Goodman will never appear naked in a movie. Because we can use our imaginations, thank you very much.

  9. Fans of Andy Dick would be called dickheads.

  10. I’m usually a fan of the technique too, but it really bothered me in Fast Five. I get the joke that they’re so awesome, of course they won that race. But it came at a point where there’d been so long since an action scene, so much plot and talking, I could have really used a race.

    Also in Desperado, where we’ve seen all these cool gun battles and then he finally gets to the main guy, and the last gunfight is implied. So I guess the director has to be skillful and make sure he’s not skipping a part we actually need to see. I just thought of two negative examples and no positives, and I’m usually a positive guy.

    Doesn’t Takeshi Kitano do that a lot? Just cut out the actual violence and jump right to the aftermath.

  11. But the FAST FIVE races are all just in a straight line somewhere, and they already had a much more important one of those later on with the gang racing each other in the cop cars. Choosing between the two, the latter one is more necessary and the other is redundant.

  12. Yeah, that bit in Desperado always makes me wonder if they ran out of money or something. Desperado is the kind of movie where you want more, not less.

    That mention of Kitano reminded me of a great film called You Can Count On Me. It has one of the best screenplay’s I’ve ever seen. It’s structured in such a way that you very rarely see any major events in the story. Instead we see the aftermath or scenes preceding events. Actually, I make it sound much more gimmicky than it really is. Very thoughtful and intelligent writing there. It also has Mark Ruffalo’s best performance ever.

  13. Yes, I realized later in the movie that the street race between the stars of four previous FAST movies was the more important one. I just felt at the moment that I was ready to see the gang hustle their new cars. I’ve got to see Fast Five again. I was really disappointed in it yet I still agree it’s in the top 5 summer movies this year. Now that it’s all over, it’ll probably move up to number one for me.

    Always been meaning to see You Can Count On Me. It’s in the 20s in my netflix queue.

  14. Ah, the 20s. The “friend zone” of the Netflix queue. Close enough to touch, but never getting any action.

  15. Fred- For what it’s worth, at least the Blu Ray edition of FAST FIVE is going to have an extended cut, so maybe they filmed that race and it’ll be included in that?

  16. I liked the scene in Watchmen, a movie I actually really like overall, that has Rorschach doing in that one guy from Seinfeld while we only see glimpses of it from a swinging door.

    The Lost Bladesman sounds like it has a similar scene. I really appreciate the Romance of the Three Kingdoms stuff but have never read the book. Is it a good read? It’s one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years but always get sidetracked from.

  17. Hmm. My problem with Fast Five was TOO MUCH plot, so I’m not sure an extended cut will help me. I doubt there’s more racing. However, as a Fast fan, I will HAVE to watch it. Never watched the short on Fast & Furious. Maybe that’ll make all of Fast Five pay off.

  18. I should probably mention this on the Blitz thread, but has anyone else heard about this Transporter TV series they’re making? Hell, I just found out. Chris Vance is playing Jason Statham, Luc Besson is exec-producing (obviously) and apparently we’ll see it some time next year.

    I honestly didn’t know that the franchise has reached that stage already. I was still waiting for Transporter 4.

  19. Yeah, with we (and with “we” I mean “I”) talked about it here a while ago. It’s co-produced by the German TV Channel RTL, which means we might see some crazy ass car stunts. (Just search YouTube for ALARM FÜR COBRA 11 or DER CLOWN)

  20. Fred- “However, as a Fast fan”
    I think the appropriate term would be “Fascist”.

  21. Or “Furian”.

  22. I’m one of those who was not too ipressed with RED CLIFF (besides it’s pictorial beauty, which is unquestionable).

  23. Vern is somehow mixing up Mak and Chong with Andrew Lau here. Andrew Lau directed INFERNAL AFFAIRS together with Alan Mak, and Felix Chong was the screenwriter for it. Then they parted ways and the pair of Mak/Chong and Lau have not worked together since 2006 or so.

    LEGEND OF THE FIST is an Andrew Lau movie and has nothing to do with Mak/Chong, and as it is a pretty terrible movie, I feel this distinction should be noted.

  24. Whoops, thanks for the correction. I’ll have to fix that.

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